Friday, January 29, 2010

Minnesota Patriot Guard - 2009 Annual Report

Members and friends of the Minnesota Patriot Guard,

I want to take a few moments of your time to give you the Minnesota Patriot Guard annual report of missions, activities, and donations for 2009.

It was a year of highs that ranged from the 2009 Patriot Ride with over 2,000 participants and Flag Line 09 with over 1,200 to the lows of 6 Fallen Heroes in the span of two weeks.

Leadership Report
Our state membership ended the year at over 5,500 people receiving information weekly on the different missions and news and notes. As we don’t log those who attend we estimate that between 30% to 50% attend at least one activity and help show support to the military.

Our leadership team had some changes with my replacing Monica Mead as State Captain and Yvonne Zappa replacing Brian Jones as State HOTH Coordinators. A number of Ride Captains also saw change; Albert Lea, Brainerd, Hibbing, International Falls, Mankato, NW Metro, SE Metro, and St Cloud.

Having new leaders ready to step up and assume new roles is key to our being able to keep the moving our mission forward. If you want to volunteer to help please let your Ride Captain know.

My thanks go to those who took their turn helping out and stepping up by volunteering in delivering our mission.

Mission Report
Our mission report for the year was the largest ever. Anyone who attended even one of these events deserves thanks as helping one of the largest differences in Minnesota in supporting our military:

KIA/Active Duty/Special Circumstances Missions - 2009

CWO Philip E. Windorski, Jr – Feb 09
SPC Kevin Sobrech – March 09
SFC Leslie Mark Johnson – March 09 (MN Native)
Sr. Airman Daniel Addabbo – June
MAJ (CH) Henry T. Vakoc, Retired – July 09 (Injured in Combat 2004)
SGT Kimberly Blaisdell – July 09
SGT C.Wayne Hosford – July 2009
SPC Carlos E. Wilcox IV – July 09
SPC Daniel Drevnick – July 09
SPC. James D. Wertish – July 09
CPL. Benjamin S. Kopp – July 09
Capt Thomas J Gramith – Aug 09
SFC John H Holman POW-MIA/Korea – July 09
SGT Jonathon A Manea – Aug 09
Richard R. Crittenden – Sept 09 (Law Enforcement lost in the Line of Duty)
SSG Todd W. Selge Sept 09
MAJ Tad T. Hervas – Oct 09
SPC George Cauley – Oct 09
SSgt Aaron Taylor – Oct 09
MAJ George L. Glass II – Oct 09
PFC Kham Xiong – Nov 09
SSgt Rory R. Gavic – Nov 09
Cpl Ryan Pape – Dec 09

Our first mission here in Minnesota was for CPL Andrew J. Kemple, Anoka, MN -- 23 Feb 06. That day marked a turning point in Minnesota for its citizens having the opportunity to stand up and do the right thing. We mourn all of Fallen Heroes and vow to never forget.

Mission Scope
I’d like to say a few words about our mission scope and who we are. Our mission scope is:

Our primary mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. We do this to accomplish the following:
1. Show respect and honor to our fallen heroes, and support their families and their communities.
2. Ensure an atmosphere of dignity and respect for those in mourning.

Other missions undertaken by Minnesota Patriot Guard include:
• Honor Missions for veterans as requested by families
• Visits to VA Medical Centers and Minnesota State Veterans Homes
• Welcome Home and Deployment Sendoff Missions

There are many other good activities that support our military but that doesn’t mean they are MN Patriot Guard missions or events. Reading the above mission report for 2009 I think you can see we are very busy around the state. When you run across opportunities that don’t fall into our scope I encourage you to attend them as private volunteers if you want. There are never enough volunteers.

In 2010 we need to focus on doing more missions and events in our scope and fewer of those that fall outside of them. We are planning to really step up our efforts in HOTH missions such as vets homes visits and supporting hunts for the disabled or deployed military members. We do so much.. and yet there are so many more things we can do within our scope.

Our continued growth in raising funds for donations has resulted in our largest year ever of supporting many great causes, military members, and Wounded In Action Warriors who were awarded Purple Hearts. The below list is being provided as information and we have the accounting firm of Carlson Advisors, LLC preparing our annual tax return for the third year in accordance with the new IRS rules governing 501(c)3s. If there are any material changes I will post them as the taxes are filed.

Donation Summary – 2009 (Sorry for the formatting. This site doesn't make it easy!)

Program Services
WIA Grants $34,000
Wreaths Across America $806
Gold Star Event/Heroes United $3,502
850th Cannon Run $250
HOTH - Total MN Veterans Homes $6,292
Vets Hunt Support $1,537
Gold Star Family Events $1,000
Total Support of Vets & Families/HOTH $47,386

Grants Made
34th Division Chaplains' Fund $2,500
Dear American Hero $500
Disabled Vets Rest Camp $6,200
Flags for MN Fallen Miliitary $2,500
Military Heroes Foundation $2,500
MMAF $14,006
Patriot Guard Riders, Inc. $2,500
Project Backpack $6,500
TTTT Scholarship Fund $10,000
Viet Nam Vets Welcome Home $5,000
Serve Our Troops $1,000
Total Grants Made $53,206

Total Support Dollars For Our Military $100,593

I am so proud of you and the help you provide in making this possible. It is so unique to be in an organization “NOT” focused on fund raising but being able to do this at the level we do.

Our budget for expenses and donations will be smaller in 2010 as we will be ending the WIA grant initiative. We will be increasing our HOTH budget for Vets Homes and Hunts as we can touch many vets and military members in this way.

2009 Special Comments

Losing 6 Fallen Heroes in two weeks
At the end of July we were asked to provide our love and support to the families of 6 fallen heroes in 3 weeks. I am so proud of how our state, and neighboring states, stood tall in showing honor, dignity, and respect to these heroes and their families. These 6 missions had multiple components from the Honor Transfers at Holman field, escorts, visitations,

Remember the Fallen Tributes
Organized by the Military Salute Project, the MN Patriot Guard participated across the state by visiting the final resting spot for our fallen and special heroes since 9-11-01. Travelling across the state (and country for some) the visitations included a brief ceremony, presentation of flowers, and pictures that were taken and posted on the Military Salute Project website. A total of 94 gravesites in 10 states were visited during the Remember The Fallen Tribute.

2009 Patriot Ride
On June 20, 2009, the Patriot Ride was held in East Bethel, MN. Sponsored by our great friends at Dennis Kirk, the MN Patriot Guard presented this event. The 2009 Patriot Ride had over 2,000 participants in the ride and event. The highlight of the riding portion was the spectacular fly over and then hovering show of two Blackhawk helicopters.

The special Honor Ceremony was unique in that military honors were finally rendered to SFC Lyle Mackedanz who was lost in Vietnam but never recognized with the flag presentation, rifle salute, and Taps. His daughter and grand children were present to receive the flag.

The total net funds raised were just under $100, 000 which is divided evenly with the Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation fund.

The Patriot Ride for 2010 will be held June 19, 2010, in Ham Lake, MN, so please keep the date open! Raffle Tickets for the 2010 Harley-Davidson are also available now. Details in how to get them will be sent out soon.

Northern Sector Meet and Greet
In conjunction with the 2009 Camp Ripley Open house, the Northern Sectors hosted both a ride and Regional Meet and Greet. The capper for the event was named Flag Line 09, the world record setting flag line of 1,344 flags counted.

Hundreds of bikes (+400) were on the ride from Pillager to Camp Ripley and all the funds raised were given to Camp Ripley to help pay for improvements to the Camp Museum.

MN Patriot Guard Store Operations
Our store grew to the point that we needed to find a better way to support its customers with the best possible service. Our friends at Dennis Kirk offered to store and ship our inventory at no charge!!! We thank Dennis Kirk for their continued support and assistance and John Redfield for his continued hard work at developing new and unique products to offer to you!

Closing Comments
There is no organization like this where vets and non-vets gather together to show respect, provide comfort, celebrate and mourn, help heal, and show the men and women who keep our freedom alive that someone cares. I am so proud of what we have done in the last 4 years moving from a small movement of a few people on motorcycles to a large state wide system of support.

All of us are volunteers who receive no compensation of any type for our services. We do get paid back ten fold for the time we put in by seeing the faces and signs of gratitude of those we serve.

In 2010 we are Welcoming Home over 3,000 Minnesotan’s from deployments in Iraq. These are the best days to see them come home safe. Most likely we will be asked to deliver our mission on the worst day in the life of a family. We will, as always, stand tall and proud of our being able to do that to.

Our organization, like our country, is based on freedom. Freedom to participate or stay home. Freedom to express our support of the military or stay silent. My hope for 2010 is that more people choose to help in our mission by attending one mission or event this year. Each gift of time matters to a mourning family or someone returning home from a deployment.

Thank you for everything you all do for the MN Patriot Guard. It is your efforts that make us who we are.

Respectfully submitted

Doug Bley
State Captain
Minnesota Patriot Guard

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Loss of a Hero... Bill "Snap" Lines

Riding home from a mission in Georgia in heavy rain, Alabama resident Bill "Snap" Lines was in a motorcyle accident last weekend.

Sadly Snap was passed over the line this afternoon.

He is a former National Executive Director of the Patriot Guard Riders taking over in very turbulent times he was a steady guiding hand when it was needed.

SNAP was awarded the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross for his service in
Vietnam, and will be accorded full military honors at his funeral.

Snap was a leader when leadership was needed. He will be missed by all regardless if you knew him or not.

Bless his wife Linda and keep them in our prayers.

Friday, January 22, 2010

34th ID Return

The first wave of the 34th ID is returning home this weekend on Sunday! Yay!! We have missed them!! Please remember to check out the mission calendar for details on the 3 metro and Camp Ripley returns this weekend. We also have a Marine Welcome Home on Saturday at the MSP Officers Club.

I know it is a big game for the Vikings Sunday night. Let's not forget that these brave men and women put it all on the line to serve our country and protect our freedom. We can find radios to listen to the game and catch the end of it when we are done saying "Welcome Home!"

Let us not forget either the three lost from the MP Company from Stillwater.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

WIA Grant Program Update

Post Mission Report – WIA Grants

The MN Patriot Guard has been granting $1,000 to each wounded warrior we could find. It started out with buying an airline ticket for Katie Kriesel to visit John in Germany after he was wounded. We have since then granted 25 wounded warriors our small token of appreciation. But we knew there were many more and wanted to find them.

We have partnered with the Army Wounded Warrior (AW2) program and local Veterans Services Officers in finding Combat Related Purple Heart recipients from OEF/OIF who reside in MN. We have been very fortunate in sourcing what we believe to be 24 more around the state at this time. The time is right for us to do this after receiving a $20,000 donation from the Pawlenty for Governor Campaign as it was winding down.

We started out by working with Jill Van Vugt of the Army Wounded Warrior programs (AW2). We provided the list of those who we previously donated to and she went to work. By going through her list she contacted them one by one and asked if it was OK to pass their contact info to us. At no time was their privacy compromised in this effort.

Other motivated people such as Ron Mackedanz contacted those he knew qualified and we had not donated to. Slowly this first list of 24 came together to start our donations with.

The Tribute To The Troops saw what we were doing and decided to make a $5,000 donation to help us complete this mission. We are very grateful for this help.

This last weekend we began to make the presentations to this latest group. At the Willmar and Brainerd/St Cloud Meet & Greet 10 of the checks were given out. Many more have been sent to Ride Captains to coordinate in the way the hero wants to make it happen.

Some of these heroes preferred to be very private and others were comfortable with a public presentation. However they wanted to make it happen we were OK with. Their privacy and wishes were the first priority.

While we regret not being able to do this when they first came home the upside to doing this now, years later in some cases, is that we can show we will never forget their service and sacrifice. It seems to mean more when done later on and they have moved back to regular life as it might be for them.

We know that $1,000 won’t change their lives. But if it helps out in some way to let them know we love and appreciate them we cannot put a price on that.

We will continue to look for heroes such as these. If you know of someone who qualifies (Combat Related Purple Heart recipients from OEF/OIF who reside in MN) please contact me at so we can work on it. Unless they are recommended through formal military channels we will ask for a copy of their DD214 to qualify them.

Support these men and women are part of our core mission responsibility. We do many other wonderful things that show our support of our military heroes but this is at the center of it. Thank you for your hard work making this all possible.