By Brandi Makuski
Kris Marchel has been named the Stevens Point Police Department’s new Veterans Liaison Officer.
Marchel, a 1988 SPASH graduate, replaces Ofc. Mike Bink in the role. Bink retired last year after 21 years with the department.
The position was created in spring of 2014, when former Police Chief Kevin Ruder, and Assistant Police Chief Tom Zenner, decided the department needed to provide more attention to veteran-specific issues that officers encountered on a regular basis in the community. Bink was the first to fill the role, largely due to his previous military service.
Marchel’s background in the military also makes him uniquely qualified to fill the spot.
“I signed up for the army when I was 17,” said Marchel, who did a four-year stint that included eight months in Operation Desert Storm. “When I got out, I wanted to get into law enforcement right away, but there was a two-year waiting list for the program.”
Marchel said he got “caught up” in life, and with a family to support he found himself in another line of work for several years.
“But now, I have my dream job in my hometown,” he said. “I can’t think of anything much better than that.”
Marchel worked on the same shift as Bink for two years, and the two struck up a kinship. Some months before Bink retired, he asked Marchel to replace him as to go-to officer for working with local veterans.
“To say the least, I was honored that he asked,” Marchel said.
Part of Marchel’s job includes working with local veteran service groups, such as the American Legion and UWSP Veterans Club, and working closely with the Portage Co. Veterans Services Officer Mike Clements, to help connect veterans of all ages with the services they need.
“I’d say there are five or six older veterans who aren’t that mobile, who don’t have a lot of family, who I’ll stop in to see about once every two weeks,” Marchel said. “But there’s plenty of younger vets who are just coming home now, too, who need that friendly face.”
Through his work as a patrol officer, Marchel is on the front lines — so to speak — when it comes to locating veterans in financial, emotional, legal or medical trouble. And that, he said, is the whole point.
“There have been a couple of guys we’ve had police contact with two, three times in a month, who don’t always know that as a vet, there are things available to them,” Marchel said. “We had two veteran suicides last year, and we’re trying to get them the help they need before its too late.”
Veterans — there are just under 5,000 in Portage County — in times of crisis are often too proud to ask for help, Marchel said, but during that time of crisis that the face of another vet can help the most. While on patrol, Marchel said he recently responded to the home of a veteran suffering a mental health crisis.
“But he calmed down when he saw my face,” Marchel said. “That’s why it was such an honor to be asked to do this. You can make a difference, help diffuse a situation. I’ll never be able to say I know what someone went through, because we all go through different things and we all handle it in different ways. But I can be somebody they trust, somebody who’s been there.”
Marchel can be reached at (715) 346-1500.