Op-ed: UW-W disabled veteran encourages all to boycott VFW Post 5470 and their ‘Whitewater Veteran Center Project’ campaign
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5470 seeks $500,000 for making historical improvements and connecting veterans in the Whitewater community through their “Whitewater Veteran Center Project,” which raised under $1,000 so far.
The money will be used for purchasing a vacant building located on the corner of Janesville St. and Walworth Ave. in Whitewater, Wisconsin. The group claims their building will be used for hosting 400 student veterans on campus “using G.I. Bill benefits,” and I am one.
I am one their post member Curtis Lemke harassed and intimidated at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and I am speaking up. Their claims do not include how their member intruded in my negotiations with disability accommodations, who interfered in my private business upon transferring from Madison College.
I know there are more like me who are afraid of his wrath. Lemke is a textbook bully.
The Whitewater Veteran Center Project talks about connecting veterans at UW-W with Teleconnect. I was seeking the use of the Veterans Administration’s Teleconnect services during my first semester as a tool for calling for help during my migraines and brain injury spells.
Lemke stopped me. How can the VFW lie about their project helping veterans knowing Lemke did this to me?
As the president of the Veterans and Servicemembers Organization at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater at the time, Lemke came at me ruthlessly with everything he had to stop my use of the veterans lounge.
I continue to request the use of the space and have dealt with denial by the university for over three years. I needed the service for connecting with the VA during my transition from the community college to the university for checkups, which is the service provided to me at their Truax campus.
I attempted to work with the university with upgrading their campus with the service. The university will not host a federal program.
I am a disabled veteran refugee on campus, and I need your support.
I do not feel welcome in Whitewater even though I am one of the community’s members of the Whitewater Citizen’s Police Academy. I am welcomed by Deputy Chief Dan Meyer and his police force for my service, who behave the opposite as Lemke.
Not all parts of Whitewater are bad, just the VFW.
Over the course of my transferring semester, I witnessed Lemke become enraged with my disability services advocate, Richard Harris, who was serving as the veterans resources coordinator at the time.
Harris witnessed the group target me for my need for disability services who shared with me that Lemke’s group fashioned “necktie nooses” in the veterans lounge. Harris also understands the ruthless nature of Lemke.
After Harris tried advocating for a multimedia resources center in the lounge, Lemke began plotting with the university against me, who insisted I take my services over to the Community Engagement Center during crippling migraines.
Lemke sent me an email when I confronted him not to conduct business on behalf because I was an American Legion Service Officer taking care of myself.
Lemke’s email response proclaimed:
I don’t need authorization from anyone to discuss anything with anybody. I also did not take any action regarding the VITAL program, rather we identified a great potential opportunity and relayed the information to you. If you feel the need to disassociate yourself from the organization, that is quite unfortunate. We intend to support the adoption of VITAL at UW Whitewater regardless of your personal feelings. My only intentions are to improve services for student veterans at UWW and I see you as an ally in that goal. On that same regard Richard Harris and you [sic] do not have a monopoly on the advocacy thereof. I look forward to continuing in this endeavor [sic] hopefully with your support.
President, Student Veterans Organization
My name is Bradley Burt. I am a veteran who uses a program at the Veterans Administration called “VITAL,” which is one of the services Lemke interfered with.
I use this service at Madison College that helps me cope with my service-connected disability. Lemke used his authority to prevent me from succeeding.
How can he possibly help other veterans? The money you invest in their project condones his abuse.
The money can be invested in better opportunities other than the Whitewater VFW Post who does not support me, and I am a VFW Lifetime Member.
The Whitewater VFW provided Lemke the support for his behavior, who did not stop him. Lemke serves the Whitewater VFW as the chairperson for this project.
Lemke cannot possibly serve as the best candidate for helping disabled veterans on campus succeed.
The VFW is responsible for blocking my ability to access rooms in the veterans lounge in the Andersen Library. The “I Will Not Forget” campaign needs your help spreading the word and ask you boycott your Whitewater VFW for their academic abuse of me.
Please help me put a stop to the Whitewater VFW’s obstruction of my services by boycotting their project.
Whitewater does not need a veteran center ran by those who bully disabled veterans like me.
I attempted to share my story with the Daily Jefferson County Union who did not respond to a request for phone interview. The interview sought to share the truth about the VFW’s mission that was not included as a part of their publication about the project.
The Daily Jefferson County Union’s article shared, “This building would make an ideal veterans center for the City of Whitewater,” said post member Curtis Lemke. “It is a local landmark, and it would be a shame for it to continue to sit empty.”
I have no other choice but to file a complaint with the Dept. of Education. The complaint form was signed and filed on December 2, 2022.
Bottom line, Lemke stuck his nose in my request for accommodations, which constitutes intrusion. Lemke led the charge with running Richard Harris, past veterans services coordinator, off campus.
In an interview with Lemke in 2019, he noted his role with speaking and negotiating other veteran’s business with vice chancellors, which acted beyond his scope as a VFW Service Officer at the time.
How can Lemke bring value or viability to a project that will put veterans’ privacy in jeopardy?
Your donation allows these bullies buy in with a project that goes beyond their scope of expertise. Have they investigated thoroughly their financial request by being transparent?
The article’s quote from VFW Post 5470 Commander Jason Dean claims, “A veterans center would serve as the heart of the Whitewater veteran community,” Dean stated. “More than a place to hold meetings, the building will be a hub for connecting resources, and engaging with veterans and the community.”
As noted, there is a privacy issue with the VFW Post sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong. Over the last three years, members of this Post interfered with my ability to succeed.
How can this group of misinformation handlers protect the privacy and the legacy of the City of Whitewater?
The project is high liability.
I recommend we demolish the building and build a training center for Youth Build, which is endorsed by local tycoon Larry Kachel, who sought the affinity for the mission’s support during public comment with members of the Whitewater City Council during the city’s meeting.
Whitewater is struggling to keep students enrolled in school.
Outlining areas are receiving Youth Build funds resulting from open enrollment. The money raised by the VFW Post could easily be matched by a corporate donor to use the historic space for teaching future members of the construction workforce how to build masonry and carpentry projects.
Funding a Youth Build training center would serve the community better than a veteran center.
Whitewater does not need a veterans center ran by Lemke. Lemke abused me and will abuse others.
Consider donating to Youth Build of Whitewater instead.