Thursday, December 31, 2009

HOTH Leadership Change

Brian Jones has tendered his resignation as Help On The Homefront (HOTH) Coordinator effective January 1, 2010.

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 yzappa@mnpatriotguard.org 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 yzappa@mnpatriotguard.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

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year To My Favorite People!

Members and friends of the MN Patriot Guard,

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

Airport Traffic This time Of Year...

Many of you know I travel quite a bit for work. Coming through the airport today it was so touching to see all the families gathered in the baggage claim areas with flags and balloons for their heroes coming home for the Holidays. The hugs, the tears of joy, and watching young families being reunited. I ran out of the “Dear American Hero” cards after about the first hour!

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!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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 18, 2009

Mike McDonough - NW Metro ARC

Posted in the National Forum

Mike was in a serious bike accident down in Florida. He is currently in the ICU in St Petersburg. His injuries include a broken neck, head injury with internal bleeding and multiple broken ribs. He is intubated (breathing tube down the trachea) and is immobilized to protect his neck fracture. The good news is he is conscious and has feeling and movement in his extremities. The doctors will continue to monitor his brain bleed and other injuries and keep Mary apprised of the situation.

I ask that you all lift up Mike and Mary in your prayers, that he is able to have a complete recovery and to ease Mary's worry for Mike.

Mike is the first person to have made the beads we now all hang off of our PGR vests. He and his wife Mary have made thousands of them and donated over $2,000 to the MNPG from the proceeds.

Riding motorcycles is dangerous. When something like this happens let's all band together in prayer for Mike and Mary.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

A heartfelt "Thank You" to those who have served. Your personal sacrifice of time and commitment are to be appreciated today and on behalf of the MN Patriot Guard we recognize and salute you!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fort Hood Tragedy

On Thursday, November 5th, a terrible tragedy took place at Fort Hood in Texas. Minnesota and Wisconsin lost heroes in this tragic event.

Minnesota
Fallen: PFC Kham Xiong, St Paul
Wounded: SPC Keara Bono Torkelson, Otsego


Wisconsin
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

As more details emerge, or word from our other neighboring states comes forth, we will update this list. We are working with the Army on the possible mission for PFC Xiong and as word of the family request comes out we will let everybody know immediately.

There will be natural anger at this terrible loss. It was senseless, meaningless, and no justification for it. Whatever anger you might have I ask that you focus it on the suspected gunman and not the religion he belonged to. In these days of terrorism it is easy to look for a broad, single, reason and the truth is we don't know why an individual chose this path. I count as friends those who are practicing Muslims and they are as horrified as I am at this attack.

Let us join together in support of freedom and support those families who have experienced this unexpected and tragic loss.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A sad week again...

The next 7 days will again be a serious time for us. We will be standing for three military heroes who in different places earned our honor and respect.

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

September State Captains Report


The number of missions that the MN Patriot Guard delivered in August and September was again large.

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

Minnesota to offer Gold Star license plates

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune 22Sep09
================================

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

Congrats to the Minnesota ARNG Honor Guard Team

I heard that they took first place in the National competition this year for Honor Guard teams. Congratulations to the team!!!!

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!

A wonderful thought touching a Gold Star family

This email was received by Deb Good from Deb Allen. Deb and Steve Allen live in Danbury, WI, and are the parents of Sgt Chad Allen, lost in iraq in 2007.

John Comer.. you are a wonderful person!

Steve and Deb.. we love you guys.
=========================

Deb,

I wanted to write and let you know about the "Above and Beyond" mission a couple of your Patriot Riders did for us.

John R. Comer from the NE Metro came up yesterday from the cities by himself on his bike. We weren't home on Monday when he and his wife came by. He dropped off pictures he took at the Ogden, UT Patriot Guard get together (GOTG) of all the flags and informed us he was the one who sponsored the flag for Chad.

He had a picture of the flag with his info on there with the mountains in the background. They are all so beautiful, I dont know how they found Chads flag amongst all those flags. We are totally blown away with his thoughtfullness that he would come all the way up to our place to bring us these pictures to let us know he was the sponsor. He said he will mail us the flag when he gets it. All of you have done so much for the families and all of you have gone way beyond anything our family could ever ask for.

As he told us he did participate on the line at Chad's funeral. I was sad I didn't remember him being there, but I dont remember much those first two weeks. I wanted to share this story for you to share, and thanks aren't enough from us to you. I just had to let you know about the wonderful thing this man did in Chads memory.

Bless you all for all you do.
Deb Allen
THE MOMMA ALLEN
(Sgt Chad Allen - Iraq)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Northern Sector Meet & Greet - Flag Line 09 - Camp Ripley - 20Sep09

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!!

Questions?? Email Starr Marshall at brainerd@mnpatriotguard.org or Karla Richardson at detlakes@mnpatriotguard.org

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2008 Financial Report for the MN Patriot Guard

Members of the MN Patriot Guard After much hard work the final reports were filed for our business year of 2008 in August. As a 501(c)3 charity we are held to a strict standard of reporting. It was complicated tremendously this last year by new government rules of how to account for our financials, donations, and expenses. Special thank to Marge Boisvert (our Treasurer) and the CPA firm Carlson Advisers for the donation of a lot of time. The fees we are charged for our financial audit do not cover the total investment of time in any way!

Before we dig into the numbers I’d like to say that being a 501(c)3 charity takes a lot of work. The nice thing is that all donations are tax deductible which helps motivate people to donate. The administrative effort to maintain it is pretty large though. As other states ask me about filing for non-profit status I warn them to talk to a good accountant before they talk to a lawyer.

In summary we generated $101,788.86 of revenue; $ 80,160.14 of donations, grants, and expenses $ 21,628.72 of net profit. I am putting a more detailed look at this break down at the bottom of this post. Sorry for the small size… I can’t figure out how to increase the size of the graphic! If you click on it it will open as a picture.

One key area that people use to evaluate the effectiveness of a non-profit is comparing administrative expenses to the overall expenses. Our ratio is an incredibly low 4% when the Charities Review Council considers 30% acceptable. They also state that you should have in reserve no more than three years operating funds available and we are in the range of 1.5 years. We will be filing for certification by the Charities Review Council to further assure everyone we have complete transparency in our accounting. One of financial policies was to have at least one year expenses in reserve in case our fundraising went away completely. The Board of Directors continues to monitor this for both compliance and if there should be changes to it. We are not a fundraising organization. We are an organization that believes we help by doing something with our “hearts and hands.” That said we have the ability to help at times with funds and we will continue to guard that we do not become focused on raising money.

I'd like to explain a couple of specific items...

Promotions to the American Legions/VFW's were donating non current T Shirts and DVD's to help promote the MN Patriot Guard mission and purpose and mission. Each sector was given these to pass out as needed.

Mission expenses were items such as replacements radios and batteries, Law Enforcement Charges if they were needed, printing, and other items such as that.

The Safety Training class was made possible by our friends from ABATE. In 2006 ABATE donated funds to use for mission bussing that you as members didn't really want. As we had leftover funds in that account we asked if we could use it for Accident Scene Management training classes for the sector leaders. They were gracious enough to allow us to do that. Thank you ABATE.

Hopefully the government won’t change the reporting rules again or 2009 so that we can more timely make this report to you. We want to ensure all the documentation is correct before we make information like this public.



Friday, September 4, 2009

Minnesota mourns the loss of SSG Todd W. Selge of Burnsville, MN

The DOD just released the notice about SSG Todd W. Selge of Burnsville, MN. The Leadership Team has contacted the Army and we are working through channels with the CAO on this possible mission. Please don't attempt to contact the family, funeral home, church or LEO in an attempt to help us. Your help may cause us to NOT be invited to honor this American Hero.

DoD Identifies Army Casualties
Fri, 04 Sep 2009 16:02:00 -0500


IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 682-09
September 04, 2009

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.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Todd W. Selge, 25, of Burnsville, Minn.; and

Spc. Jordan M. Shay, 22, of Salisbury, Mass.

The incident is under investigation.


We ask that you keep the Selge family in your prayer during this difficult time.

To post condolences, click here.

Thank you.

George

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Helping our donations go further

We donated $6,500 earlier this year to the MN Veterans Family Support (MVFS) group this year to help them do Project Backpack.

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

Donation From the Pawlenty for Governor Campaign

Fellow MN Patriot Guard Members….

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

Some changes to our store....

Starting this week you will see some changes in how our store operates when shipping your orders out.

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

July State Captain Report


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.

Thank you.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Call to Action 2…

Dear friends in the Minnesota Patriot Guard,

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

Mission Incidents - July 27, 2009

Well.... it was quite a day!

Situation One
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.

Situation Two
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

Minnesota mourns the loss of Cpl. Benjamin S. Kopp, 21, of Rosemount, MN

Minnesota mourns the loss of Cpl. Benjamin S. Kopp, 21, of Rosemount, MN. The Minnesota leadership team is working on this possible mission. We require that the family invite us to funeral for them to be confirmed missions.

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.


IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 535-09
July 20, 2009

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.


George

A Call to Action.....

Minnesota Patriot Guard Riders….

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

Minnesota mourns the loss of Capt. Thomas J. Gramith, 27, of Eagan, MN

Minnesota mourns the loss of Capt. Thomas J. Gramith, 27, of Eagan, MN. The Minnesota leadership team is working on this possible mission. We require that the family invite us to funeral for them to be confirmed missions.

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.


IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 527-09
July 19, 2009

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.
Killed were:

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.

George

Friday, July 17, 2009

Minnesota mourns the loss of 3 MN National Guard soldiers in Iraq

Minnesota mourns the loss of: Spc. Daniel P. Drevnick, 22, Woodbury, MN; Spc James D. Wertish, 20, Olivia, MN; and Spc. Carlos E. Wilcox IV, 27, of Cottage Grove, MN.

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.


IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 525-09
July 18, 2009

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.
Killed were:

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.

George

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Minnesota Mourns the loss of Cpl. Chester W. Hosford, Hastings, MN

From: Sunday, July 19, 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
3:00pm Staging
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

11:45am Staging
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.

Killed were:

2nd Lt. Derwin I. Williams, 41, of Glenwood, Ill. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 106th Cavalry Regiment, Dixon, Ill.

http://www.patriotguard.org/ALLForums/tabid/61/forumid/15/postid/1191544/view/topic/Default.aspx

Sgt. Brock H. Chavers, 25, of Bulloch, Ga. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, Americus, Ga.

http://www.patriotguard.org/ALLForums/tabid/61/forumid/15/postid/1191545/view/topic/Default.aspx

Spc. Chester W. Hosford, 35, of Hastings, Minn. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 106th Cavalry Regiment, Dixon, Ill.

http://www.patriotguard.org/ALLForums/tabid/61/forumid/15/postid/1191546/view/topic/Default.aspx

Spc. Issac L. Johnson, 24, of Columbus, Ga. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 108th Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron, Rome, Ga.

http://www.patriotguard.org/ALLForums/tabid/61/forumid/15/postid/1191547/view/topic/Default.aspx


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.

George

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Mission for SFC Holman - 11Jul09

We have many choices this weekend to give back to those who gave all. The Remember the Fallen Tribute will travel to the Southwest and South of Minnesota this weekend.

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

Thank You From Heroes United

On behalf of the Turcotte/Skagerberg family, I wish to thank all of you in the MN Patriot Guard for all that you do for our Minnesota Gold Star families, not the least of which is your total support in bringing many of us together through the Heroes United annual dinners.

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!

Betsy Turcotte
Proud Grandmother of SGT Nicholas Turcotte
2-17-83/12-04-2006

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July to all of our friends across the world who believe in freedom!

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

Vietnam Vet Welcome Home - Thank You Note

Senior Ride Captains,

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.

Sincerely,

Clark Dyrud, Commissioner
Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A very busy week...

MN Patriot Guard members.

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

Patriot Ride.... Wow!

We will have something more formal put together but the day was outstanding for attendance and meaning. We had more than 2,000 people attend and it was a great program.

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.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vietnam Vet Welcome Home

Dearest friends,
Thank you is woefully inadequate to express to you my gratitude for your gift of service and love shown to the families of the Vietnam fallen heroes at Central Presbyterian Church on Saturday, June 13. I kept hearing people say - "you gotta look outside! You just gotta look outside!" For these families, who grieved alone and rarely, if ever, shared their hero's story outside their immediate family - the sight outside the church took their breath away. They finally knew that Minnesota cherished all of their military heroes including the Vietnam era heros - and especially the Vietnam fallen heroes!
Thank you for sharing this day with them, but more importantly, thank you for giving honor back to their beloved heroes!
Merr
Merrilee Carlson, Chair - Shrek's Mom
Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission
Phone 651 319-1194
America - Home of the Free because of the Brave!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

2009 Patriot Ride - 20Jun09 - East Bethel, MN

We are only days away from the ride!!!

I hope to see many of you Saturday at the Patriot Ride. It is one of the biggest rides in Minnesota and the day is packed all the way through with activities that remember our fallen heroes, support our military, and show our respect for our veterans.

The day looks almost perfect for the first day of summer. After a few rain clouds move out Friday it looks clear with temps in the low 80's on Saturday.

We will also be unveiling our Remember the Fallen 2009 shirt. John Redfield and his team of designers have knocked it out of the park. It sums up what we do in one picture.

It isn't to late to pre register and save $10 www.thepatriotride.org

See you there!!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

E BTRY 151st FA UPDATE

As you all may know E Btry 151st FA Mission requires our unit to split up and augment other units. Some of you may have many questions due to this and I will try answering most of these questions. On the 14th of May, E Btry received a message that our mission in Iraq had some changes to it, which required us to create 3 Target Processing Sections (TPS) out of the 1 Section that we had at that time. These three TPS Sections would augment all three Division that are in Iraq. One of these Section is stationed at Speicher, another in Baghdad, and the last in Basrah. Speicher is located toward norhern Iraq, Baghdad in Center/East , and Basrah South/East in Iraq. Each of these sites you can google to get exact locations. This mission change also changed the location of the Btry Headquarters to Joint Base Balad (JBB) which is located between Speicher and Baghdad. Some of you may want to know why our mission changed. There are many factors that contributed to this but the main reason was the draw down of troops. Iraq used to have 2 Target Acquisition Battery (TAB) HQ's within Iraq but with this draw down it will only leave 1 TAB in Iraq and that is us; this is a big mission for our Battery to control 16 radar Section throughout Iraq.

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
Commander
E Btry 151st FA (TA)
Joint Base Balad, Iraq
APO AE 09391

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Reflections on the passing of a friend and veteran

At 2:20 AM on June 4, 2009, my friend John Gorman passed away.  Born in 1925 it might seem a bit strange I considered John one of my close friends.  But he was and a role model as well.

I met John when I first moved to my house and he was a very friendly neighbor.  Often chatting in the back yard he helped me plant better and when I travelled he often took care of my plants outdoors.  My granddaughter adored him because he would patiently let her "help" him with his planting.  John had avidly collected fossils his entire life and let her look at them and would explain to her in terms a 6 year old could understand what they meant.

John was a very smart man.  Receiving PH. D. in Chemical Engineering he holds many patents and is a fellow with the American Statistical Association and was published extensively in his career.

He was a kind, gentle, smart, and generous with praise for everybody.  I try to live up to his example.

Make no mistake though.. he was a warrior.  He served in the Rangers 2bn in WWII.  He was part of the first special forces of the US Army.  Washout rates were in the 90% range for those who volunteered.  He saw action all the way through Europe in WWII and was ready to go to Japan as he didn't have enough points to go home after VE.

He recently published a book on his WWII experiences.  One part that really got me.. "Colonel Rudder, our battalion commander, said one German wanted to go back and get some of his friends to surrender.  He went back all right, and gave them our exact position, and they shelled the sh*t out of us.  Our company commander was a smart one.  When the Germans surrendered, we immediately moved forward into their positions, leaving the prisoners in our old positions.  The Germans were killing their own.  Such hell."

I say that because John considered himself very lucky.  When diagnosed with Mesothelioma (that he believes he contracted while in Graduate School melting different types of asbestos) John quietly accepted his fate and worked to make sure his affairs were in order.  His comment to me was "I should have died 20 times when I was 18.  I was given 65 years of extra life."

I had the honor of visiting his battle buddies who fell in Europe at the Brittany American Cemetery in St James, France.  I took pictures of the head stones and made a DVD for him of all the pictures I took.  It was my honor to sweat the details and the timing of the music that went into that.  I did it for my friend because I loved him.

This week we have been asked to attend a mission for him.  John asked me himself for when the day came.  I had come home from a long, sweaty, day with about 5oo miles behind me.  John asked what I was doing and after I explained what the Patriot Guard is about he looked at me and asked if we would ride for him when he died.  I am my friend...

Stand down Ranger Gorman...  your mission is complete.

Rangers Lead The Way!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A moment I wish we could erase....

The relationships we have developed with Gold Star families is special and needs to be respected, and protected, at all times and at all costs.

They not only have to deal with the loss but often have to deal with people who wish to either use them to promote themselves or as a symbol of politics.  Finding people to trust is hard enough work for the parents, widow/ers, and children.  I am very proud of how we have walked that fine line of support but not intruding.

There was a recent event I wish I could erase for one such family.  The daughter of one fallen hero has really struggled being open and trusting people after her father was lost.  One group she opened up to is the Patriot Guard.  Every time she saw a flag line or a member proudly wearing their gear she walked up to talk with them.

At a Memorial Day mission she did what she normally does.. walk up to the Flag Line and talk to the members holding the flags.

The moment I wish we could erase is that this young girl was told "Can't you see I'm holding a flag?  Don't bother me."  In one moment we lost the trust of a family and a devastated young girl.

I don't think for one second the member who said meant anything bad and had they realized who it was would have immediately engaged this young girl.  We coach and ask that the flag lines be places of silence and respect.  We ask that the members move away from the line if they are going to have a conversation with anybody.  

So this isn't about finding and identifying who this person is.  This is a lesson on how to handle people who approach us because we never really know the person really is.  If someone approaches you to talk you need to be polite and engage them.  If you are on a flag line move away if you can.  If it is at a point in time where it is  important to the mission to stand there ask if you can talk later.

All of us, all 5,000 of us, are ambassadors for the Patriot Guard.   Every one of us makes a difference to the people we support and we are measured one person at a time but looked at as a whole.

I will privately apologize to the family and young girl directly and ask how we can make this up to them.  I am hoping that they can over look this and find a way to forgive it.  If they can't I respect that as well as their choice.  My concern isn't how I feel but how that young girl had a group she trusted taken from her in a split second.