The journey to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater at Outpost 422 began in fall of 2019.
I was met by a cocky and arrogant president named Curtis Lemke, who indicated openly he was out to get the veteran services coordinator fired. Lemke now works for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.
Lemke was the spokesmodel for the “Combatting Veteran Suicide” event at the Monona Terrace Wednesday.
Channel 3000 showcased him without vetting his story.
The coordinator was an Army veteran named Richard Harris. At the time, Harris was my mentor showing me around campus, who warned me that “Lemke’s group, The Veteran and Servicemembers Organization, leaves unwelcoming notes in the lounge like ‘VITAL is for nutcases’ and fashions neck ties as a noose, which has gotten out of control.”
I was a student transferring from Madison College receiving hazing being a vet with PTSD from Lemke.
Lemke undermined the authority of Richard Harris. Administrators enabled him.
Lemke stepped out-of-bounds as the president discussing my disability without my permission. For those who meet Lemke, tread carefully.
My following Op-ed blows the whistle on a man who stepped in the way of my college success as a Veterans Crisis Line survivor utilizing Cognitive Processing Therapy from the Veterans Administration through a program called “VITAL.”
The Op-ed shares emails, exchanges and observations being ignored regarding Lemke and why he does not represent me, one of the 22, who called the Veterans Crisis Line in the 11th hour instead of ending my life.
The Roadblocks of Transition into the College Classroom
As a disabled veteran student, one who served with the 10th Mountain Division during the Somalia War era, I attempted college enrollment in the university on several occasions between 1997-2017 through the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, who faced multiple decades of denial for entry into the program at both Milwaukee and Green Bay locations, served by a man named Albert Hess.
Hess was the first person I met in civilian transition who said, “college was not going to now, or ever, be a part of my legacy.” Hess is what I call a driver for success.
Because of my experience with Hess, I created Outpost 422 for a class project, which tracks cultural incongruity throughout my journey as a past Service Officer for both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. The blogs track class projects and occurrences I have experienced, which helps navigate vets like me, who transfer into academia from the William S. Middleton VA Building 22, avoid confrontation and lead a successful path to graduation.
The website serves the building 22 college veteran community as an academic guard tower. My goal is helping those like us graduate, who deal with hostile situations on campus being unaware of the danger transferring from Madison College to the UW.
This semester, I begin my second major, which is corporate and health communication, battling on the frontline as a Veterans Crisis Line survivor. Journalism, my first major I finished spring ’22, helps me cope with hypervigilance as a disabled veteran in the media with a CPTSD diagnosis.
My table at the WDVA suicide awareness event Wednesday provided both workshop and literary mechanisms that helped me overcome the impossibility of stigma attending the UW later in life.
When I transferred from Madison College to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2019, I dealt with Lemke’s intrusion with transferring my VITAL services, which were not provided by the UW. I was unaware of the level of adversity in the veteran’s lounge and trusted Lemke was not acting as an antagonist, who most certainly did.
I notified him through email that students do not arrange for disability accommodations and asked to use the office in the veteran’s lounge for my low-light accommodations I deal with having a brain injury. Lemke wanted the room for his office, which has never been granted.
I needed the office for virtual connect with my VA social worker during panic attacks. I met with the VA for arrangements.
Harris worked with both Madison College and UW Whitewater creating a multimedia center for vets with disabilities to use who deal with trauma informed injuries.
Lemke became enraged and attacked Harris, in retaliation with working with me. Outpost 422 is a mechanism for vets on campus and a pilot I wrote for journalism practicum.
By Veteran’s Day 2019, Lemke approached me in an aggressive tone and notified me he made arrangements that would not allow me the use of the office. He spoke with the vice chancellor and ordered me to use the community center, which was three miles off campus.
Lemke became combative during email exchange acting beyond his scope.
This was Lemke’s response:
I don’t need authorization from anyone to discuss anything with anybody. I also did not take any action regarding the VITAL program, rather we identified a great potential opportunity and relayed the information to you.
If you feel the need to disassociate yourself from the organization, that is quite unfortunate. We intend to support the adoption of VITAL at UW Whitewater regardless of your personal feelings.
My only intentions are to improve services for student veterans at UWW and I see you as an ally in that goal.
On that same regard Richard Harris and yourself[sic], do not have a monopoly on the advocacy thereof. I look forward to continuing in this endeavor[sic] hopefully with your support.”
President, Student Veterans Organization
An advocacy monopoly? Wanting my accommodations transferred? His maniacal campaign grew worse and worse each day as he sought to create flux on campus within his organization and noted the office was his and would not give this up.
Lemke treats disabled veterans horribly. I am living proof.
He believes there is a turf war in the veteran’s lounge between him and Richard Harris, who went as far as staking his claim with a fabricated flag after graduation. The veteran’s lounge continues to condone bullying and harassment, which has transferred power to the new coordinator, whose name is Kris McMenamin.
I filed five complaints during the spring ’22 semester. McMenamin lied and told me I had to go through him first if I wanted to file any complaint regarding my mistreatment by faculty or speaking with administrators.
My experience with McMenamin is similar to my experience with Lemke.
McMenamin, an ex-law enforcement officer, cross-examined me, who acted beyond his jurisdiction.
Upon our email exchange, McMenamin began acting like Lemke discussing my disability openly in the lounge when other students were present.
We went into his office where he commenced the unethical act of poking holes and conjuring narratives with the motive to cover up occurrences with veterans on campus.
McMenamin does not work for students. He is employed by the university.
We met in the beginning of the semester regarding my trademark and Madison College honors project, who began challenging my claims made with my literature review in discussion.
His leadership style was authoritarian turning everything around on him in contrast to my disability and how I identify with my brain injury.
McMenamin attempted to gaslight me in his office saying, “I am sorry you feel that way,” which is a textbook gaslighting statement.
Lemke and McMenamin corroborated in the beginning of the semester. McMenamin became partial to Lemke. Both are Marines.
I made the statement clear on Veterans Day ’21 that there was an adversity problem. McMenamin turned a deaf ear.
McMenamin’s decision to ignore my request led to a heated exchange. He has been instructed not to contact me and am working with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director Dr. Kenny Yarbrough that McMenamin respect my no contact order.
Military culture on campus continues to condone the hostile learning environment. I gave my diversity speech being the recipient of the UW Whitewater “Arts and Communication Diversity Award 2021-2022” on Veteran’s Day during the 11th anniversary event.
The speech claims, “Diversity can beat adversity in the veteran community with a simple choice to endorse inclusion.”
My complaints call to action and attempt to stop adversity on campus bringing all together through the POW MIA for my capstone future projects.
I am receiving retaliation as a result.
My Response to Lemke: The Outpost 422 Solution
I will recall the event today at the Veterans Day Ceremony for accuracy. You approached me.
You told me you met with the chancellor regarding my VITAL services and mentioned they would be relocated to a different facility. Is this correct? I interpret this as three things:
1. Taking matters into your own hands regarding my services provided at Madison College.
2. Speaking openly about my personal VA service provided to me as a consortium student who attends both Madison College and UW Whitewater.
3. You went to the vice chancellor to openly speak about my requesting PTSD services without confirming with me first.
This meets the criterion for discussing my medical services and condition protected by the Privacy Act of 1974.
I am also a VFW member as well.
You violated your oath as a VFW member according to the VFW Service Officer’s manual I am in possession of. As a Service Officer, I am not allowed to share nor discuss any information about anyone who comes to me.
I am supposed to refer them to the next person in line. Richard Harris is my line of sight between Madison College and UW Whitewater, not you.
I do not need to disclose my personal information to you as I am represented by DAV and have never once indicated in our exchange the express permissive use for your organization to share any of my medical services I receive publicly therefore, you breeched my confidentiality when you went to the vice chancellor to make these arrangements.
Bradley J. Burt
American Legion Post 501 of Madison, WI, Service Officer
For Channel 3000, I have sent out a request for retraction of the story. Lemke is not a hero. He is an antagonist.
I notified WDVA Secretary Mary Kolar on May 11, 2022 at 9:30 p.m. regarding the Richard Harris article, who continues to allow Lemke gainful employment at WDVA. Allowing someone who bullied a veteran transfer under his authority warrants the need for an Op-ed.
Lemke does not represent the 22. He is not a Veterans Crisis Line story. Instead, he picks on them and makes fun of people with disabilities.
We clearly have a problem with Gov. Tony Evers’ cabinet ignoring, aiding and abetting a bully who will stop at nothing to get what he wants at the expense of veterans.