Holzschuh, Van Haren families inspire with generations of military service

Dan Hansen
Members of the Holzschuh and Van Haren families have embraced the tradition of serving their country. Back row, from left: Carl Holzschuh, Matt Van Haren, Ed Van Haren, Chris Holzschuh (Carl and Linda’s son), and John Dingeldein, brother-in-law.  Front row, from left, Linda Holzschuh (not a veteran), sister Jenna Geiser, Harold “Stub” Van Haren (Linda’s father) and sister Marsha Dingeldein.

SHERWOOD, Wis. – Even before we became a nation, America’s farm families answered the call to secure and defend freedom and liberty, and many continue that tradition of military service today.

Carl Holzschuh and his wife, Linda (Van Haren) Holzschuh, are members of families who’ve worn the uniform for generations, and inspired others with their service. In fact, the Holzschuh and Van Haren families were the inspiration for Jim Zitzelsberger's Veterans’ Day tribute poem that appears on this page.

“Jim and I attended grade school and high school together,” related Carl who left the farm to earn four bronze stars – awarded for meritorious service or acts of valor while serving in combat operations – for his service in Vietnam. 

“I survived two TET Offenses, two monsoon seasons and two trips into Cambodia, and I’m still here,” said Carl.

Following his discharge from the military, Carl returned to farming.

“I had two horses when I left, and still had two horses when I got back,” he said. 

Carl married Linda Van Haren. They continue to live on a 120-acre farm between Sherwood and Stockbridge in western Calumet County, where they milked cows for 23 years. For the last 30 years they’ve raised corn, beans and alfalfa and Carl has been a full-time farrier, serving horse owners within a 50-miles radius.

A century of service

The Holzschuh family’s distinguished military service actually began more than 100 years ago when Carl’s great uncle, George, joined United States Army Expeditionary Forces to bolster the Western Front during World War I. He made the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefields of France in 1918. 

In 1920, the family paid to have his body brought back to Wisconsin and buried with other family members. 

MORE: A Veteran’s Day at the VA: Reflections while waiting my turn

“Last year for Taps around America, I contacted the Sherwood American Legion Post, and we had a private ceremony. Our grandson and granddaughter, Tyler and Megan Holzschuh, who are in the National Guard were members of the firing squad, and I played taps at my uncle’s grave 100 years later,” Carl said.

Carl’s brother, Paul, was in the Army serving in Germany. He also had many cousins who served in the military.   

Family members proudly carried this banner while marching in the 4th of July parade in Hilbert.

Another tradition begins

Thousands of families answered the call to service during World War II, and that’s when Linda Holzschuh’s parents, Harold “Stub” Van Haren, and Lucille (Fochs) Van Haren started another family tradition.

“Dad served in the Navy in the Pacific, and Mom was in the Army Nurse Corps, stationed at Fort Defiance on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona,” Linda recalled.

Linda’s five siblings carried on the tradition of military service. Brothers Ed, Matt and Scott Van Haren all served in the Navy. Sister, Marsha Dingeldein was a member of the U.S. Air Force, and sister, Jenna Geiser, served in the Navy as an air traffic controller, and continued to work as an air traffic controller in civilian life.

Her brother, Scott, specialized in electronics in the service, and later worked on  a project in Saudi Arabia. He also taught classes in electronics.

“Brother Matt used his GI bill to become an RN,” said Linda.

A new generation

Carl and Linda’s grandson, Tyler Holzschuh, served 6 years in the Air Force, including a six-month deployment to Bahrain, and is currently a member of the Air National Guard. He used his G.I. benefits to attend farrier school, and is now working with Carl.

“Our goal is to transition the business to Tyler,” Carl added. 

Tyler’s sister, Megan Holzschuh, is a member of the Army National Guard, who was activated during the summer of 2020 to help maintain order during the protests in Milwaukee.

Matt Dingeldein served in the Army, and was stationed in South Korea for a year.  Sara Van Haren, Matt's daughter, is still on active duty with the Navy.  She has served in Bahrain and on the medical ship, Mercy.  Sam, Matt's son, a Marine, is currently using his GI benefits to study wind turbines at Lakeshore Technical College..     

Most of the family members currently live in either Wisconsin or Ohio, with a couple in California.

“One of my brothers decided to live there permanently because it was too cold for him in Wisconsin,” said Linda. 

A legacy of service

Military service became a tradition for the Van Haren family.

“It was the way we were raised,” said Linda. “It kind of went without saying that when you graduated high school you were either going into the military or to college. 

“Dad often talked about the good times during his service, but later we learned it wasn’t alway great where he was,” Linda said . “My mother had a very positive experience at the Navajo Reservation. As each of their children entered the service, it was carrying on the family tradition.” 

Of all the members of her family who have served, Linda says no-one has ever expressed any regrets.

“They all take pride in the uniform and in their years of service. They have lots of good stories but no regrets,” she said.