FORT McCOY, Wis. –
When retired Army Lt. Col. Harry Baker of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, turned 102 years old on Oct. 9, he did so with the well wishes of many people serving at Fort McCoy.
“Coey Podraza, daughter of Lt. Col. Baker, reached out to me in September,” said Public Affairs Specialist Kaleen Holliday with the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office. “She shared that her father was turning 102 on Oct. 9 and was a World War II veteran who had been at Camp McCoy in 1943-44.
“Our office reached out to Fort McCoy Garrison organizations and tenant units to see if they would help in wishing Lt. Col. Baker a happy 102nd birthday … and they did,” Holliday said. “Videos were collected and compiled by Greg Mason at the Fort McCoy Multimedia-Visual Information Office and made into a great birthday video for him.”
Also, as part of the video, Holliday provided a video tour of the Fort McCoy Commemorative Area, including the Fort McCoy History Center and World War II-era buildings at the Commemorative Area.
“Almost 14 minutes of birthday wishes, and Fort McCoy tour were shared with Mr. Baker for his birthday,” Holliday said.
Places like the Fort McCoy Noncommissioned Officer Academy, the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works, attendees to a garrison administrative meeting, and more provided birthday greetings.
Baker’s daughter Coey said the video was a big hit and very much appreciated.
“My dad is just so happy with this video,” Podrazza said. “He said, ‘Those are Soldiers currently serving sending me birthday greetings!’ Wow, wow, wow ... thank you so much. I didn't think I could beat 100 and 101, but this video does it. Your respect and caring for my dad are incredible.”
Additionally, prior to the video being created and sent, Baker was interviewed by Public Affairs Specialist Scott Sturkol, also with the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office, about his time at Fort McCoy and more. The audio of the interview can be found at https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/FMPAO.
Baker is a World War II veteran who began his service in the 1940s at then-Camp McCoy, Wis. He was an artillery officer, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge with Patton’s 3rd Army, and so much more.
Baker recalled how Fort McCoy was in the 1940s and shared some of his memories from World War II while having a conversation with his interviewer. He talked about going to Army Artillery School in 1943 at Fort Sill, Okla., and spending winter and training with artillery at McCoy with the 76th Division before going overseas.
Baker is a native of Milwaukee, a Michigan State graduate, and was married to his wife Patricia for 78 years.
At the time Baker was at then-Camp McCoy, the cantonment area had just been built, he was a new lieutenant, and he knew he was heading to Europe.
“So, when you were at Camp McCoy what was some of your fondest memories being here?” Sturkol asked in the phone interview Sept. 29.
“Not fond,” Baker said, “to be lined up for mess and those damned coal-fired furnaces would get soot on a uniform. Try to stay in proper uniform with the coal flakes on your uniform that came out of those old kitchens. There’s (also) nothing very fond when you’re preparing for war.”
Much more about Baker’s memories at McCoy and during World War II will be shared in the Nov. 11 edition of The Real McCoy along with many photos from his time on the post with the 76th Division.
Learn more about Fort McCoy online at https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System at https://www.dvidshub.net/fmpao, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.”
Also try downloading the Digital Garrison app to your smartphone and set “Fort McCoy” or another installation as your preferred base.