Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2010 Minnesota Patriot Guard Annual Report

Members and friends of the Minnesota Patriot Guard,

Following will be the Minnesota Patriot Guard Annual Report for 2010. It was a fantastic year in so many ways with events such as the Patriot Ride having a bit over 2,500 motorcycles, and the retirement of our friend LTG Larry Shellito who was the Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard “Red Bulls”.

It had its sad and gripping times with the 53 mission days for our 30 fallen heroes and currently serving military. That is what we do. Mission First.

Leadership Report
Our state membership ended the year at over 5,800 people receiving information weekly on the different Missions, Events, and News and Notes.

Our leadership team had some changes with Tim Leonhardt replacing George Winslow as Asst State Captain after George moved on to the role of High Plains Regional Captain.

We had the Metro Senior Ride Captain and Ride Captains for the NE Metro, SE Metro, Willmar, and Albert Lea sector change. Open yet are the Ride Captains positions for Mankato and Duluth.

We also added a group called the Fort Snelling National Cemetery Team. This group of people helps us carry the very heavy Mission load at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery by volunteering to RCIC Missions. In summer it was not uncommon to have multiple Missions a day there. They have made a huge difference in the life of the SE Metro Ride Captain!

The lifeblood of this organization are Flag Line members as this is what we do. We do need other volunteers who can help in different areas but mostly we need people to serve as Assistant Ride Captains. With experience, and good communications skills, they can move to Ride Captain positions if the opportunity exists.

Special Notice On The Help On The Homefront (HOTH) Team
One team of volunteers who have worked hard in the background is the HOTH team. They serve as representatives to the Vets Homes and Hospitals in the state. They work tirelessly in entertaining our vets who are so often forgotten.

Our HOTH Mission scope was really hard to nail down. The National PGR scope is really ambiguous and different states, frankly, made up what they wanted to. Because our normal mission load is so high we decided to not complicate things by adding to what we currently do.

Our scope for HOTH is exactly what we have been doing;
1. Support of the Vets Homes and Hospitals in the state
2. Support of the wild game hunts for the disabled vets and currently serving
3. Support of the Gold Star families and Wounded In Action

We have had nice growth in HOTH attendance with Ride Captains and Asst Ride Captains taking on a more active role in it. As an example Mike Holter (Hibbing Ride Captain and Silver Bay HOTH rep) regularly has 15-20 people attend with him on the monthly visit to the Silver Bay home.

What is complicated is that HOTH was set up as separate organization. Instead of one organization, we had two, and that often resulted in inconsistent and confusing messages being sent to members. The people who suffered because of that were the vets we serve.

After much discussion and hard conversations we have decided to fold the HOTH structure into the Ride Captain structure. HOTH reps will be considered Asst Ride Captains and we are hoping that by having Ride Captains more involved we can continue to increase our attendance at HOTH missions.

Special Notice On Changes To The Board Of Director Structure
With folding the HOTH organization we have created an open spot on our Board of Directors. Previously the State HOTH Coordinator served on the Executive Board of Directors as a permanent position.

We have decided to add a “Military Representative” position to the Board of Directors. This position will be a nominated and elected position (by the Ride Captains) for a one year term. The position will require the person to be a Minnesota resident, and hold a current Military ID with the Guard, Reserves, or Active Duty Component. This person will need to be in the same status during the entire term and if activated or deployed, for more than 30 days, agrees to step down from the position.

We don’t have a clear voice of those who are serving today and we absolutely need to have them weigh in to what we are doing. They appreciate us when we are there but we would like a better way to connect with them. This new position will be a first hand account of what is needed.

A slight change to the Board Structure will be a shift from the “Ride Captain Representative” to having one of the Senior Ride Captains assume that spot. Each Senior Ride Captain has a number of Ride Captains they communicate with daily in some cases. We want our leaders, who manage our Missions, to have a voice and we think this is a better way to accomplish this.

Two “At Large” Board positions, and the Military Representative, are going out for elections shortly. We welcome any questions and all are welcome to run for these.

Mission Report
Our mission report is again the largest ever. Anyone who attended even one deserves a special thanks as helping to make a difference in Minnesota in supporting our military:

2010 Mission and Event Listing

Mission Type Total Days
KIA 12
KIA out of state 12
Active Duty 23
Active Duty out of state 6
Veteran 174
Veteran out of state 2
Active Duty Law Enforcement 4
Active Duty Law Enforcement
(Out of state) 1
PGR Member Funeral 2
Bingo/Vets Homes 39
Send off 10
Welcome home 45
Welcome Home
(Out of state) 2
Events 174
Other 23

Grand Total 537

In 2010 we did 53 more veteran missions than in 2009. We are honored to be asked by the families to honor our heroes who have made their final call. As more military cemeteries are constructed around the state I see these continuing to grow, and will require a larger commitment from you, those holding the flags, to honor them.

2010 Mission Roll Call
April-10 LCpl Curtis Swenson
July-10 SPC Matthew Johnson
July-10 1LT Christopher Goeke
September-10 MSgt. Daniel L. Fedder
September-10 CH (Cpt) Dale Allen Goetz
October-10 PFC Ryane Clark

KIA Out of State
June-10 SSgt. Shane Barnard
June-10 SPC Christopher Opat
July-10 SPC Keenan Cooper
September-10 PV2 Adam Novak
December-10 CPT Thomas Beyer

Active Duty
February-10 Lt. Clinton Wermers
February-10 AMAN Patrick Freeberg
February-10 SSG James Calvin Stee
March-10 PFC Christopher J. Lund
April-10 Airman 1st Class Robert Pederson
April-10 SGT Kurt Kruize
April-10 LCpl. Daniel W. Sweeney
June-10 SPC Nicholas D King
June-10 MSG Jeremy Hougdahl
June-10 SPC Seth E Zencius
July-10 SPC Joshua Bible
July-10 PFC Eric Nietfeld
August-10 MAJ Michael Freyholtz
August-10 PVT Alex Richardson
September-10 PFC Jeremy Campbell

Active Duty Out of State
February-10 SGT. Terry L. Rishling
August-10 SPC Eric Spurgeon
October-10 SGT Michael Mayhew
December-10 PV2 Ryan Wohlwend-Hardie

Law Enforcement
May-10 Police Sgt. Joseph Bergeron
June-10 Judge John "Jack" Wilds
August-10 Deputy Chris Dewey

I have stood at some of these. Not even close to all but I make as many as my job allows. Which is all that is asked of any of us. This is a 100% volunteer organization and we depend on the volunteers to find it in their heart to make that choice.

We always need new members. Not because we want a big number but we want to even out the volunteer needs as much as possible. Ask your friends and neighbors to join you and watch their hearts pull their way with you. We need you, and them, to help keep pushing our Mission forward.

Mission Scope
We made a change to our Mission Scope towards the end of the year that was voted upon by our Ride Captains. It passed by a vote of 19 to 1.

It narrows the “other types” of missions we had been doing that weren’t core to our Mission. In some ways we were becoming a “On Demand” Flag Line, while a fun thing to do, it was taking us away from what we do; Honoring our fallen and vets at the funeral services, being of service to the vets in homes, and standing for Deployments and Welcome Homes.

You will see in 2011 a reduction in the number of events we stand for around patriotic holidays and other organizations events. We need to keep our eye on the core missions and making sure we always have 100% focus on them.

This was not an easy choice or not without some controversy. It was done to make sure that we can support missions everywhere in the future. We were simply becoming overwhelmed with Mission Requests and we had to take a step back.

We also changed our calendar so that MN Patriot Guard Missions and Events are exclusively on the “Mission” calendar and events put on by other organizations (fund raisers, rides, benefits) that specifically support military causes are on the “Event” calendar. We want to continue to support them by spreading the word but keep our focus on what we do and should attend first.

Donation Summary - 2010
Wow… you should be proud of what we did again in 2010 in supporting Military Causes and Members.

As you will see, and as we expected, the Program Services dropped $19,000 from 2009 as we had used up the funds we had available for Purple Heart Gifts. Our Grant level stayed very close in 2010 from 2009.

We have budgeted almost the same levels in 2011 as we are being cautious that the economy will be a challenge and our donations may drop off from 2010. It remains our budget goal to have one year of funds available so that any group we might not be able to support in the future will have one year to replace us.

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 fourth 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.

Program Services
WIA Grants ($1,000 for PH for OEF/OIF) $ 9,000
Wreaths Across America $ 850
Gold Star Event/Heroes United $ 5,286
Events run by Gold Star Families $ 1,500
HOTH - Total MN Veterans Homes $ 6,824
Vets Hunt Support $ 4,565
Total Support of Vets & Families/HOTH $28,025

Grants Made
34th Division Chaplains' Fund $ 2,500
Disabled Vets Rest Camp $ 7,500
Flags for MN Fallen Military $ 5,000
Military Heroes Foundation $ 2,500
MMAF $17,800
Patriot Guard Riders, Inc. $ 2,000
Project Backpack $ 6,500
TTTT Scholarship Fund $10,000
Total Grants Made $53,800

Mission Expense $ 2,950

Total Program, Donation, and Mission Expense $84,775

The mission expense number I added this year so you could see what it is. We give plaques at Missions to family members who qualify as well as Challenge Coins. It is a privilege that we can do this as many states don’t have this ability.

2010 Special Comments
2010 Patriot Ride
On June 19, 2010, the 5th Annual Patriot Ride was held in Ham Lake, MN. Sponsored by our great friends at Dennis Kirk, the MN Patriot Guard presented this event. Let’s just say we made some noise….

With approximately 4,000 people (including the general public) and around 2,500 motorcycles the day was a success!! The ride was shortened and the halfway stop was in Cambridge at the home of the 850th Horizontal Engineer "Renegades" Company. They were awesome hosts by including food, soft drinks, military displays and a band playing! For fun the Squid Wheelies put on a motorcycle stunt show that was cool for everyone who watched it!

Back at the park we were honored to have LtGen John Wissler as a guest speaker. A Minnesota son LtGen Wissler (now at the Pentagon) spoke to us about how what we did that day mattered to Military members everywhere. He was going to make sure that he told everybody around the world that Minnesota cared!

The Honor Ceremony was again executed by the award winning MN National Guard Funeral Honors Team. LtGen Wissler presented the folded flag to John Kriesel on behalf of all the wounded in OIF/OEF. John, since elected to the Minnesota State House of Representatives, lost both legs in Iraq and had an inspiring story to tell of his moving forward.

The move to the Ham Lake Park, and stop in Cambridge, was a good decision as the focus of the day was supporting our military. Without the distractions of alcohol the entire crowd stayed on task!

The ride this year will be on June 18, 2011, again in Ham Lake at the Lions Park. Once again we will be raffling off a new Harley-Davidson Street Glide or giving the winner the option of choosing $10,000 in cash. If you go to you can click on a video link of the ride last year. I still enjoy hitting the button and watching it over and over again.

LTG Larry Shellito Retirement
Our ability to work as well as we do with the military here in Minnesota was that LTG Shellito, now retired as the Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard, saw us at funerals and experienced first hand the comfort we brought families. He opened, and kept open, so many doors with the Military we could never repay him for his support. At his retirement dinner in October we surprised him by lining the banquet room before he entered to cheer him all he way in! We presented him with a Challenge Coin and a MN Patriot Guard Vest. We left to the sound of the entire room cheering us. It is a night I will remember.

MG Rick Nash has replaced him and he talks about us everywhere he goes. If possible he is more excited for what we do than LTG Shellito!! We again find ourselves with an open door to the “boss” if we ever need it.

MN Patriot Guard Store Operations
One very successful venture this last year was introducing new products to our store. We added new T Shirts as well as ceramic coffee cups, travel mugs and new pins. We could not begin to handle this store ourselves as volunteer group. Thanks to Dennis Kirk for taking on the hard back room work of running our web store.

Constant Contact Software
One change we made last year was a weekly email delivered to every email address we have. Being sure everyone received the weekly listing of mission and events was a nice addition due to the hard work of our Webmaster Tim Leonhardt. The Constant Contact software also helped us feature our new store products which, by the way, had a record sales year last year. We hope that a consistent delivery of information is appreciated by everybody.

2011 Look Ahead
MN Patriot Guard 5th Anniversary Event – June 17, 2011
In 2011 the MN Patriot Guard turns five years old. It still saddens me to think that 5 years ago nobody was doing what we do. Families grieved alone because no one was here to show them Honor, Dignity, and Respect.

On the Friday night before the Patriot Ride, at the Ham Lake Lions Park, we will be gathering together to mark this milestone. Together. Just how we have done all these great things. Together. The event planning is underway with information coming out in the next few months. It won’t be formal… but it will all be from the heart!

Closing Comments
As I personally move forward into 2011, while looking back at 2010, there were, and will be more, bittersweet moments.

Friends and leaders in this group have set aside their volunteer hats and moved on to the next phase of their life. Work, health, different interests, and sometimes loss of energy will result in these changes. I remember the first missions I saw them, then getting to know them, and now seeing them go in different directions is just part of life. I miss them all terribly but you know what? I still have friendships with them. That won’t change.

I myself, will have that in 2011, as I have told the Leadership team I intend to step down as State Captain this year.

It is hard for me to do this as I love everything about this organization. I love the Mission and would do anything to protect it. I am honored to be of service to the families who have experienced loss. I love all of you who made a choice to make a difference. I love working with the Ride Captains, and the Asst Ride Captains, as they do their first missions and the pride they feel when they do them well.

The best part for me is that I am not losing that much. I will continue to do the thing I love most which is standing on the flag line right next to all of you.

We don’t have a date, or replacement, yet but we are working on that. I am excited for the possibility of the new ideas that come with new people and the fresh energy they bring!

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