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 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.

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.


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:
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:
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.

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.

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

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

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

Thank you Cpl. Chester W. Hosford for defending our freedoms and paying the ultimate price, a grateful nation and the citizens of Minnesota will not forget your sacrifice. Our prayers are with the family in their time of sorrow.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

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

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.


Clark Dyrud, Commissioner
Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs