Release Date: July 27, 2010

Coming home

Wisconsin Builder

Return to Boldt Helps Young Soldier Readjust To Civilian Life

The nagging feeling followed Joe Lyons everywhere during his first weeks back home.

Whether sitting on the couch with his family or working out at the gym, the young solider couldn't shake the feeling that he should be doing something more important.

"I felt like I should be on the run," said Lyons, 30, a Milton resident. "I kept trying to shake the feeling that there was something I should be doing, somewhere else I should be."

Lyons, a construction safety representative for The Boldt Company, Appleton, has been in the Army Reserve for 12 years and earlier this year returned from his first overseas deployment. The staff sergeant served in Kuwait from February 2009 to January 2010, supplying ammunition to troops in Iraq.

"You're heads always on a swivel when you're in-country," Lyons said of his time in the Middle East. "Even now, I'm always observing, always watching."

That nervous energy comes in handy at his job as a safety inspector, he said, but made the adjustment to civilian life a challenge.

"It's been great for my job, at least," Lyons said. "I'm much better at watching people now, observing what they say and how they say it."

Returning to work was the one thing that helped him feel normal and useful again, Lyons said.

"The first couple of weeks, I was ready to go back overseas," he said. "I missed the camaraderie, the sense of purpose, the knowledge that you're doing something for a good cause."

"I kept thinking, 'What am I supposed to do with myself?'"

Lyons said he was ready to go back to work the first day home, but his active duty orders required a certain amount of time of - in his case, 12 days - upon return. Getting back to work was a relief, he said.

Even when he was overseas, Boldt was a beacon of relief for him, Lyons said.

While other soldiers were dealing with the stress of making ends meet and wondering if they're have work when they got back, Lyons knew he was still receiving full pay and benefits while he was away.

"Everything that would stress you out was taken care of," he said.

The company's generosity is due in large part to its chairman, Oscar C. Boldt, 86.

A World War II veteran, Boldt said he believes it is the company's duty to take care of its active-duty employees.

"I don't look on it as special," he said. "It's an obligation we very willingly assume."

Boldt said he has the utmost respect for young soldiers such as Lyons because the company chairman remembers his days as a wide-eyed new recruit in 1943.

"I'd never even been out of Milwaukee, but for some reason I wanted to be in the air," said Boldt, who flew B-24 bomber planes as a member of the 15th U.S. Air Force in Italy.

"I was a kid," he said. "I hadn't seen the world. It was exciting."

Coming of age during the Great Depression was all the conditioning a young man needed for war, Boldt said.

"We were a very motivated generation," he said. "It was a generation that stepped up."

At that time, 20 percent of airplanes in the war were shot down, Boldt said, but he had little fear.

"I knew the chance of surviving was slim," he said. "But we had a crazy attitude that, 'We're going to survive.' Our generation had come out of the Depression thinking, 'We're going to survive.'"

These days it's a very different story, Boldt said. There still is a need for soldiers, but the conditions aren't as tough back home, so the desire to leave may not be as strong.

"Today, there's unemployment, but not the same hardships," he said.

Boldt has championed active-duty employees since he assumed leadership of the company in 1950, following in the footsteps of his father, Oscar J. Boldt. The company was founded by Oscar J. Boldt's father, Martin Boldt, in 1889.

"One employee was gone for years, and we maintained his pay and benefits," Boldt said. "It seemed natural that we owed something to those serving the country."

The Boldt Company has been honored multiple times for its support of the armed forces, most recently with its second Patriot Award, presented by the Department of Defense's National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. The award honors employers that "support a strong National Guard and Reserve force," according to a news release.

The Bold Company previously won the award in 2003 for its support of an active-duty employee serving in Iraq. This year's honor recognized the company's support of Lyons.

"It's easy to do this with the background I have," Boldt said. "You do what you can do to help those people serving in the same capacity you did."

For Lyons, it means a lot to have a fellow serviceman behind him, he said. Since returning from overseas, Lyons has been spending more time with other military men who understand how he feels he said.

"With military people, it takes two minutes to explain something," he said. "Civilians ask so many questions, and they take forever... My buddies I served with understand what I'm going through better than anyone."

Supporting Lyons and other soldiers is a "no-brainer" Boldt said, "because he's doing a necessary job for the country.

"He's reflecting the best in American youth."