There are several things going on that we need to share with you. First, by July of 2009 Minnesota will have approximately 5,000+ young men and women deployed to the sandbox. (I remember 2006-2007 when Red Bull had 3,200+ deployed and how we all breathed a sigh of relief when they returned home.) Over the next 6 months we will be holding a lot of send off's as the units leave Minnesota. This is an excellent way to recharge your batteries and really feel good, so please plan on attending those that fit into your schedule. And in 2010, we will be there to welcome our heroes back home.
Our leadership has been holding talks with the Minnesota National Guard on ways to improve upon our relationship with the young men and women who serve our State and Nation in the Minnesota National Guard. It was felt that we have done an excellent job of welcoming home the troops, and turning out for the MIRTS. We have gotten the message across to them that they were in our thoughts when we sent the signed Patriot Guard flags to units while they where deployed.
However, we haven't focused on the family members left behind when those troops deployed. So we are going to be starting something new. HOTH and your Ride Captains are going to work with the Family Readiness Groups (FRG's), and coordinate with them by inviting the families to join us at one or two Meet and Greets during the next year. It's a way for us to let the families know that someone cares about them, and respects the sacrifices they go through while their loved ones are serving our country. And it's a way for us to meet some really neat families living here in Minnesota. Who knows how many future motorcyclists we will be responsible for, just by spending a few hours with the families of those who are protecting our freedoms.
It's also a way for us to build a relationship with the FRG's so that they will be more willing to approach us should a family need assistance. Our HOTH program is there to assist the families of those serving in the military and National Guard that have exhausted all other resources for assistance and have fallen through the cracks. HOTH also assists our young warriors and their families should they be wounded.
And HOTH coordinates visits with our veterans who reside in the VA Nursing homes throughout the state. If you haven't joined us in visiting the veterans at the various VA Nursing homes, I encourage you to do so. Some of them for whatever reasons don't have visitors, so you may be the only outside contact they have. What an opportunity to raise the spirits of someone who gave so much to our country, and protected the freedoms we all enjoy every day.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I can't help to give thanks to each and every one of you for making the Minnesota Patriot Guard what it is. Our men and women who serve know you are there to honor and support them. They know you will be there to protect their family should they make that ultimate sacrifice. Our Gold Star families know we will never forget their son or daughter and the sacrifice they made, and that we are there for them. Our veterans know you'll be there to visit them in the VA Homes. And our politicians know you do make a difference to the veterans and those kids who currently serve and protect our freedoms. You truly are some of the greatest people I've ever had the pleasure to meet.