News: New display honors former state adjutant general
Story by Vaughn Larson
MADISON, Wis. — A nearly 30-year-old honor for retired Maj. Gen. Raymond Matera, Wisconsin adjutant general from 1979 to 1989, was given a new home during an Aug. 23 ceremony at Joint Force Headquarters.
Matera, now 88, received the Order of the Sword — a U.S. Air Force program that allows noncommissioned officers to recognize command officers they hold in high esteem — in April 1986. At the time he was only the fourth Air National Guard recipient of the award, patterned after medieval European chivalry orders. That award is now on display at Joint Force Headquarters.
"This Order of the Sword is an exceptional award given by the enlisted corps to an officer," Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, the current Wisconsin adjutant general, said at the unveiling ceremony. "The senior enlisted member has to nominate, and 75 percent of the enlisted corps has to agree on the quality of the officer. This award has been given to 236 officers in our Air Force's history. Ten have been Guardsmen. To my knowledge, Maj. Gen. Matera is the only adjutant general to receive this award."
The inscription below the sword reads, in part, "He was a man that had the time and a smile for everyone." Dunbar thanked Matera, in addition to donating the sword to Joint Force Headquarters, for his mentorship and friendship. He credited Matera with positioning the Wisconsin National Guard for success.
"In my opinion, we have the finest National Guard that our nation and our state have ever had, and the reason for that has nothing to do with me — it has to do with Maj. Gen. Matera," Dunbar said. "If you think about the transition when he led this organization from 1979 to 1989 as the adjutant general, you think about the nation had just come out of Vietnam and the military was not something young men and women [aspired to]. The military did not enjoy the favorable opinion with the public that it does today. It took leaders like Maj. Gen. Matera — a World War II veteran, Korea veteran and true Guardsman."
Matera, a Marine in World War II, was also the first Air National Guard member appointed to be Wisconsin adjutant general. Last year he indicated his desire to have the award — which includes the sword, scrolls and other items — at Joint Force Headquarters.
"I feel really good about it, because it's going to be nice the way they're going to have it," Matera said. The way I had it, you couldn't have it all in one room. This way I can come up here, which I enjoy doing anyway."
Matera continues to remain involved in military activities, such as wearing his uniform and greeting Honor Flight passengers as they enter the Dane County Regional Airport en route to the World War II monument in Washington, D.C.
"It's always been important, right from the start," he explained. "I couldn't get into pilot training but I became a Marine and spent some time in the South Pacific and I see a few of the people I know there [at the Honor Flights]. I'll have a nice chat with them. You never want to just walk away from them."
The retired adjutant general spoke with pride about the Wisconsin National Guard, and said he had no words of wisdom to pass on.
"They're doing a great job," he said.