Ellsworth High School social studies teacher Anne Pechacek and Principal Mark Stoesz received a plaque from Army Reserve Medical Command commanding general Maj. Gen. Jonathan Woodson for the school’s role in raising donations for Afghan refugees. Photo by Sarah Nigbor
Military officials recognize EHS students, staff

Lt. Col. Casper receives Army Achievement medal

By Sarah Nigbor

ELLSWORTH – “This has never happened in Ellsworth school history,” said Ellsworth High School Principal Mark Stoesz as he addressed an all-school assembly Wednesday, May 11.

Maj. Gen. Jonathan Woodson, Army Reserve Medical Command commanding general and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Boudnik, AR-MEDCOM command sergeant major, recognized EHS students and faculty, including social studies teacher Lt. Col. Ryan Casper, 7212th Medical Support Unit commander, for their support of Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy last December.

Casper and his students organized the Ellsworth Hearts and Minds fundraiser and

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donated backpacks full of school supplies to Fort McCoy, Wis. for Afghan evacuees through Operation Allies Welcome on Dec. 13, 2021.

Casper visited Fort McCoy before refugees arrivedandrealizedtherewouldbeagreatneed. The students raised more than $13,000 between physical donations and their fundraiser on GoFundMe. After transaction fees, the students purchased $11,593 worth of school supplies, including 1,056 backpacks with a pencil sharpener, construction paper, small personal dry erase board and markers, pencils, notebooks, pens and crayons. Woodson and Boudnik presented a plaque to Stoesz in appreciation for the school’s volunteer eorts, and Commander's Coins to Casper, EHS social studies teacher Anne Pechacek, and nine students instrumental in the volunteer eort. Casper was also awarded an Army Achievement medal recognizing his leadership in the volunteer eort.

Students who received coins were Kyle Luchsinger, Brianna Maurer, McKenna Minder, Payton Langer, Jeremy Kannel, Maria Segura-Gronseth, Audrey Farrell, Hayley Bach and Ann Lundstrom.

Woodson, who Casper described as part of the military’s upper echelon, said being in Ellsworth was his distinct pleasure.

“Superb leadership by members of this student body and school showed that leadership and citizenship could not be more important to the survival of this nation,” Woodson said. “They clearly exemplify the best of what America has to oer.

“Operation Allied Welcome signaled to the world that we’ll stand by those who stood by us for two decades. You identi.ed yourselves as ambassadors of good will and welcome to our allies into this country after the left their homeland. It’s jarring to leave behind your culture.”

The symbol on the plaque and coin symbolizes the combat medic giving aid to fallen comrades on the battleground, Woodson explained. Awarding the coin is accompanied by a handshake, meant to pass goodwill onto the recipient.

When awarding Casper the Army Achievement medal, Woodson commended him on his ability to balance civilian life with being a soldier and ocer, who responds whenever the need arises.

“The greatest thing I get to do is award soldiers for the things they accomplish,” Woodson said.

Woodson assumed duty as Army Reserve Medical Command Commanding General on March 31, 2019, following his previous assignment as 3rd Medical Command Deputy Commanding General.

From 2010-2016, following his appointment by President Barack Obama, he served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) for Health Aairs for the United States De partment of Defense.

For a full biography, visit www.usar.army. mil

Lt. Col. Ryan Casper, a social studies teacher at Ellsworth High School, received an Army Achievement medal Wednesday, May 11 from Maj. Gen. Jonathan Woodson, commanding general of AR-MEDCOM. Photo by Sarah Nigbor

Maj. Gen. Jonathan Woodson, the commanding general from AR-MEDCOM, speaks to an all-school assembly Wednesday, May 11 at Ellsworth High School. Photo by Sarah Nigbor

Ellsworth High School Hearts and Minds students, Principal Mark Stoesz and social studies teachers Anne Pechacek and Lt. Col. Ryan Casper received accolades from Maj. Gen. Jonathan Woodson and Sgt. Maj. Robert Boudnik on Wednesday, May 11. Photo by Sarah Nigbor

May 17, 2022