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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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031914BERNARD.jpg

Bernard “Barney” Fatla as he is today at 92 and still serving as chaplain of Goodman’s American Legion Post 325.

Bernard Fatla Of Goodman Is Legionnaire Of Year

One of eight sons of Anna and Jacob Fatla, all of whom served their country, Bernard “Barney” Fatla of Goodman will be honored Saturday, April 12 as the 2014 Marinette County Legionnaire of the Year. The 92 year old veteran has been an American Legion member for 69 years and is the current chaplain of Martell-Musiaw Goodman Post 325, a position he has held for 27 consecutive years.

When he was drafted in 1945 in World War II, his two older brothers, Casimer and Aloisius, had both been in World War II and were yet in the armed forces. Aloisius, known as Al, had been part of campaigns in North Africa, Italy, and, eventually, Germany. Casimer, or Casey, was part of the brutal battles in the Pacific and was the only one of the eight to be wounded in action. Upon his return, he made his home in the Chicago area.

Born in 1921, the fourth child of what would eventually become a family of 18 children, two died in infancy, Bernard Fatla left the family farm west of Armstrong Creek at the age of 17 and near the end of the Depression for a taste of army-like times to work at a CCC Camp for one and a half years. The camp was located near Scott Lake between Hiles and Three Lakes.

“My first job was collecting swamp grass; no weeds,” Fatla said. “They hauled it to Rhinelander to use to grow seedlings.”

Following his stint with the Conservation Corps, Fatla married Angeline Tatar. When their first child, Barbara, was an infant, Bernard was drafted into the U.S. Army and entered the service July 7, 1945, at Fort Sheridan, Ill. Fatla said he was shipped to Texas and spent a “short time there,” before he was sent to Fort Benning, Ga. as a member of the infantry.

In both places, Fatla trained as a radio operator. He rattled off “ditty-dum-dum-ditty” of the Code for “I-N-I,” though he said he’d make mistakes now if he translated. Eventually, he ended up at Fort Kilmer, NJ, and “...from there to Germany,” and the European Theater and Army of Occupation.

“I got overseas just long enough to turn around and come back,” Fatla said. “I was on the high seas when President Harry S. Truman said, ‘Discharge all fathers.’”

“I left New York Harbor on June 6 at 3 p.m,” Fatla went on, “and docked in Bremerhagen June 15 at 7 p.m. On June 16, I arrived in Weilberg, Germany, and on June 29 was discharged.”

In reality, Fatla crossed the ocean on two victory ships. On his way over, he was on the Eufala and on his return, he pulled guard duty on the Frederick.

“I stayed at the front of the ship,” he said, and laughed at a reference to whether the returning soldiers partied. “Oh, yah,” he said. “They partied.”

He arrived back in New York July 22 and was discharged Aug. 1, 1946, by orders from Truman. Fatla, in addition to the Sharpshooter Medal, received the Army of Occupation Germany Medal and the Victory Medal.

After service he settled in Goodman to raise a family, joined the American Legion of which he’s been a loyal and continual member since. His first two children, Barbara and Bernie graduated from Goodman-Armstrong Creek schools. Fatla worked at the Goodman Mill until 1963 and also worked part time as an electrician and troubleshooter for WPS.

“I took a home school electrical course,” he said, “and passed with straight A’s.”

In 1967, Fatla moved his family to Green Bay. Though he re-located his growing family and eventual six children, Barb, Bernie, Kathy, Bill, Michael, and Tim, Fatla never left the Legion and his commitment to the organization. He returned to Goodman upon retirement. His wife of many years died, and for the past eight years, he and his current wife, Caroline, have been together. He was elected Legion chaplain and has fulfilled those duties at Memorial Day services, Veterans Day programs, and at grave sites for deceased and fallen soldiers. He received a plaque nearly 20 years ago for 50 years of service and membership.

“That’s kind of nice,” he said, “of having military funerals for fallen comrades. On Memorial Day, we have services at all three cemeteries (Goodman, Fence, Armstrong creek) and rotate. I kind of enjoy doing it. For years, I put up the flags on the graves. I did it for years by myself. Now, we turned it over to the Boy Scouts.”

In his recommendation to the Nominating Committee, Martell-Musiaw Post 325 commander Terry Flannery wrote, “Bernard Fatla is a willing and helpful worker to Post 325 and the community. His years of service will attest to that.”

Five other brothers followed Barney into service for their country. In total, they have spent 23 years and four months of time in the military. Anton and Francis served during the Korean conflict, Tony as a member of the Air Force while Frank spent 13 months on the front lines. Jerome was a member of the Army of Occupation in Germany as was Paul. Five of the brothers, Paul the youngest at 75, are alive.

“They just did it. That’s all,” Fatla said. “We didn’t try to get out of it. We just went. Al and Casimer were right in the thick of it.”

The brothers and Bernard Fatla served their country without fanrfare and without the need for reward. It was something that was part of their duty and obligation. The same with his American Legion time. He joined, has been a continual member, and fulfills his duty to the group and the Nation’s warriors. He said there was not this rampant stirring of patriotism or flag-waving. They “just did it.”

The Legion of the Year dinner is at Lynda’s Sky Harbor Supper Club in Crivitz. Beef tips and chicken are served and cost is $15 per person in advance with none being sold at the door. According to Flannery, 12 Fatla family members plan to attend to witness Fatla receiving the honor. Though he has had his original allotment of tickets spoken for, Flannery was in the process of acquiring more. He can be reached at 715-336-2495.

The event, chaired by Marinette County Commander Claire Bolander, begins at 2:30 p.m. with a social hour followed by dinner at 3:30 p.m. The keynote address will be delivered by Wisconsin State Commander Ken Rynes of Richland Center.


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