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.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Vietnam Vet Welcome Home

I have a request of all of you.  The Vietnam Vet Welcome Home is being planned for June 13, 2009.  Long over due but the state of Minnesota is going to make this happen.

The request is pretty simple.  Tell every Vietnam Era vet you know that it is happening.  Ask them to check out and let them know they can register ahead of time.

It is a special day with many speakers, fly over of Vietnam era aircraft including some B-52's, and entertainers.

The MInnesota Secretary of State will read the roll call of the 1,080 Minnesotans who fell and the 43 who are still missing from the Vietnam War at 11 AM.

I was 12 years old when the treaty was signed.  I didn't understand it but knew something was going listening to my younger uncles arguing with the older ones about not going.

At 12 years old I couldn't begin the understand the dynamics of those times while living in them.  What I can do now, what we all can do now, is help make up for the hurts of long ago.  By letting those Vets know that we do care, we thank them for their service, and let them know we are glad they made it home.

If you know a Vietnam Vet please let them know this is happening.  No one can make them attend but at least let them make that choice.  I am stunned yet today at the number of them who don't know about it.

I will be there that day helping where I can and staying in the background.  Please consider doing the same.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

34th CAB Return Home

I just got home from the last Welcome Home in St Paul. As I type the last bus is probably pulling into Camp Ripley.

These missions are just so good for your soul. The sheer joy and raw emotion you see with the families can just take your breath away. The lines of families while they are being dismissed must be what the land grab races must have looked like in Kansas.... everyone pressed up against the line but not daring to cross it.... then bursting across it when they can. Interesting to watch.. the soldiers, before they see their families, shake their buddies hands one more time.

We had fun tonight letting kids sit on the bikes, blow the horns, and even rev them up. The kids will never remember our names but hopefully as the years go by they will remember the bikers who were there to meet Dad and allow us a bit more room on the entrance ramp. Meeting Pastor Chuck's son was a cool "cherry topping" to the evening.

There are more from this unit who are returning home in July. They are attached to the Marines as Medical support. God Bless you men and women.

Kudos to Rick Williams (SE Metro RC) and CPT Martin who did an excellent job handling every change that came along... high five guys!

We move from the joyous to serious this weekend with the Remember the Fallen Tributes. Attend one to understand what our core mission is. I saw a lot names this last weekend I remembered standing for.

I can never say this enough. It is a honor to be a member of the organization. It is also my distinct honor and pleasure to stand next to all of you. I am so proud of what you do and your willingness to sacrifice your evening at a moments notice.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Thoughts

We are half way through the first 3 day weekend of the year.  And sadly that is how many people view it.  Cabins open up and highways get filled with vacationers.

Memorial days is not the last Monday of May.  Memorial Day is always May 30.  Below is the general order naming that;

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades will, in their own way, arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, Comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers sailors and Marines, who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead? We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander in Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this Order effective.

General Orders No. 11, Grand Army of the Republic Headquarters.

Originally meant to honor the fallen of the Civil War it was expanded to include military fallen of branches in all wars after WWI.

Enjoy the weekend and participate in some ceremony somewhere to honor the fallen.  I hope we can find a way to always remember that for our convenience it is the last Monday of May and not because it was named that way.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

34th Infantry Division Takes Command in Iraq

Friends of the Red Bulls:

1.  On behalf of Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, I thought you'd like to know that the 34th Infantry Division took command of Multi-National Division South in Basra, Iraq at 2:00 a.m. Twin Cities time today.

2.  Months of training have prepared our Citizen-Soldiers for this important mission, and we are in good spirits as we partner with the Iraqis to transition security, professionalize the Iraqi Security Forces and continue to build essential services for people throughout southern Iraq.

3. A short summary of today's events is below and a photo is attached.
Follow us throughout our deployment at  Subscribe to our daily newsletter, "The Red Bull Report" by e-mailing "subscribe" in the subject line to

4.  Thanks for your support.   We are looking forward to upholding the proud tradition of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division in Iraq.


Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Olson
Public Affairs Officer
Multi-National Division South


34th Infantry Division assumes control of MND-S

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE  BASRA, Iraq - The 34th Red Bull Infantry Division  assumed control of Multi-National Division - South from the 10th Mountain Division in a transfer of authority ceremony here May 20.

The Red Bulls now support Iraqi security forces throughout nine provinces in southern Iraq. This is the first time since World War II the 34th Inf. Div. has established its headquarters in a combat zone.

General Ray Odierno, Multi-National Force - Iraq commanding general. Lt.Gen. Charles Jacoby, Multi-National Corps - Iraq commanding general, government of Iraq officials and Iraqi security force leaders were on-hand to witness the historic transfer.

"This is an exciting time in Iraq," said Maj. Gen. Richard Nash,
34th Inf. Div. commanding general. "On behalf of the 34th Inf. Div., we are privileged to be invited by the government of Iraq to be a partner in improving the future of the people of this great Iraqi nation."

"Over the last year, the Iraqi Army and police have taken
responsibility for the protection of the Iraqi people," said Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, 10th Mtn. Div. commanding general. "The 10th Mountain Division was proud to be their partners in this success."

While the Red Bulls are ready to take hold of the reins, Nash
stressed that the job in Iraq is still not done.   "My Soldiers will be in a supporting partnership role," said Nash. "Our major partnership focus will be with the Iraqi police and the Department of Border
Enforcement in order to assist them as they secure the people of southern Iraq. We are highly impressed with the professionalism and capability of the Iraqi Army."

Iraqi officials in attendance expressed both their gratitude to the departing 10th Mountain and their anticipation of working with the Red Bulls.  "The 10th Mountain Division did a great, great job as an ISF partner during a crucial time in Iraq's history, said Capt. Hayder
Adannan, an engineer and liaison officer for Coalition forces in Wasit province. "The 34th . . . I've already met with their commander. They already know me, and I look forward to working with them."

Col. Auyid Ibrahin, chief civil affairs officer for the Iraqi
Army 10th Division, said "We're going to lose some friends, but we're going to have new friends."     The Red Bulls' objectives throughout southern Iraq include helping with economic development and governance, increasing security for the Iraqi people and assisting with the training of Iraqi security forces.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Remember The Fallen Tribute

Fellow MN Patriot Guard Riders,

We finished today the first of 7 weekends remembering our fallen. We combined that with a Welcome Home for approximately 200 soldiers returning from Iraq.

I am tired.

I am feeling very fulfilled.

We trekked all over the expanse of Fort Snelling National Cemetery visiting our fallen since 2001. We silently stood as Sailor Doc read his statement.... we watched the flowers being placed at the headstone, we stood attention while taps were played, and many of us cried silent tears while hugging family members once again.

Two presentations stood out.

For Nicholas Turcotte his battle buddies came today because they could not be there for his funeral. For those who were in uniform we had the opportunity today to reassure them he was taken care of.

For Josh Lund it was watching his family, who ride with us as PGR members often, present the flowers to their son. And then Dave Lund told us his favorite story about Josh.

I learned today what the coins left on a headstone mean. I had no idea. Sailor Doc described it as a sign to family the grave site had been visited. He said the legend of the denominations is; A penny you means you visited, a nickel means you trained with him, and dime means you served with him, and a quarter means you were there with him when he was killed. I was proud to leave some coins today to honor our fallen. The money is collected at some point and used to help maintain the cemetery.

You have six more weekends to choose from to attend these ceremonies and I urge to attend one if you can. Honoring the fallen is why we are here and the core of our mission. It mattered to a family if they were there. At a very personal level it mattered to me to be there. It helped renew my commitment to this mission.

Sailor Doc and the Minnesota Platoon. Thank you.

And all this balanced out by the honor of watching families excited by the return of their soldiers after one year of being gone from home on deployment.

We, as members of the Minnesota Patriot Guard, have the best jobs in the world. I would not trade it for anything!
Added after some thought....

Being in the MN Patriot Guard has no requirements which allows people the freedom of choice as to what they do. They have no set duties or expectations made of them. They can do what they feel a passion for or what they have time to do.

The members of this organization who choose to be very active work really hard. Our organization is not built on events or special occasions. It has been built on being involved supporting our military 52 weeks a year. In all kinds of weather and under any and all circumstances.

Nothing of what we do together is glamorous. It takes special people who are willing to show up at a moments notice, accept no expressions of gratitude, and quietly melt away when it is over.

Even though we often don't know the names of these special people.. we do recognize them by face and bike/cage. It matters to who ever we are there to honor that someone show up and show they care. I am always humbled by the members of the MN Patriot Guard and lengths they go to show that care.

Thank you for being there 52 weeks a year and I salute you. We are nothing without you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

April 2009 Activities

Happy Spring MN PGR Members!!! It finally arrived!!

Our mission and event activities continue to keep us busy. The Send Offs were a packed few weekends and the Marine Welcome Homes were special as it was the first time we were invited. Special thanks to MGySgt Wald for his help.

The Remember the Fallen Tributes begin in May. These will be special days travelling across this state once again honoring our fallen heroes. Please use the event calendar to stay in touch with what is going on.

Make sure you mark June 20, 2009, down for the Patriot Ride in East Bethel. The organizers have once again focused on creating an event to remember. The special part of the day will be the closing ceremony in which a Vietnam KIA who did not receive military honors will on that day receive them.

Also do not forget the Vietnam Vet Welcome Home on June 13, 2009 held on the state capitol grounds. While undefined yet the MN Patriot Guard will be assisting that day in helping make sure it comes off in a great way for our vets who so richly deserve it!

As always... Thank You for what you do. I don't think there has ever been such a volunteer group such as this. None of us are paid anything in terms of money.. but when I am with you I feel I am the richest man in the world. I am honored to stand with you any where, any time.

April 09
KIA/Active Duty/LEO Funeral 1
Veterans Funeral 6
Welcome Home 2
Send Off 13
Benefit 1
Veterans Home Event 3
Meet & Greet 4
Blue Star Mothers Event 1
Monthly Tribute Mankato 1
Fund Raiser 1
POW/MIA Rememberance 1
Training/Leadership Meeting 2
HOTH Work Event 1
Ride 1
National Guard/Military Event 1

Total Number 39

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Note from a Marine Family

I just wanted to send a thank you to all of those who were at my husband’s coming home ceremony. My husband was one of the Marines returning home from the Horn of Africa on Saturday, April 18th. When the Patriot Guard came into the room I broke into tears. It was a reminder of how much my husband works means to the country. Having been alone for 10 months, you tend to think towards the negative side. Seeing your guard waving American flags was a great reminder of how much our military service does for us. The pictures of my husband walking off the plane surrounded by American flags and people that came out of their way for people they have never met was just incredible. I am getting tears in my eyes just thinking of that moment.

Thanks for all you do. Words cannot express all that you do for the troops and their families. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Keep up the great work.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Results of the 2009 MN Patriot Guard Board of Directors Election

The Board of Directors has ratified and voted on the recommendation of the Leadership Advisory Committee and named the following people to the BoD.

At Large Members - Two Year Terms
John Redfield
John "Jack" Foster

Ride Captain Representative to the Executive BoD - One Year Term
Tim Leonhardt


Thank you to all who put their name out as a candidate. Everyone had something to offer the organization and would have helped make it better! I learned something about everybody while reading the bio's you supplied and am interested in your thoughts on what we do.

A special "thanks" to Terry Throndson who helped us through our first year as a full BoD. Many of the things we did were for the first time so it was a year of great learning... I look forward to riding with you Digger...