Judge named to Wisconsin Army National Guard Hall of Honor
JANESVILLE When Judge James Daley was in high school, he wrote and spoke about the Vietnam War for forensics competitions.
He had a strong interest in Vietnam, but he wouldn't join the military out of high school.
Instead, he attended UW-Whitewater, where he joked that he majored in football and beer.
"I didn't flunk a course, but I got all straight Ds," Daley said while laughing. "They invited me to leave."
Daley joined the Marines and served in Vietnam. It was the beginning of a lifelong career in the military, which ended recently with his selection to the Wisconsin Army National Guard Hall of Honor.
Daley is one of 46 people who have received the honor. A special committee of current and past guard soldiers selected Daley, a retired brigadier general.
"Very few people are elected. It's pretty prestigious when you consider that our guard is made up of just under 8,000 soldiers," Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie said. "It recognizes exceptional achievement and devotion to duty."
Daley's fifth-floor courthouse office has a view overlooking downtown Janesville. Military flags, photos from Vietnam and military weapons are displayed on his walls.
He has a case of challenge coins that fellow soldiers gave him. The coins represent the soldiers' units.
An avid baseball fan, Daley also has bricks from baseball stadiums, autographed memorabilia and bobble heads of many Milwaukee Brewers and Braves players.
Daley enjoys his collections, but he knows their place in his life.
"The older you get, you learn that the important things in life aren't things you accumulate," he said. "It's the relationships you made in the journey."
Daley joined the Marines in 1966. He was quickly sent to Vietnam, where many fellow soldiers died. He earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
"I became very good at what I did," Daley said. "I lived, and a lot of other people didn't."
He once met two soldiers he was set to serve with in a Buddhist pagoda on a rainy day in Vietnam. At the time, some people avoided prison time if they served in the military. Daley thought the two men were criminals.
Daley lost track of the soldiers after Vietnam. He talked to one of them 27 years later. The two exchanged life stories after the war.
When Daley told the man he had become a judge, the man fell silent.
"He said, 'Well, that surprises me. I thought you would be in prison,'" Daley said.
Daley left active duty in the Marines in 1969 and attended UW-Milwaukee for two years. He left school because he got married, had a child and had to work to support his family.
He became a railroad police officer and investigated burglaries and thefts. He then finished his bachelor's degree at Carroll University in Waukesha.
Daley joined the Wisconsin National Guard in December 1974.
He attended law school at Marquette University in 1978 and got a job offer with a firm in Rock County when he graduated.
He was elected Rock County district attorney in 1984 and was appointed judge in 1989.
Daley served in the National Guard on nights and weekends while working as an attorney and judge. He often used his vacation time for military service.
He spent most of his career in the National Guard training officers. Many leaders of today's National Guard were trained under him.
Daley once oversaw two lieutenants who always got in trouble. One day, Daley had to chew them out for screwing around during a training exercise.
"I roasted them," Daley said. "I told them they would never survive this with me."
Several years later, Daley saw the soldiers in a hotel during a convention. The men told Daley they remembered his scolding.
"They said, 'It was 19 minutes of being yelled at, and we couldn't remember a word you said, but we knew it was bad, real bad,'" Daley said. "I guess I should have toned down the volume a bit and stepped back."
Daley was a company commander, an operations officer and a battalion commander in the National Guard. He commanded the 32nd Infantry Brigade, the largest unit in Wisconsin with 4,800 soldiers.
Daley retired from the National Guard in 2006. He later started Veterans Treatment Court in Rock County, the first program of its kind in Wisconsin aimed at helping veterans who commit crimes.
"You didn't do the work for the personal reward," Daley said. "You did it because it was important enough to be done well."