WMC flags fly in honor of military men and women

Released: 03/01/18

Rich and Carol Gaard recently donated to Winneshiek Medical Center to support a program that will ensure the medical center flags are flown over the Pentagon before being flown over WMC to honor military men and women, past, present and future from Winneshiek County and surrounding areas. Pictured from left: Holly Kanengieter, WMC Foundation Coordinator, Carol Gaard, Rich Gaard, and Nick Schwartzhoff, WMC Director of Engineering.

As a teacher, coach, and chairman of Decorah’s Park and Rec board, Rich Gaard is a familiar name in our community. But his familiarity goes a step beyond at Winneshiek Medical Center. For nearly ten years, Rich and his wife Carol, who is also a WMC volunteer, have coordinated a flag program at the county-owned medical center. The flag program honors all military men and women, past, present, and future, from Winneshiek County and the surrounding area.

“The flags flown over Winneshiek Medical Center are not just any flag – they are special because they have flown over the Pentagon in honor of our military,” says Rich. A retired olonel in the Army Reserve, Rich served as the Deputy Legislative Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. “When I retired from my position at the Pentagon, the Chief of Staff asked me to leave with a mission to do as much as I could to recognize our veterans,” says Rich. “I was aware of the Pentagon flag program and began to work in cooperation with the staff at Winneshiek Medical Center to dedicate their flags for our military.”

“Over the years, we’ve built a process where Rich coordinates to have flags flown over the Pentagon and returned to us with a souvenir certificate,” says Nick Schwartzhoff, WMC director of engineering and facilities. “We know it takes a little more time and coordination to do this, but that pales in comparison to all that our Veterans have given, and continue to give, for our freedom.”

“We are grateful to the Gaard’s for their donation to the WMC Foundation so that we may sustain this program,” says Lisa Radtke, Winneshiek Medical Center Chief Administrative Officer. “As the hub of health care in our region, we see many patients and visitors each day, some of whom are Veterans or families of Veterans, and it is our pleasure to welcome them by flying the American flag at the main entrance in their honor.”

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