EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)-- A symbol of teamwork in the military and law enforcement is now with families across the country. And it's all because of a Navy veteran from Fall Creek. He started it as a hobby and turned into much more than a passing interest. WEAU's Bob Gallaher reports on "A Craft of Honor," the evolution of Navy Paddles and how they're honoring a local man who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"That's where paddles became such an icon of teamwork."
"Honoring Achievements, Remembering Milestones," that is the Navy Paddles motto according to retired Navy Lieutenant Kyle Nyseth. During his more than twenty years of service, the Fall Creek native was asked how the military could show their appreciation for those who served.
Nyseth says, "And I said, hey, we're all here on the same team, why don't we give a paddle."
The first Navy Paddle he gave away was to his father, Gary who served in Vietnam. When his dad returned home, he rarely talked about his service. His ribbons, dog tags, medals, all went into a cigar box.
Nyseth explains, "For Father's Day, I got that stuff out of his cigar box and put it on a paddle and now it sits behind his chair and he's so proud of that, as am I."
Nyseth says Navy Paddles has produced thousands of paddles, just like the one given to his father including one honoring former Eau Claire Memorial soccer player Chris Mosko who died serving in Afghanistan in 2012.
The family of Chris Mosko, who now live in Pennsylvania were in Eau Claire last month as a bench was dedicated at the soccer park in his honor. His parents also receiving a Navy Paddle.
Nyseth says, "Him seeing the paddle initially, he was so overwhelmed, he started crying. I can understand that because I know what I felt like getting presented with the paddle. And seeing his son's decorations on the paddle. It has a history and a tradition inside a piece of wood This is personalized, 100 percent customized to your memory."
Chris' parents, Gale and John say their son always wanted to serve his country, his close bond with his Old Abe teammates a constant reminder even today of those lifelong friendships.
Gale Mosko says, "Since an early age I remember since 6th grade he wanted to join the navy and so he was living his dream."
Chris's father John Mosko adding, "Over the years we've been blessed to catch up with people who want to remember him. The guys on the team back in those days were his family and we have pics of them all over our house."
A second Navy Paddle in Chris Mosko's honor is displayed in the Eau Claire Memorial trophy case. Chris was captain of the Old Abes soccer team in 2001 that went to state. Principal Trevor Kohlhepp and Chris' friend and former teammate Jake Hrudka say looking back, Chris was destined to be a leader.
Hrudka says, "The community that he lived in and grew up in, this is our way of showing our appreciation. As a teammate, as a classmate, as a friend, and as a leader, ultimately that is what this represents."
Kohlhepp adding, "Memorial has a great history with Old Abe being a 'war eagle', the school being named after the veterans memorial so I think it adds another addition touch to Memorial that Chris' paddle is here."
Every paddle shares a history of dedication and service to our country.
For Nyseth, it also represents a greater good, a nation united, "I think that's what makes the military so unique and really what the country needs to think about is unity. Unity as who we are, next to each other, we're brothers and sisters, it's bringing the country back together in that flag and not dividing us."