Madison, Wis. (September 27, 2023) More than 600 birthday cards were sent from around the world to WWII veteran and soon-to-be 103-year-old Lt. Col. (Ret.) Harry Baker. Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary-designee James Bond, Wisconsin Veterans Museum Director Chris Kolakowski, and Museum Marketing Manager Jen Stevenson hand-delivered these cards to Baker’s home on Tuesday. The cards arrived at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum from across Wisconsin, several states, and as far away as the Netherlands. At least 15 classrooms from across Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and North Dakota sent hand-made cards to Baker who will turn 103 on October 9th. Staff at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison coordinated the mass outpouring of birthday wishes with Baker’s family after learning about him from staff at Fort McCoy.
Baker’s daughter, Coey Podraza said, “On behalf of my Father and the Baker family, we are so grateful to every one of you for sending him birthday wishes! Each of you took a moment out of your day to write and mail our Dad a card and we thank you so much. These cards, greetings and good wishes will make Dad’s 103rd birthday even more happy and special.”
“We wish Lieutenant Colonel Baker a very happy birthday,” said Secretary-designee Bond. “The outpouring of support and care in the form of these cards tells me that our state and nation care deeply about the lives and legacy of our nation’s veterans. On behalf of WDVA and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, I was honored and grateful to be there to celebrate a life of service.”
Madison-born Lieutenant Colonel Baker served for a combined 24 years of active duty with the U.S. Army and in the U.S. Army National Guard. He joined the ROTC at Michigan State University and later attended officer candidate school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. On December 11, 1943, two days after being commissioned a 2nd lieutenant at Fort Sill, he married the love of his life, Patricia in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
During World War II, he was assigned to the 76th Infantry Division at Camp McCoy. He deployed to the European Theater 11 months later. Baker served as an artillery spotter/forward observer with K Company, 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment, 76th Infantry Division, Army. He was part of “Patton’s Army” as he describes it, seeing action at the end of the Ardennes-Alsace campaign, and the Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns.