Thursday, December 31, 2009
Brian joined the HOTH team early on helping at the Hastings Vets home and rapidly took on many other duties as the Assistant Coordinator for Gregg Campbell. I gotta tell ya… Brian was a “Git ‘R Done” guy and no one stopped him when he had his mind set on accomplishing something! Brian is very active in the American Legion Riders and we will see him on the road.
Brian… thank you for being part of helping develop one of the best HOTH programs in the country. We would not be even close to where we are without you.
Replacing Brian as the State HOTH coordinator is Yvonne Zappa. Yvonne works in the Family Assistance Center out of Camp Ripley has been invaluable to me helping sort through requests from families for help. When Yvonne thinks the need is there she jumps on it. She also knows how to decline a request when she thinks that is the right answer. Yvonne’s email address is email@example.com and can best be reached this way. Yvonne will also be joining the Board of Directors as the HOTH Coordinator holds a seat on the Executive Committee.
Yvonne… I am so pleased you agreed to take on this additional duty. We need people of your experience to help keep driving HOTH forward.
The HOTH program has a fuzzy description and understanding and some of that is by design. By not having something rigid we could change it quickly as we learned what the real needs are of the program here in Minnesota.
The easiest way to think of the program is in these three areas;
1. Support of the Vets Homes and Hospitals including Walter Reed and Brooke Army Medical Centers if military members from Minnesota are there
2. Support of WIA military members
3. Support of the Family Assistance Centers in helping the families of the deployed
I want to thank the HOTH teams for their great support of our Vets. Our newest center that we are working with is the Silver Bay home and the Hibbing and Duluth teams are having a ball doing it! They have a Meet and Greet every month before they go to visit and play bingo.
The Fucile’s work very hard at the Minneapolis and Hastings home and I ask the metro membership try to find some time to help them out by attending. They are making a big difference to these vets.
State Coordinator – Yvonne Zappa
Assistant Coordinator – Open
Three Regional HOTH Representatives:
Northern Representative – Mike Sams
Metro Representative – John Foster
Southern Representative – Gary Miller
HOTH Veteran's Home/Medical Center Representatives:
MPLS Representative – Joe Fucile
Hastings Representative – Pat Fucile
Luverne Representative – Buck Underwood
Fergus Falls Representative – Dave Brimer
St. Cloud Representative – Yvonne Scheeler
Silver Bay Representative – Pete Prudhomme
If you are interested in learning more about Help on The Homefront Contact Yvonne Zappa at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please thank Brian for his contributions and wish Yvonne good luck in her new role.
Happy New Year to all of you and I hope we all find peace and prosperity in 2010.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I want to extend to you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. For those who are Jewish I hope the Hanukkah season was wonderful for you.
It was a challenging year in many ways but our friends and family help us get through difficult days and celebrate the great ones! Hold them close and say thanks for being there.
If any military member is reading this but not home with family please know that we here in Minnesota are eternally grateful for your sacrifice. Our freedom is because of you and all those who served before you!
To those who lost a family member this year, either a fallen hero or veteran, we know the empty chair will be hard on you. You have a hug from 5,000 people that we hope will help you get through this Holiday. We will never forget.
The birth of Jesus is to me about hope and celebration. Being in this organization your efforts and caring are what keeps me filled with both. The heart I see at every mission is a reminder that none of are alone in this caring effort and each person can, and does, make a difference.
Thank you for your hard work and choosing to make a difference. Thank you for allowing me to be part of it with you.
Happy Holidays and see you on the flag line soon!
Friday, December 18, 2009
This season… please remember those who won’t be home. The MN Patriot Guard helped with donations to Serving the Troops and helping send fresh milk and cookies to our military heroes who are in the sand boxes. Let’s say a collective prayer on Christmas Eve for them!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I am in Northern Wisconsin on my annual deer hunting trip. A tradition I have maintained for almost 30 years of hunting in the same area with the same group of guys. Some have had sons come in at 12 years old and have graduated from college now. It is something I treasure every year because it is like old home week for me. I grew up with this group of men and treasure my ability to maintain this tradition.
The traditions of Thanksgiving are to reflect back and say thanks for our many blessings. While in my tree stand, and trying to take a break from work and the MN Patriot Guard, I have had time to reflect in the quiet of the woods.
I am very thankful for my family. My children and grand daughter are the things in life I am most proud of. We have overcome some adversities and are all healthy and working. I love you Rebecca, Elizabeth, and Hannah.
My friends from the past such as this week always have a special place in my heart. We also have had to overcome some adversities but we hung in there and grew up together.
I am thankful for my job and employer. While these are challenging times for us all, working and unemployed alike, our abilities and creativity have kept this the best country in the world for manufacturing and technology excellence.
I am thankful and blessed to be protected by the best military forces in the history of the world. From fighting for our own independence in 1776 to fighting for the freedoms of the Iraqi and Afghani citizens our brave men and women are the best military forces ever. No exception.
I am very thankful and grateful for the opportunity I have to be in this great organization called the MN Patriot Guard. I love this cause and I love all of you in this group. When I get older and look back on my life I will have these last few (and future) years to look back on and know I was part of something great. Thank you all for this opportunity. You have all made me a better person.
As we move into the Christmas season I’d like to use an analogy of the gifts we give and receive. Inside the wrapping paper is a gift that someone put time and thought into buying or preparing. The thoughts inside lets us know how valuable we are to them and that they care. The wrapping paper, bow, and ribbons are pretty and draw our eyes to it.
Our mission is much like that.
As we exit riding season in Minnesota and our missions involve only the flag line I am reminded that our escorts and other things we do are the wrapping paper. The flag line, where we start and end our missions, is the gift inside the box. What ever else we do maybe add to the experience of the mission but it is not what we are there for. The personal contact of nodding to the family member waving to you on the way out, shaking your hand on the flag line, or your private thoughts while standing there holding the flag are what really matter.
We urge our children and family members to go back and remember what Christmas is all about. It is about caring and loving. Not the wrapping paper or the box. Let us remember that as we move to the non-riding season. How we get there isn’t nearly as important as being there. Our gift and expression of love and caring are us standing on a flag line. Let’s remember that throughout the year to because any or all of us can be distracted by the wrapping paper.
I hope to see many of you over the next month to thank you for what you have done, are doing, and will do to show our grieving families and military members and families that their sacrifice is remembered and honored.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
On Thursday, November 5th, a terrible tragedy took place at Fort Hood in Texas. Minnesota and Wisconsin lost heroes in this tragic event.
Fallen: PFC Kham Xiong, St Paul
Wounded: SPC Keara Bono Torkelson, Otsego
Fallen: Staff Sgt. Amy Krueger, 29, of Kiel, and Captain Russell Seager, 51, of Mount Pleasant
Wounded: Spc. Grant Moxon, Dorrie Carskadon, Sgt. John Pagel, Pfc. Amber Bahr
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I will be at the mission Friday in Coon Rapids for MAJ Hervas and in Duluth on Saturday for SSgt Taylor. SPC Cauley mission is in our Northern sectors next week.
These heroes are now in our hearts forever with their sacrifice. Please join whatever mission you can to show your honor, dignity, and respect for these men.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
August started out with the final mission steps for the fallen in July. The metro was handed a heavy load with these missions and everyone stepped up wonderfully!!! I am proud of how this state rallied to let these families know that we care and will never forget.
For the mission of Capt Thomas Gramith we again witnessed a missing man flyover by the Air Force. Because they were over the metro area they could not use their afterburners but watching the one aircraft go skyward separate was sobering and special.
The MN Patriot Guard was also invited to stand besides law enforcement from across Minnesota and the Midwest for the services of Richard Crittenden, Veteran, and N St. Paul Police Officer. The count was hundreds, if not over a thousand, law enforcement professionals standing in respect for their fallen brother who was lost in the line of duty. At the same time we were standing in honor of SSG Todd Selge. Again…. Our organization stood tall with honor missions at the same time.
August saw the final trip in the Remember the Fallen Tribute organized by the Military Salute Project. What Jeff “Sailor Doc” Seeber and the “boys” organized was something that I was very honored to attend. Across the state they said with honor, dignity, respect that we will never forget. I didn’t make as many as I would have liked because of the mission load and work demands but the stories I read about the greetings they found across the state in every town they went to were heart warming. I especially liked the one where a church timed their service to have every attending member come out to stand in the cemetery with the Military Salute Project and other attendees while the service was about to take place.
This event was the last event to be organized by Jeff and the Military Salute Project. They are retiring after 2 years longer than they thought they would be around organizing remembrances like this. All of us reading this owe them silent and public thanks for the work they have done since Echo Taps. Jeff is a friend and guide in many things for me. We don’t always agree nor have the same opinion but his counsel is one I value greatly. Along with lovely wife Candace I look forward to more relaxed days of friendship and laughs. Doc you are the best. Thanks for being there for us.
Our store shipping has moved to the warehouse of Dennis Kirk. Our great partners in the Patriot Ride volunteered to help out after John Redfield asked to move the store out of his house. As a volunteer gift we get the benefit of professional storage and shipping of our merchandise at no cost. John Redfield is introducing new merchandise about every few weeks now and I am excited by it. You will see long sleeve shirts back in stock soon. :-) we are trying to keep the selection fresh with new styles for everybody.
One event that we’d like to call out is the Northern Sector M&G at Camp Ripley that was also named Flag Line 09. As part of the Open House the Camp asked us to help organize an attempt at the longest Flag Line recorded. Just over 1,300 people holding a flag were recorded up there!!
During the program MG Shellito was a speaker. His focus was on how the public treats the military and veterans as compared to his early days in Army during the Vietnam War. With his comments pointed to the Patriot Guard he brought up two stories and how relates them to the rumble of a V Twin engine.
His first story was that the military had been told to expect protestors and the Army was nervous about what to expect. MG Shellito said that as they pulled into the tiny town they were greeted by hundreds of Patriot Guard Riders holding their flags in a tight circle around the church. He knew all would be Ok that day.
His next experience was sitting on a bus with family just after the church service for their fallen hero. As they looked out the front of the bus they saw the Patriot Guard Riders forming a line a flags for the bus to drive in between. The family looked at him and said they now knew somebody cared.
He said that when hears a motorcycle go by it reminds him that citizens all over Minnesota care and will always be there in a time of need.
It isn’t really our motorcycles that make him feel good. Motorcycle season will be ending soon and as we switch our mode of transportation to and from missions we again are reminded that we are collection of people with no boundaries or borders. What ever means of transportation we need we use to attend missions we will use. It is the turnout by all of you, no matter the weather, no matter the day, to always show the world you care. You matter. Thank you.
We have our challenges to be sure. At our October Leadership meeting we will be addressing some tough topics. We have to look at how we handle escorts with greater focus; our mission scope is large and growing too large maybe; and replacing leaders as they move with their lives. Your comments and opinions matter. Please keep sending them your Ride Captains. Unless it involves a honor mission for a fallen hero we will not have 100% agreement on any topic. And that is OK… as long as we keep an open mind to the issues.
So many things have happened this year already. Our mission load is heavier than ever, our donations growing, and member count up. I appreciate so much what the leadership team does for us here. The hours of time they commit to this with only your thanks as pay. Please let your sector leaders know that you appreciate what they do.
Ending this post on a very positive note. As you know Governor Pawlenty announced he is not running for Governor again as his term ends. With that they had campaign funds to disburse to qualified 501(c)3 organizations. We were blessed to have received $20,000 of those leftover funds. To use them we are going to partner with the Family Assistance Centers across the state to make available quick strike funds that can be granted on the spot to families of the deployed who need a hand. Thank you Governor Pawlenty for that wonderful gift. We will use in the nest way we can.
Be safe everyone and God bless America and our military!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
On Oct. 1, Minnesota will join the ranks of nearly every other state in offering license plates that honor members of the military killed in the line of duty.
The "Gold Star Family" plates will be available free of charge to any surviving spouse or parent of a soldier who has died.
The plates were to be unveiled today at the state Capitol rotunda by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, First Lady Mary Pawlenty, Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Larry Shellito and family members of fallen soldiers.
The plates were authorized by the legislature earlier this year in a law that called for them to be issued beginning Oct. 1.
Forty states already issue the commemorative plates and Minnesota is among seven where legislation has authorized them, but they haven't yet been issued.
The Gold Star families organization dates to World War I as a way to honor service members killed during that war. Subsequently, in 1928, a group of twenty-five mothers living in Washington, DC, created a national non-profit organization they called the American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.
The organization was named after the gold star families hung in their windows in honor of the deceased veteran. According to the group's history, "we stand tall and proud by honoring our children, assisting our veterans, supporting our nation, and healing with each other."
The cost of producing the plates will be paid for out of the "Support Our Troops" license plate account, which is funded by a $30 annual contribution that vehicle owners pay to display that slogan on their plates.
Friday, September 18, 2009
We have seen them in action too often over the last few months and it is an impressive site to behold.
We are proud of you all!
THE MOMMA ALLEN
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Join us for the Northern Region Meet & Greet, done in conjunction with the Camp Ripley Open House. Camp Ripley is pumped about the day, and quite a few will be joining us on the ride. Alot of planning has gone into making this a family friendly memorable day.
We will be attempting to establish the World's Longest US Flag Line in honor of our soldiers and we have flags for kids and others who don't bring one. Camp Ripley has several things going on as part of their Open House and will have helicopters taking pictures of the Flag Line - they also have other suprises lined up. The Museum will be open, and if you haven't seen it, you will be in for a treat. Cody James is coming up to sing some songs for entertainment.
The Ride leaves at 10:00 a.m. from the Pillager High School (south side of hwy 210). Cost is 10:00 per person, and proceeds will benefit the Military Museum at Camp, as well as other projects that Camp has that recieves no funding, such as the US/Norwegian Military Exchange Program. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m., and there is a suprise ending on the ride. Once on post, riders will ride down Infantry Road, loop around and park on both sides of the road to establish part of the flag line. Flag line will be counted, so bring chairs if needed! Camp has set aside close areas for handicap accessiblity and elderly who wish to participate. Camp, without request, waived the requirements for helmets and other gear normally required to enter post. If you are not riding, please meet at the Canteen right outside Camp Ripley no later than 11:00 a.m.
Come join us for a FUN day!!
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
Fri, 04 Sep 2009 16:02:00 -0500
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Sept. 3 in Baqubah, Iraq, of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over. The soldiers were assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Staff Sgt. Todd W. Selge, 25, of Burnsville, Minn.; and
Spc. Jordan M. Shay, 22, of Salisbury, Mass.
The incident is under investigation.
To post condolences, click here.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
MVFS supplies Back-To-School Backpacks to the families of deployed, recently returned, wounded/disabled, MIA and KIA military families. Each backpack is individually packed to the child’s school supply list. It also lets the child know that they are recognized for the sacrifice they have made during deployment.
It is one thing to to fill a backpack... they still have to be delivered to the child requesting it anywhere in the state.
Enter BLUE PACKAGE DELIVERY, LLC based in the NE Metro. They are a consolidator and shipper of parcels and packages through the US Postal System. The founder, Blaine Byram, is a long time friend of mine. I introduced Blaine to MVFS and his company took on delivering all the backpacks throughout the state!!!
This message is to both thank Blue Package Express and to let you know that we aren't alone in helping support the deployed. All we have to do is ask!
Friday, August 21, 2009
I have some great news to share with you that came out of the blue….
By now you are aware that Governor Tim Pawlenty has announced he is not seeking another term as Governor of Minnesota. His tremendous support of the military and constant promotion of awareness of the sacrifices the military makes has made him a special Governor to us.
We have seen him at many funerals across the state for our fallen heroes. The grief he displays is genuine.. just as genuine as ours.
If you look closely at the Patriot Guard Riders flags that we sign and present to deploying units you will see not only his signature but also those of the First Lady and his daughters.
We have seen him in lighter moments as well. The first Rally in Mankato, Pine City, the Patriot Ride this year, and at other events where he took the time to walk up and down the flag lines as long as he could thanking you for standing there.
I’ll never forget seeing him on his hands and knees with some of the kids at the first Heroes United in St Cloud and letting them make bunny ears behind him.
With that set up now comes the good news….
I received a phone message this week from the Governor letting us know how much he appreciates the effort and sacrifices you all make to let all these families know how much you love and care for them. He said that he had a donation for us to let us know how much he thought of our mission and what we do.
We are receiving a donation from Pawlenty for Governor for $20,000. As they are closing the Pawlenty for Governor effort they had money left over in his campaign funds and they wanted to donate them to a 501(c)3 in the state of Minnesota that they trusted to do good things with it.
With this opportunity given to us we are going to really focus on helping families of the deployed in need with these funds. Our goal is to donate “quick strike” funds to the Family Assistance Centers (FAC) to help families who need help quickly with gift cards for groceries, gasoline, or other basic family needs. The Family Assistance Centers will work the Family Readiness Groups (FRG) of deployed units and other avenues to let families know that they can receive some fast help.
One of the HOTH missions has been the families of the deployed and with this donation we can really help them out!
Thank you to the Pawlenty for Governor team!
Monday, August 17, 2009
Our supporters at Dennis Kirk have offered to ship our store orders out at no charge. As many of the Dennis Kirk employees are members of the MN Patriot Guard it is a great fit!!!
The MN Patriot Guard is still responsible for the web site that takes the orders, processing and handling of money, and the types of inventory we sell. Dennis Kirk will be taking care of storing the inventory, printing the shipping orders out, packing the orders, and sending them out.
What you as customers of the store will see are faster shipping times!!
I want to thank John Redfield for the hours of work he spent shipping the store orders out over the last few years. John stepped into a tough situation and has since kept the store going and growing. John gets his weekends and garage back now with Dennis Kirk shipping the orders but he is still responsible for managing the store.
John will still be in charge of ordering material, designing new merchandise, and trouble shooting issues for us. He was handed some tough challenges with merchandise that wasn’t selling and we were hesitant to add new items with so much money invested in the store inventory. With inventory at it lowest levels in a few years John is working on some new items to introduce back to the lineup. Keep an eye on the store!
Thank you to Dennis Kirk for continuing to be there for us… They look at what they are doing is simple because they do this every day. We look at it with relief because John spent at least one full day per week shipping orders out of his house.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Fellow members of the MN Patriot Guard…
It has been a few months since I posted a State Captains report. I apologize for the gap. Time is indeed scarce and I want to make communications a priority. I will work to make sure that every month we get this out to you.
We recently completed our hardest period since we became a group here in MN. We lost six military members in Iraq and Afghanistan in the span of two weeks. Each loss is blow to all of us and to have so many so quick really hurts in your heart.
My pride in you can not be written down and adequately say it. Each one of those missions that stretched over several days saw a sea of red, white and blue. From meeting the aircraft bringing them home, the escorts, the visitations, and services, and the further travel to their final resting place for two, saw you turn out in force. The presence and love you bring to these catches my breath.
I was honored in a couple cases to be on the escorts driving between the lines of flags as we moved. Each time I silently thanked the makers of dark sun glasses because it really does mist you up. The bag pipers playing Amazing Grace, the precision of the honor squads, the rifle salutes, taps, and the final good byes of the families to their fallen hero is a memory that will always be etched in my mind no matter where I am and what I do.
You and I are no different. Doing what we do does change you and no matter how hard your heart is this show of love and support is seen and felt by many.
My pride extends to the leadership team here in this state. We saw members of leadership share burdens, volunteer to help, spend countless hours planning missions, and at the final moment step back and let the members actions speak for them. At no time did I ever feel a mission was compromised by the spread out geography as I knew the leadership team served with no boundaries just as you do. I am not naming names as there are many but each one has my appreciation and respect.
I will close this part by going back to Heroes United in 2008. One Gold Star parent sent this to me and I believe each one of our recent fallen families would say the same thing to you….
“Thank you for all you do for our Fallen's families. I imagine that when each of you arrives in heaven, you will be greeted with a Patriot Guard's Guard: our Fallen lining the corridor to heaven, cheering and welcoming you home.”
My friends you have earned that.
God Bless the families of;
SGT Wayne Hosford
SPC Daniel Drevnick
SPC James Wertish
SPC Carlos Wilcox IV
Capt. Thomas Gramith
CPL Ben Kopp
In June we presented the 2009 Patriot Ride sponsored by Dennis Kirk. They ran out of wrist bands after 2,500 were given out. The level of support we received from the community of motorcyclists was wonderful and we had over 500 active duty personnel ride with us as well that day. Even in these tough times we managed to exceed last years sale counts in raffle tickets. Both the MN Patriot Guard and the MMAF will be able to continue our causes with the money that was raised that day. After the ride over 100 of the Gold Star families from Minnesota gathered for a special dinner for just them. Our goal has always been that some day they own this event and I think we got one step closer to it this year. The family of SGT Nicholas Turcotte led the way in planning and knowing Betsy Turcotte next year is already in motion!
We have also been attending at every step of the way the Remember the Fallen Tributes organized by the Military Salute Project. Since May all over this state our teams have helped smooth the logistics of the core team visit these cemetery sites of our fallen since 9-11. I didn’t attend as many as I would have liked because of the mission loads but each day I rode with this mission was a day that made me better. It helped me keep my promise of “Never forgetting.” When the last weekend is complete we will write up a special mission report for this effort along with web site links to the pictures. There will be many a special “Thank You” to be given…
So many special days.. the interment of a Korean War KIA brought home.. the monument dedication of a Canadian Vietnam War KIA in Canada, the Meet and Greets, the HOTH events, I realized why we need to do this monthly. To compact so much into one posting doesn’t do any of them justice.
I will close by complimenting the dedication of all of you. Being an active member of this group isn’t easy. It isn’t something that takes up a few days per year or once in a while. This is 52 weeks a year answering the request of a family of the military. In some cases it is multiple missions in a single day.
And you show up. Holding a flag when needed. And going home when you are done. No fancy balls or recognition dinners. No press releases. Just good people doing good things.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
This weekend we are coming to the sad and serious end of the hardest period we have faced as the Minnesota Patriot Guard.
This weekend (Friday July 31 and Sat Aug 1) we will be attending the visitations and services for CPL Benjamin Kopp and Capt Thomas Gramith here in the metro area. These services will be held at almost identical times in the different parts of the Southeast Metro.
I ask you once again to find it in your heart to stand the flag lines and help us complete our mission to honor the last of the six recent fallen heroes from Minnesota.
To help provide representation at these two missions we ask that the NE and NW Metro sectors focus on attending the mission for Capt Gramith (St Paul) and the SE and SW Metro attend the mission for CPL Kopp (Apple Valley). Anyone can certainly attend any mission they want but in this way we know that we will have a balanced flag line at both. People attending from outside the metro sectors should feel free to choose as they see fit based on travel times.
I am emotionally and physically tired from attending the first four honor missions plus the other missions we have been asked to attend in the last few weeks. That pales in comparison though to the comfort and support we are able to provide to these families in their darkest days.
Once more I ask that you make the choice to help make a difference to these families by attending a mission. Your individual choice may make the difference of a gap in the flag being filled. It might mean that someone else who is as tired as I am can take an extra break and make it to the end of the mission. Please watch the mission calendar at http://www.mnpatriotguard.org/missions/index.asp for details as they get posted.
The pride I have in this organization and state can not be expressed in writing. Each mission, every one of them, has seen a virtual sea of red, white, and blue letting the families know that we care and that we will never forget. The effort of the leadership team sweating the details of every mission has meant that each one was delivered with excellence. The membership coming from all over the state, and Midwest, has been inspiring. I am honored to stand with each and every one of you.
God bless the families of:
SGT C. Wayne Hosford
SPC Carlos Wilcox IV
SPC Daniel Drevnick
SPC James Wertish
CPL Benjamin Kopp
Capt Thomas Gramith
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
On the escort for CPL Ben Kopp from Holman Field in St Paul to Apple Valley there was an accident involving 3 of our motorcycles. The paid "professional" escort rider was blocking a merge area during rush hour and one car struck another one as he was blocking the ramp. The second car then veered into our escort group. The bikes going down were Linda Peshek, Gregg Campbell, and me. Linda was transported to the hospital and was blessedly released with nothing more than road rash, bumps, and bruises.
Gregg's bike had a bump on the exhaust and he drove it away. Linda's and my bike were towed. It is possible my bike will be totalled as the crash bar was folded into the engine area.
We were fortunate in that all the riders were experienced and we avoided what might have been tragic into nothing more than an accident. As Tim Leonhardt pointed out to me if our bikes would have not been there it would have been the hearse or family being struck. I am glad we took that shot as long as everyone is OK.
Our new policy... no debate.. if the funeral home or family has a paid "professional" motorcycle escort we will not do the escorts. He created a dangerous situation for no good reason and we will not expose our people to that again. Aggressive riding creates problems which is why we don't ride that way any longer. I will not watch that situation again occur.
This also brings up the question on people wanting to ride escorts. If the RCIC doesn't know you... he won't ask you. Had "new" riders been on this escort the results could have been far worse and possibly tragic.
A bike on its way to Bird Island today from the metro lost a flag at highway speeds. No matter how checked out a flag, pole, or mount may be our stated policy is that no flags are flown over 35mph. Any member of leadership is empowered to make that call. If there is an issue they will not hesitate to call me to discuss this on the spot with the member. There is a reason for this policy and a flag pole snapping off is the big one.
Situation Three - Sensitive
It is not our job to block media if they are at a mission. If the family requests privacy it is the responsibility of law enforcement to work with them on what is appropriate. In the past we have taken it on ourselves to move flag lines and ask members to help block media from taking photos or getting video shots. Part of our growth is realizing that we can not assume the right to block others rights and freedom of the press. While our hearts are always with the family and their wishes we are also bound by law and the constitution. The media has every right to take photos or videos as long as law enforcement approves of what they are doing.
I know this is tough as we get emotionally involved with the families and trying to give them everything they ask for. Those requests though can not put us in a situation where we take away the rights of someone else no matter our feelings on the subject.
The missions were all accomplished today in spite of the tough things that happened. I remain indebted to you all for the heart and efforts you have all put forth making sure all of our fallen heroes are receiving the respect they deserve. God bless you all...
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I would ask that everyone please let our leadership team contact the family, church/synagogue, and community and work on the details. Do not contact family members or friends on your own, that can cause the family to not invite us to attend the funeral of their loved one.
Please check the National Forum (click here) for updates.
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Cpl. Benjamin S. Kopp, 21, of Rosemount, Minn., died July 18 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington of wounds suffered July 10 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.
We are being put to the test in the next weeks in a way we have not been before. Six military members with Minnesota ties have made the ultimate sacrifice in the last two weeks.
SGT Wayne Hosford
SPC Daniel Drevnick
SPC James Wertish
SPC Carlos Wilcox IV
Capt. Thomas Gramith
CPL Ben Kopp
That they have given their lives in service to our country we can do nothing about. We can though ensure their families and communities know they are being remembered today and in the future by our presence.
It is unavoidable that some of these missions might be at the same time or very close to it. We will adapt and ensure each family is supported by our presence if requested.
I am asking each of you, personally, to consider making the choice to attend one of these upcoming honor missions. I know the time crunch as well as any of you with work and family demands. I feel blessed to be working with a great job and a wonderful family. I don’t make every mission I’d like because of them.
But… Once in a while you get an opportunity to do something meaningful. All it takes is a few hours of your time. It is an opportunity to give back to those who have given more than any of us unless you also have lost a family member to war.
Our organization was founded on the premise there are no requirements to be a member. No obligations, no orders, no expectations. That will always be so in the Minnesota Patriot Guard. You are free to make what ever choice you want to participate.
And that freedom of choice is yours because of the ultimate sacrifice of the few. There are times where we need to sacrifice some of our time in recognition of a larger sacrifice. It might mean giving up a golf game, giving up a fun ride with friends, maybe a day of vacation you didn’t have a plan for. It might also cost you more if you have to take a needed day of vacation, give up some pay for the day, or put you further behind your home projects.
In any of the above though none, not one of them, is close to what our heroes have sacrificed without asking anything of us.
I am making the choice to stand for our heroes. Will you stand with me?
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I would ask that everyone please let our leadership team contact the family, church/synagogue, and community and work on the details. Do not contact family members or friends on your own, that can cause the family to not invite us to attend the funeral of their loved one.
Please check the National Forum (click here) for updates.
DoD Identifies Air Force Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two airmen who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died July 17 in a F-15E crash near Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.
Capt. Thomas J. Gramith, 27, of Eagan, Minn. He was assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
Capt. Mark R. McDowell, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colo. He was assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.For further information, please contact Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Public Affairs office at (919) 722-0027.
Please remember our KIA families in your prayers.
Friday, July 17, 2009
The Minnesota leadership team is working on these 3 CONFIRMED missions. The families have invited us as guests of the families to attend the funerals for their loved ones.
I would ask that everyone please let our leadership team contact the families, and communities and work on the details. Do not contact family members or friends on your own, that can cause the family to not invite us to attend the funeral of their loved one.
For mission updates and to post condolences (National Forum) please use the following links:
Scp Daniel P. Drevnick - National Forum Click here
Spc James D. Wertish - National Forum Click here
Spc. Carlos E. Wilcox IV - National Forum Click here
Thank you for your cooperation.
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died July16 in Basra of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit using indirect fire.
Spc. Daniel P. Drevnick, 22, of Woodbury, Minn.;
Spc. James D. Wertish, 20, of Olivia, Minn.; and
Spc. Carlos E. Wilcox IV, 27, of Cottage Grove, Minn.
All three soldiers were assigned to the 34th Military Police Company, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard, Stillwater, Minn.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
To: Monday, July 20, 2009
Visitation: Hastings, MN
Internment Services: Fort Snelling National Cemetery, ST Paul, MN
The Family of SGT C.Wayne Hosford has requested Flag Line Honors in remembrance of the service and sacrifice of SGT Hosford. SGT Hosford served with Troop B, 2nd BN, 106th Cavalry, IL Army National Guard, Dixon IL. SGT Hosford was killed while participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, 6 July 2009 in Afghanistan.
This with be a two part mission:
Sunday 19 July 2009
Visitation 4pm to 8pm
Wise Family Funeral Home, 400 Spring Street, Hastings, MN 55066
3:30pm Mission Briefing
3:40pm Set Flag Line
8:00pm Released at RCIC discretion
RCIC: Ron Rienke, SE Metro
Map Link Visitation: http://tinyurl.com/mqtasm
Parking is limited around the funeral home, staging will be by the park on 4th street.
Construction Note: HWY 55 is closed between HWY 52 and Hastings for construction, detour is CR 46 off of HWY 52.
Monday 20 July 2009
Internment Services Fort Snelling National Cemetery
Staging: Fort Snelling Officers Club - lower parking lot
12:15pm Mission Briefing
12:30pm Kick Stands Up
12:40pm Assembly Area 3
12:45pm Set Flag Line Shelter #2
1:00pm Internment Services
1:30pm Released by RCIC
RCIC: John Foster, SE METRO
Map Link Staging: http://tinyurl.com/nf85e8
Officers club is located on the south side of HWY 5 and Post Road
Bring a 3 X 5 Flag and be prepared to be self-sufficient for the duration of this mission.
Please check the National Forum (click here) and/or our Minnesota Calendar (click here) for any updates.
|IMMEDIATE RELEASE||No. 492-09|
July 08, 2009
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of four soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died July 6 in Konduz, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle.
2nd Lt. Derwin I. Williams, 41, of Glenwood, Ill. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 106th Cavalry Regiment, Dixon, Ill.
Sgt. Brock H. Chavers, 25, of Bulloch, Ga. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, Americus, Ga.
Spc. Chester W. Hosford, 35, of Hastings, Minn. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 106th Cavalry Regiment, Dixon, Ill.
Spc. Issac L. Johnson, 24, of Columbus, Ga. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 108th Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron, Rome, Ga.
Thank you Cpl. Chester W. Hosford for defending our freedoms and paying the ultimate price, a grateful nation and the citizens of Minnesota will not forget your sacrifice. Our prayers are with the family in their time of sorrow.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
We have also been invited to stand in honor of SFC John Holman on 7Jul09. SFC Holman was returned home from Korea for a soldiers funeral after 59 years. Below is the article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. I am honored to stand for him....
"I always prayed that he'd get home," said a Roseville woman whose husband died in Korea.
By TIM HARLOW, Star Tribune
Lorraine Machacek had always wanted to give her first husband, lost at an early age in a faraway war, a proper funeral. On Saturday, after a 59-year wait, the 81-year-old Roseville woman finally will be able to do so.
Just four months after Machacek and John Holman were married in 1950, Holman's Army Reserve unit was deployed to the Korean peninsula, where U.S. and other U.N. forces had intervened on behalf of South Korea after a North Korean attack.
Machacek's young husband never came home. In February 1951, he was captured by Communist forces in a grisly battle near Hoengsong, Korea, and died of dysentery while in captivity, according to letters from fellow soldiers and documents from the Army and government officials that Machacek has kept in a binder for all these years.
Late last year, Holman's remains were positively identified through DNA testing by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii, and they recently were returned to Minnesota.
At 11 a.m. Saturday, Holman will be buried next to his parents, Wally and Betty, during a military ceremony at Union Cemetery in White Bear Lake.
"It's bittersweet," Machacek said Monday. "I never thought the body would come back, but I [still had] always prayed that he'd get home while I'm still living. ... With the funeral, I will have some closure."
Uncertainty, then grief
Machacek met Holman, who had graduated from high school in Hastings, Minn., when his older brother, Harry, "fixed them up," she said. They were married on June 3, 1950, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul and then moved to Ames, Iowa, so Holman could study engineering at Iowa State University.
Soon afterward, he left school when his unit, the Army's 38th Infantry Regiment D Company, 2nd Infantry Division, was one of the first sent to Korea. Machacek moved to Red Wing, Minn., to live with Holman's folks.
On Feb. 12, 1951, the 23-year-old Holman, a sergeant first class, disappeared during the bloody battle of Hoengsong when Communist forces from China and North Korea overwhelmed U.S. forces near the Bean/Suan Camp. Hundreds of Americans were killed or wounded as they were forced into a rapid retreat and surrounded by opposing forces who took control of the only escape route, through a narrow twisting valley.
Others, including Holman, were taken prisoner. But at the time, there was no word at all about his fate, not even a missing-in-action designation, Machacek said. His letters simply stopped.
"There was a lot of anxiety there when media broadcast names and his wasn't there," she said.
It would be another two years before she and his parents learned of his fate. "Those were the worst couple years of my life," she said of the uncertainty. "It was hell." On June 9, 1953, Machacek got the news she feared most when a letter and two somber Army officials arrived at Holman's parents' home in Red Wing with the news that he had died of dysentery on April 30, 1951, while being held as a prisoner of war.
"You don't forget those letters," she said. "The day the letter came, it was both a shock and relief."
A farewell to her 'first love'
Though Machacek vowed then never to remarry, she eventually did. She said had a "great" life and realized her dream of raising a family of three children with her second husband of 53 years, Charlie, who died in 2007.
She maintained a friendly relationship with Holman's parents until they died.
Holman's remains, along with those of 200 others, were excavated in 1992 in North Korea and returned to the POW/MIA laboratories at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.
Holman's lone surviving brother, Wallace, 79, of Bloomington, submitted a DNA sample, which, along with dental records, was used to identify Holman.
Without DNA testing, it's likely that Holman might never have been identified. Even with the DNA, it took the lab 18 months after it received Wallace's sample to make a positive identification.
"It's a long process," said Larry Greer, a spokesman for the Pentagon's POW/MIA Office in Washington.
Greer said the lab has identified the remains of 100 people, and still has 88,000 sets of remains, including 8,100 from the Korean War, yet to identify.
On Monday, as Machacek looked through keepsakes that included the wedding ring Holman gave her, a photo of him in uniform, news clippings and letters, she said it always bothered her that she had not been able to give her "first love" a proper funeral.
At Saturday's services, which will be conducted by the Rev. Craig Hanson of Roseville Lutheran Church, the urn bearing Holman's ashes will bear a red, white and blue bouquet and a soloist will sing the gospel song "In the Garden."
"I'm glad for this because this is how he'd want it," Machacek said. "It's been a long time coming, but he's home."
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Through the dinner you provided an avenue for us to spend time together in a larger group than we might ever otherwise manage to do. It was very much appreciated. We are already "brainstorming" for next year, so we are on the right track, I feel, toward taking ownership of the planning for future annual dinners, with your support behind us.
Scheduling this year's dinner in conjunction with the 4th annual Patriot Ride also afforded us a unique view of the MN PGR in full swing! Jen and I were fortunate to have the honor (and extreme fun!) of riding along this year, with special thanks to "Wing Bob" and to Dave Lund for their generosity. And the bus was another plus for Gold Stars who wanted to take part in the fun . It was impressive to see and get insight into all that goes into staging such a ride. I am sure similar preparation must go into all your missions, making all the impromptu missions your organization is called on to do even more amazing.
Please pass on to all your PGR members our sincere thanks and admiration for all you do, for the patriotism with which you operate, and for the patriotism you inspire all around you as you honor our loved ones. You truly brighten our lives with your warmth and caring.
God bless all of you as you ride!
Proud Grandmother of SGT Nicholas Turcotte
That America can sustain its culture after so many years is nothing short of amazing when you look at history yet simple to understand when you look at its premise.
Freedom of just about all choices is the foundation I love about our country. Each of us makes choices every day and is accountable for that choice. We get to look in the mirror at the end of the day and know that the person looking back at us is the reason for the good, or not so good, things that happened that day.
None of us believe in the same exact things yet we all work together for this common cause of supporting our military. There are voices out there we wish we could silence yet it is the right of the other voice to be heard that makes our country so special.
From the citizen soldiers at Bunker Hill to the professional Marines who today are securing the safety of Southern Afghanistan by driving the Taliban out our freedoms are based on knowing our military is there to help us in times of need.. across the world. Thank you for you service and may you be kept safe.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
On behalf of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and the Minnesota Veterans community I want to thank you and Minnesota Patriot Guard for your support of and participation in the Minnesota Honors Vietnam Era Veterans event on June 13, 2009.
The day was a success, with over 5,000 Veterans, family members and friends in attendance.
Your continued dedication to our nation's heroes helped this Department and the event planning committee provide a day where all Vietnam era Veterans and the community gathered, share stories, enjoyed each other's company and connected with all those who served during this time.
Thank you again for your support in our efforts to celebrate and honor all our Veterans.
Clark Dyrud, Commissioner
Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
We have a very few busy mission days ahead. Please keep your eyes on the Mission and Event Calendar.
We have one especially sad Mission this week. MAJ Henry T. Vakoc/Rev Tim passed away this last weekend. The visitation will be Thursday night in Plymouth, services on Friday in St Paul, and interment at FSNC immediately after.
Rev Tim was injured by an IED in 2004 but battled back like a warrior as hard as he could. The fight is now over and he is now an warrior for God. While Rev Tim has lived long past his injury we are treating his death as a KIA. He deserves our best...
I am copying in an article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Rev Tim. Please do what you can to help this week and weekend... we need you.
Five years after being gravely wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq, the Rev. Tim Vakoc, a well-known and much-loved Roman Catholic priest from Minnesota, has died, his family said Sunday.
Vakoc, 49, who most recently had been living at St. Therese Care Center in New Hope, died about 8 p.m. Saturday after being taken to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, said Barb Rode, president and CEO of St. Therese.
"Certainly, our thoughts and prayers are with the family right now," Rode said. "We are doing an investigation to make sure we have all the answers."
Vakoc died surrounded by family and friends, according to an entry on his CaringBridge website.
"A man of peace, he chose to endure the horror of war in order to bring the peace of Christ to America's fighting men and women," Archbishop John Nienstedt wrote in a prepared statement. "He has been an inspiration to us all, and we will miss him."
Father Tim, as he was known, was the first military chaplain grievously wounded in the Iraq war. He was injured by a roadside bomb as he was returning from celebrating mass with troops on May 29, 2004, the day before the 12th anniversary of his ordination as a priest.
The blast cost him an eye and severely damaged his brain. He was hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and transferred to the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center in October 2004.
After numerous surgeries and life-threatening infections, he slowly started to recognize friends and family, and to communicate with a squeeze of the hand or a slight smile.
For more than two years, he was in what doctors called a "minimally responsive state." Then, in the fall of 2006, he spoke for the first time in 2 1/2 years, raising hopes of recovery.
The Rev. Bob Schwartz, pastor at Our Lady of Grace in Edina and a longtime friend of Vakoc, said he would mime words with his lips. During a visit Schwartz paid him three months ago, Vakoc offered to give him a blessing. Later that day, he struggled but succeeded in maneuvering his motorized wheelchair down a hall and into an elevator to get to his therapy session, bumping against the wall the entire way because he lacked good motion control in his hands, Schwartz said.
"My sense of Tim is that if he was asked to walk across a landmine for somebody, he'd do it," said Schwartz, who served as priest at St. John Neumann Church in Eagan while Vakoc was associate pastor there. "He'd go where angels fear to tread."
Tens of thousands of people around the world followed Vakoc's story through his CaringBridge website. He had dozens of regular visitors, many of whom came to pray with him.
Teri Heyer of St. Paul visited him every other Sunday for three years, reading the newspaper to him. He communicated primarily with a "yes," "no," nod or facial expressions, she said.
"He was very aware of his surroundings," she said, adding that he once flashed a raised eyebrow at a story she recounted.
When she last saw him a few weeks ago, he was doing well, she said. Patricia Vacik of Colorado Springs, Colo., visited him three times, compelled by the friendship her family forged with him when he was their pastor at Fort Carson, Colo., in the 1990s. "He use to take the babies and walk the babies on his shoulders during mass," she said. "He said the babies were so close to heaven [that] they really were still in touch with God. He was just so special."
Vakoc celebrated the 17th anniversary of his ordination on June 10 of this year, according to his CaringBridge site.
Vakoc, the youngest of three children of Phyllis and Henry Vakoc, grew up in Robbinsdale and entered St. Paul Seminary in 1987. He served as a parish priest in St. Anthony and Eagan before becoming an Army chaplain in 1996, and served extended tours of duty in Germany and Bosnia.
He shipped out to Iraq shortly before his 44th birthday. There, he was promoted to major and traveled to danger zones to pray with his fellow soldiers. He was returning to base from one of those trips when the roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
There were a couple incidents... one accident as the day began even before registration, some issues with heat exhaustion, and one person running off the road. My understanding is that no one was hurt seriously.
This ride was huge... we matched or exceeded last years ticket sales for the bike, our Patriot Guard store did well, the military honors for SFC Lyle Mackedanz were powerful, Governor Pawlenty speaking, being able to donate to a number of worthy charities, and that awesome fly over by the helicopters that included a hover exercise at about 40 feet.
Thank you to Dennis Kirk and their vendors. Thank you to Crow River Harley. Thank you to Fatboys. Thank you to Jeff and Deb Good and the planning committee.
Most of all thank you to all who attended. You made it worth it all.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The Radars Section still have the same mission that they have always had and that is to provide Force Protection to the Bases within Iraq. It is a big mission but our Radar Section are more then capable of completing this mission and in fact normally exceed all other Radar Section within the Army. Yeah, I may be saying we are the best but the fact is that our Radar Sections and Personnel are the best.
Moving out of Fort Sill our unit spent 14 days in Kuwait were we conducted mandatory training. This training only lasted a couple days but the rest of the time we were allowed to get acclimated to the horrendous heat that lied ahead in Iraq. While we were in Camp Buerhing, Kuwait we saw a few days that reached 140 degrees. I am not kidding about the temp, as some of you may already know it gets hot over here. You will need to remember that it gets hotter in Kuwait then it does in Iraq and we all for the most part have a place to go to get out of the heat.
After our 14 day stay in Kuwait all of us took of a couple day adventure to get to our final location. For some of us, it only took a day and for others it took many days to get to their final destination. Some areas where our radars and TPS Section are station are remote and take time to get to. Also, sand storms create just another obstacle for flying into each of these bases. All of us are at our final location now and should have contacted there loved ones that they have made it. We are all going through what is called a RIP (Relief In Place). This is where we take over the for the unit that is going home. This normally takes any were from 4 to 12 days for each section to learn the jobs they are taking over. Also, during this time the unit is also conducting inventories of equipment and signing for equipment that the other unit is leaving behind for us. Most of the Radar Section have completed their RIP and are conducting business like they normally would.
Now, some of our Radar Section are in remote location like FOB Gary Owens and FOB Delta. This doesn't mean that they have no way to communicate to the outside world it just means that they don't have all the opportunities the other Section do to communicate via internet. I hear from our sections daily and we are doing everything we can to support them even though we are apart. Please be patient with them to communicate with you but if you haven't heard from them and are worried please let me know. I will do whatever it takes to help you all out.
Our men are doing great things and are showing the Army once again that E Btry 151st FA is the best TAB in the Army.
I apologize for not getting this out to you all earlier as there is no excuse on my part. As the Commander it is my job to ensure that you all get updated on our unit activities. If any of you still have question regarding our units mission or any other general question please let me know. I would ask you to use the FRG so that I can reply to all of you at once.
Signed CPT Mark Gile.
CPT Mark D Gile
E Btry 151st FA (TA)
Joint Base Balad, Iraq
APO AE 09391