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November 24, 2017 • Vol. 94, No. 10
Badger “For God & Country”
Official Publications of The Wisconsin American Legion Family
The mission of The American Legion, Department of Wisconsin is to provide service to veterans, their families and their communities.
In Memoriam FRED BERNS
July 10, 1945 – October 25, 2017 “You will be known by the company you keep” “The seeds that you sow you may never see grow” Frederic J. Berns was active in the American Legion at the local and state level, most notably serving for 20 years on the Badger Boys State Executive Council and 2 years as the Badger Boys State Executive
Director. He also helped organize and run County Youth Government Days for the Trempealeau County American Legion. Berns has left a lasting legacy in the community and The Legion
with his commitment and passion to protect the vulnerable and train the leaders of tomorrow. He was a man with a big heart who quietly gave much of himself in a humble, unassuming and often witty way.
Dedication to a Shephard
Written and Contributed by Paul Williams, Badger Boys State First Assistant Director, SAL One of the last things Fred Berns told me speciﬁcally not to do was to memorialize his legacy in any way. I told him that I couldnʼt make that promise, but instead of talking about his outstanding military, legal, or American Legion careers as to what he did speciﬁcally, let me tell you about the trust that he put in people to continue his legacy. Leadership comes in many forms, and anyone who is reading this article has seen the full gamut of those leadership styles. Fredʼs leadership style was that of the shepherd. A shepherd is a quiet leader who leads his ﬂock to places where they can thrive and succeed. A leader that carries a rod and staff to protect his ﬂock from their enemies, and correct the ﬂock when they wander from the path. When the ﬂock needs to cross dangerous terrain, the shepherd is there to ensure they can feel conﬁdent in their journey, and they have complete faith in him. A leader that praises the ﬂock and constantly tells them that they are loved.
That isnʼt to say that Fred didnʼt use his rod and staff to smack some sense into the ﬂock once in a while, because he certainly did, but he was always there to take the blame for something that his ﬂock didnʼt execute perfectly, and was always the ﬁrst one to praise them publicly when they succeeded. Wisconsinʼs American Legion Badger Boys State was his passion. When there was an open moment to sit and relax, Fred was strategizing about Badger Boys State. Sometimes it was about the curriculum, sometimes about the staff, but always how to make each and every minute of every single studentʼs experience as positive as it possibly could be. Over the past 20 years, Badger Boys State has depended on more and more volunteers that are not
military or former military members. The Sons of the American Legion and alumni of Badger Boys State now make up over 90% of the staff, and while the Badger Boys State Board of Directors embraced their volunteerism years ago, Fred was one of the ﬁrst to give them an opportunity to lead. I was lucky enough to be a close friend of Fredʼs. He only shared about himself what people needed to know, but he was always willing to share his knowledge as it related to leadership and life lessons. I know that he helped shape the best version of myself, and Iʼm sure that is not a unique story for those who took the time to learn from him. The two expressions he used the most when speaking with the staff and citizens of Badger Boys State were, “You will be known by the company that you keep,” and, “The seeds that you sow, you may never see grow.” It doesnʼt take one long to realize the impact of these words, so if you want to honor my dear friendʼs legacy, live by and tell those words to everyone that will listen. We need those words now more than ever.
Veterans, their families and their communities.