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Our Heroes

Please enjoy the virtual gallery of all our heroes who have been inducted into the Madison VA Hall of Heroes.

Capt. Tyrone “Tony” Paulson

Tony Paulson
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The William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison inducted Capt. Tony Paulson into our “Hall of Heroes” on Thursday, May 25, 2023.

A Whitehall, Wisconsin native, Capt. Tony Paulson served the U.S. Army during Vietnam as part of the 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment. The decorated Vietnam Veteran went on to serve as the operations officer for a basic training battalion at Fort Lewis and as a dispatch supervisor for the Wisconsin State Patrol for 31 years.

U.S. Army Capt. Tyrone “Tony” Paulson was born in Whitehall, Wisconsin, to Theron and Anna Ruth Paulson. He is the oldest of four children: a sister, Rogene, who passed away in 1964 at the age of 14, and brothers, Ronnie and Verlyn.

The 1966 Whitehall Memorial High School graduate wrestled, played football and woke up at 5:30 a.m. to milk cows on the family farm. He spent a year and a half at Eau Claire College before being drafted into the Army in 1968.

After basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he qualified for Officer Candidate School and was eventually sent to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, for truck driving school.

“We drove in the mountains and the desert,” Paulson said. “For one test, I had to drive down a mountain with two-by-four sticking out. There was a two-inch clearance and you had to drive down without knocking them out of the truck.”

In October 1969, Paulson was deployed to Vietnam with the 1st Battalion 46th Infantry Regiment at Chu Lai where he became a platoon commander in Bravo company. “I was smart enough that I listened to the Veterans who had been there a while. They said if you make it the first 30 days, you’d be pretty good.”

After Charlie company suffered numerous officer losses, Paulson was transferred in as company commander. Since he was good at reading maps, he spent 11 months in combat instead of the usual six.

On December 12, 1969, an attack took the life of one of his soldiers, two legs from another and one more lost 1/3 of his brain. An award-winning film was produced documenting the attack. Each year on the anniversary, Paulson talks with the soldier who lost his legs.

On June 12, 1970, a mortar attack claimed 18 of his 23 platoon members. One of the explosions sent Paulson flying into a foxhole. The five who walked away went back to the landing zone, picked up additional soldiers and headed back into the valley to continue the fight.

“Being an officer, I didn’t want to show fear. Sometimes you bottle up your emotions; you don’t want to show them.”

Although never wounded in battle, Paulson came dangerously close several times. “I had eight bullet holes through my clothes that year. Once, I was sitting on a log doing my business when a grenade landed between my legs but it didn’t go off. I learned that I could run very fast with my pants around my ankles.”

These days, Paulson and his wife, Susan, enjoy visiting warm places like Arizona, Hawaii or
Florida especially in February or March.

Sgt. Akira Toki

Akira Toki
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The William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison inducted Sgt. Akira Toki into our “Hall of Heroes” on Thursday, Nov 10th, 2022.

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, Sgt. Akira Toki served the U.S. Army from Feb. 12, 1942 – Dec. 5, 1945. During World War II, he was part of the 100th Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and fought in Southern France, Germany and Italy. The battalion earned multiple Presidential Unit Citations for heroic actions. Toki earned the World War II Victory Medal; American Theater Ribbon; European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with 3 Bronze Battle Stars, 2 Overseas Service Bars, 1 Service Stripe; Good Conduct Medal; and Purple Heart Medal for injuries suffered near the end of the war in Italy.

He started volunteering in 1951 at the Madison VA Hospital the year the hospital first opened, volunteering over 23,000 hours until 2010 prior to passing away in 2012 at the age of 96.

Excerpt from Wisconsin Veterans Museum Research Center
Oral History Interview with Akira Toki, Infantry, Army - World War II, dated 1996

Mark: In a unit such as yours that was so highly decorated and involved in so much combat, was there, did you see much combat stress or battle fatigue as it was called at the time? I mean, did many guys crack up under the stress and that sort of thing?

Toki: Well, I think there was one or two I know but not on whole, we held up because, see, we were more of a buddy system. We were always had somebody with us, see. Even when we dug a hole in the ground, there was always two of us in the hole, so I think that kind of supported each other. See, we were not alone at all.

Mark: This was the first time you had run across a German.

Toki: Yeah, yeah.

Mark: What was your reaction? I mean, the Nazis, the enemies. For someone whose been through a grueling combat campaign and then to see the enemy. I mean, what is, well, I can only ask you your personal reaction but what was yours?

Toki: Well, I think some of the guys had real bad feeling about it. To me, I had a feeling they were human beings. He wanted to live, and I want to live. It’s him or I, see. So, no I, he was doing something for his country, and I was doing something for our country, see, and we had our orders to do it. Just like I said before, it was him or I, see. So, if he’s going to get me, I’m going to get him, see. But it’s kind of sad and pathetic to do it that way ‘cause everybody’s a human being.

It was something that had to be done or we had to do because the reason why we were so highly decorated and got put in places where nobody else would go, well, we had our pride, we had our guts, and we had to prove something, see. To prove that we were loyal Americans because, you know, some of the boys’ parents and family were incarcerated in camp back home so I think a lot of boys had that idea in their mind when they done it.

1st Lt. Norman Marozick

Norman Marozick
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The William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison inducted 1st Lt. Norman Marozick into our “Hall of Heroes” on May 31st, 2022.

As a forward observer for artillery fire in the 4th Infantry Division, Marozick spent six months fighting against the German occupation of Europe during World War II earning a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.  

Norman Marozick in his own words 

June 6, 1944 brought the D-Day landings in Utah & Omaha beaches in Normandy. I joined the 4th Infantry Division a few days later replacing an artillery officer who had a mental breakdown after just a few days as a forward observer in combat. 

My first day in combat was a day I will never forget. I knew no one in the 4th Division. I had to get acquainted with the three enlisted men completing our team, while closely following our attacking infantry company. One man carried the receiver/transmitter on his back; one man carried the BA pack on his back; the third man had a direct artillery fire whenever and wherever the company commander needed artillery support. 

So, we are walking along, and we hear shells coming in. We drop flat on the ground while shells explode around us. We pick ourselves up and I hear one of my men babbling away scared stiff. Shell fragments had ripped the musette bag off his back so that only torn canvass straps remained. But none of us was hurt! 

That evening, while digging my fox hole, I heard more shells coming in. I dropped into my partially dug hole. Once, a shell landed between me and the next fox hole. Fortunately, my hold was dug deep enough for me to be unscathed. My carbine and canteen did not fare as well. To make digging easier, I had removed my pistol belt and laid it (canteen attached) at the base of a tree and leaned my carbine against the tree. My carbine stock was shattered, and my canteen multi-penetrated.  

In my prayers that night I thanked God for bringing me safely thru my first day in combat. It had not taken long for God to show me that he was protecting me and that I needed only to place my trust in him to continue his protection. And he did, day after day; 5 months later in mid-November ’44, I was again shown how he was protecting me. While walking back to the battalion command post to get a fresh BA for my receiver/transmitter, shell fragments penetrated my left knee area. It became infected and 51 shots of penicillin were needed to save my leg. I was still hospitalized in England in December of ’44 when the Germans made their desperate counterattack – the “Battle of the Bulge.” Another patient who arrived from that battle told me that the 4th Division was in the thick of that battle and F company was completely cut-off and captured by the Germans. This was the company to which I was usually assigned to be their F.A. forward observer.  What if my knee injury had not taken me out of combat before this strong German counterattack took place? 

When the hospital released me, I was given 6 months limited duty. I was in Verviers, Belgium, when the war in Europe ended. At this time, many GIs were being reassigned to the war in the Pacific. My limited duty rating kept me out of the Pacific. I was assigned to a reinforcement department in Schwabach near Nuremberg. When a point system for sending troops home was started, I went with the first or second group. I had accumulated points for the length of service for serving in four major battle campaigns plus my Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart added more points. 

On Oct 25, 1945, movement orders came thru which sent me home on a Liberty Ship for discharge at Ft. Sheridan, IL. Now I want to back up and tell you about a humorous incident that occurred when the Germans were retreating in vehicles, and we were chasing them in vehicles. I was in my jeep, and we were passing them in a French or Belgian town. The street was lined with townspeople cheering us on. Our column stopping moving and suddenly an old woman rushed over and threw her arms around me and said, “You Polack? Me Polack too!” I must have been wearing my Polish face that day! 

Sgt. Thomas Feeney

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The William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison inducted Sgt. Thomas Feeney into our “Hall of Heroes” on November 10th, 2021.

Thomas Francis Feeney was a member of the Delavan Legion Post 95 (Delavan, WI), Edwin Frohmader VFW Post & Auxiliary 1879 (Fort Atkinson, WI), and Veterans of World War I Barracks No 2099.

He was born to James and Ann Kane Feeney on March 12, 1896 in Mayo County of Ireland.

He fought a six-month battle with cancer here at the Madison VA Hospital. After hours of surgery his first words to the nurse were “How are you ma’am?” Finally, one day he told his daughter our mother, “I’m ready to talk to God now.” So, he knew the fight was about over, and on the date of his wife’s birthday, March 14, 1980 grandpa passed away. On March 17, an honorable Irish father was buried on St Patrick’s Day of all days. I think God said… I’m here!

You know, some things that VA doesn’t know about their patients, like the time Thomas got dressed and went for walk down Regent Street until he found a “pub” to find gents to talk to for a while and then walked back to his room.

He always liked to walk. He walked tall and straight like one learns to walk in military formation, something you never seem to forget once you’ve been there.

His mother died when he was only three and he was not treated nicely by his stepmother. You could say life started early, training his character for battles.

Ireland’s potato blight forced many to seek new jobs, including Thomas. He attempted to join the English Army at age 17 but they quickly learned he was too young, so he journeyed to America (by ship) coming into New York. Here he joined the Army and served two consecutive terms from September 1917 to June 1920.

It was during his second term with Company C, 60th Infantry, part of the 5th Division, that he earned his Silver Star Medal. In the battle, to reduce the St Mihiel Salient and the massive Meuse-Argonne Offensive, his valor won him the Silver Star.

As one man wrote to me in Fort Atkinson giving information regarding this. “For Thomas Feeney to have earned the Silver Star as he did in that battle as an “enlisted” man, speaks volumes of this man’s courage and leadership skills.” I couldn’t agree more.

Upon completing his service, he worked as a mason contractor. Later, he farmed along with Henrietta Peterson, who he married in 1928. She was a teacher, and a hard-working woman who lived to age 89. Together, they had one daughter, born in 1929, who is 92 years old, in good health, and here with us to witness this great opportunity to honor her father, our grandfather, for his bravery so long ago.

His daughter Ruth worked for Jefferson County Human Services while her father was hospitalized here, yet she came here every day to visit him, missing maybe ONE day. She never got to know his brothers that were spread throughout the United States, so he was the only family left. I found a small note she wrote him back in ’79 while he was here sick with cancer.

May 29, 1979, Tuesday morning, “Dear Dad, Hope this finds you having a better day than yesterday. Also hope you had a good supper. Not eating all day would promote your weakness. Had wanted to stay and visit but you seemed to be in a hurry to get in bed and rest, so I’ll just come and see you tonight. I really enjoy the pretty ride to Madison: so many pretty fields.

Don’t you ever feel that it’s a bother because it’s not. There isn’t anything I’d rather do. Tomorrow mother will be gone six years. I miss her so much and wish I could talk to her again. I will miss you equally as much someday when you depart from this earth. I’m so lucky to have been blessed with parents that really loved me and taught me many valuable lessons. Have been so proud of you both so many times and will always be. Have a good day Dad – call me anytime you would like me to bring you something, I love you…..Ruth”.

Then one Father’s Day card she had saved she added to the end “to a Dad I’m very proud of, Love Ruth”.

We were kids growing up, grandkids, and even though our grandparents lived with us they aged and had their own portion of the house. Well as kids you kept busy most of the time, but we all learned from this man’s spirit of generosity and kindness towards others. We learned how to play rap poker and how to do the Irish jig and speak a little Irish blarney, like “Lassie, ‘til the sun sets on the Galloway Bays shall we tarry once more till the hour of midnight?”

He was a man that could look in another’s face and say, “That person’s not too happy today.” He didn’t have much money, not at all, but if you needed a dollar, he’d give it.

I no longer have my 6th grade autograph book, but in my heart his words are yet written as only an Irish man could…You have a heart of gold and a lady carrying it around and if ever it should seemingly falter, I’d be willing to lean a helping hand to you carrying it around…

We are proud of Mr. Thomas Frances Feeney for the heroic act of valor he demonstrated on the field of WW1 in accomplishing a mission he was in without any further loss of life.