MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin’s Afternoon News host John Mercure has worn many hats in his journalism career, but few compared with his time embedded with a U.S. military group during the war in Iraq.
On May 15, 2023, which marked 20 years since his visit to Iraq, Mercure welcomed Cpt. Dan Buttery onto WAN to discuss their time together overseas and Buttery’s role as President and CEO for the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center.
Mercure explained that he applied with the Pentagon to be the lead TV journalist to represent the state of Wisconsin in Iraq. Thanks to his track record as an investigative journalist and connections with state politicians, he was selected to go into the heat of action along with a photographer to capture an authentic, first-person perspective in Iraq.
Many of the individuals in the unit he joined, which was led by Cpt. Buttery, were reserves who were activated due to the severity of the war.
They recalled some of the more intense moments of his stay, including a time when their Humvee came under fire while on the road. Cpt. Buttery explained that he tried to lighten the mood by suggesting they were bottle rockets until the group came upon a destroyed vehicle that was targeted by similar attacks.
“That’s when I realized it was a war,” Mercure said. “We weren’t just playing something on TV.”
Mercure also recalled another moment when he stood atop a tower overlooking an airfield with his photographer when guards rushed to the tower and warned them of a serious threat.
“Suddenly, guards at the bottom of the tower said ‘You got to get down, you got to get down. We think there’s a sniper out there, he’ll take a shot at you in that tower,” Mercure recalled. “That was another moment that was like… ‘woah.'”
The conversation turned to the War Memorial Center, which needs public support. Despite it being a private nonprofit, Milwaukee County owns the structure itself. They operated through a public/private partnership in which Buttery said his team funds approx. 80% of the operation.
To learn more about the War Memorial Center, click here.
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