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Eau Claire veteran receives surprise honor at Veterans Tribute monument

Published: Oct. 30, 2021 at 8:35 PM CDT
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ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) - Thomas Lee is rarely at a loss for words but that was the case Saturday when he received a surprise at the Veterans Tribute monument at River Prairie in Altoona.

The U.S. Army Vietnam veteran arrived at the monument to a park bench with his name on it.

“I was speechless,” Thomas Lee said. “I did not come anywhere close to thinking that this would be here for me.”

He said he visits the monument almost every day.

His wife, Patty Lee, helped secure the bench with her husband’s name.

She said the monument is his special place. That’s why she had a special message engraved on the plaque, which said “His place to find comfort, peace and fellowship.”

“I brought Tom out here one night and just watched him sitting here, he was so peaceful and he’s totally relaxed out here and just enjoys talking to the people,” Patty Lee said.

“The saying on it is unbelievable,” Thomas Lee said. “It does give me peace to be here.”

Though the Lee family showed up with pride at Saturday’s unveiling, one family member thought the honor should have gone to others.

“There’s so many more that are here that didn’t make it home that need there name on here,” Thomas Lee said of his bench.

Patty Lee, however, said her husband’s done more than enough to deserve the recognition.

“He has given so much of his life for others,” she said. “Not only being in the service and in Vietnam, but he has also been a hunter safety instructor for 45 years, he was a volunteer fireman.”

While Patty Lee is proud of her husband being honored, she’s grateful to be able to sit on his bench with him.

“A lot of love,” she said. “I’m just feel happy that we could give it to him.”

Thomas Lee also has an stone recognizing his service at the Veterans Tribute monument.

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