Mequon —After a brief storage stint outside the barn of a Mequon home, a well-known 105-millimeter howitzer that stood outside the former home of Howard J. Schroeder Post 457 has found its way to what Post Commander Bill Prahl calls the 'patio' outside the new location.
'The funny thing is people thought it was stolen or just mysteriously missing,' said Prahl. 'Meanwhile, those of us 'in the know' knew it was just being stored outside my garage during the construction work in the area.'
It was simply not an option for the howitzer to stay put amid the construction of the new building that was completed as part of the Town Center development, Prahl said.
Just as the Post has a new and improved building, the howitzer itself recently received a facelift before its move to its forever home thanks primarily to the effort of a local 14-year-old boy.
Prahl said he was both excited and humbled when he was approached by Flynn Vertz, who belongs to Boy Scout Troop 815, about taking over the project as part of his work toward his Eagle Scout award.
A much-needed facelift
'The paint was flaking off in big chunks and we knew something needed to happen to get it up to par, but weren't honestly sure how to make it happen,' said Prahl, who added that the howitzer has been there for all 25 years he's been a member.
Months after Vertz approached him, and thanks to donated services by several local businesses, Prahl said it's good to have the piece of history back where it belongs, and looking better than ever.
'We're not really sure of its exact backstory because we've lost a lot of the men who knew more about it,' said Prahl. 'But it means a lot to us, and means a lot that (Flynn) would help get this done for us.'
Finding a way to make a lasting impact on the community while working together with local businesses to make things happen was important to Vertz as he considered taking on the project.
A family, community affair
'I really wanted to take on a challenge that would benefit veterans in some way,' said Vertz, who is a freshman at University School of Milwaukee. Earning the Eagle sward is a family affair for Vertz, as his father, Tim, himself earned the honor in the 1980s.
'I was in it when I was a kid and I really believe that because of the leadership skills and character development it's so important that my boys be a part of this program,' said Tim, who lives with his wife, Joy, and their two sons in River Hills. 'I encouraged (Flynn) to choose something he's passionate about, but that would also leave a lasting impact on the community so when he returns in 30 years, he could still see that piece of his service work.'
While Flynn has to do more toward completing his Eagle requirements, he coordinated with local businesses to get the howitzer restored properly.
M & H Industrial Services of Menomonee Falls transported the howitzer to Super Steel in Milwaukee, which sandblasted it, Flynn explained.
A wrecker supplied by Gierach's Service and Towing in Mequon then picked up the cannon and took it Sommer's Automotive in Mequon, where Flynn explained it was painted with the help of Scott Gierach and Jeremy Long.
'I think it looks really nice,' said Prahl, who added that there will be a dedication of the restored howitzer, as well as a tank that is on another side of the building, on Memorial Day. 'It's really nice that Flynn went and took it upon himself to get this all figured out.'