A New Era of Veteran Leadership

Published: Jun. 15, 2020 at 3:19 PM CDT
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Today marks the beginning of a new era for Wisconsin's Disabled American Veterans Organization.

A new generation of veterans is now leading the DAV.

After serving two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division, Matt Kempainen is ready to serve the 15,000 veterans who are members of the Wisconsin DAV.

"Our motto is to keep the promises to the men and women who served, so it's my job to lead by example to make sure that we keep progressing forward," says Kempainen, who today at the DAV Department office in De Pere, was elevated to DAV commander during a Change of Command ceremony.

With the new State Auxiliary Commander's membership tied to her husband's service in the Middle East, it marks the first time in DAV history that both commanders are connected via Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I think they've done an amazing job assisting in coming back and recognizing our Vietnam veteran era, so it really has been that group that has assisted them to really get the recognition, and now they're working with us to make sure these veterans are getting their recognition," says Julie Hert, DAV State Auxiliary Commander.

Nationwide, the DAV represents more than 1.2 million veterans considered injured or ill during active duty service, assisting them with benefits, programs and transportation.

"If you look at our national staff you'll find that almost all of them are recent conflicts, so they're very much tuned in to the younger veteran group," says Dick Marbes, Past National DAV Commander.

"I've got a lot of mentors that are Vietnam vets, that are Cold War vets, you know Dick served during the Korean time. I always say if it weren't for the veterans of our past we wouldn't have the benefits today and if not for the veterans today, the veterans of the future will not have anything," adds Kempainen.

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