For this month’s article I have decided to take a more serious tone as to the role we all played in caring for our Veterans. First of all, I congratulate the Veterans Service Organizations for successful conferences and their continuing work in caring for Veterans. In some cases, the attendance was lighter than desired, but the leadership ensured the organization continued going in the right direction.
I am extremely proud to play a small part in making Minnesota a better place for all Veterans. And, as always, I am especially grateful to the auxiliaries for their work. I have always considered them to be the rock upon which many organizations are built.
When talking about leadership, I often use the analogy of a book that I have read. The title of the book was “The Red Badge of Courage.” The story was about a young man during the Civil War. During a battle he became frightened and ran. In doing so, he fell hitting his head on a rock which caused it to bleed. As the story goes he got connected to another unit and when they saw the blood stained bandage on his head they assumed he had been in battle. Since they were fearful, they looked to him as a leader. The story builds on how others trust in him helped him to overcome his fears and move on to be the leader they had envisioned.
May has traditionally been an active month for the Veterans’ community. Memorial Day has always been sacred to the Veterans and the activities will be plentiful. I encourage everyone to take time this Memorial Day to honor the fallen. It is a somber day in many ways, but we, as a nation, must assuredly take the time to honor the fallen and their families and also reflect on the personal sacrifices made by many to ensure that our great nation is safe and secure.
April is the “Month of the Military Child.” The focus is on the impact of extensive deployments placed on our military families. While the focus is on the child, I want to focus specifically on the spouse.
Ever since 9/11/01 Minnesota has sent its sons and daughters to all corners of the world. Minnesotans have responded through such avenues as the Beyond the Yellow Programs, random acts of kindness, and genuine concern. The families have been resilient and collectively supported one another also during the trying times of deployments.
It is hard to believe March is already upon us. The State Legislative Session is in full swing, and this week the Commander’s Task Force held their annual Veterans Day on the Hill event. This is a day when Veterans and families around the state unite on the issues that are most important in 2014.
I want to thank the Governor, the Legislature, and all our elected officials for their ongoing support of Veterans in this state. I am proud that Minnesota is one of the most Veteran-friendly states in the nation, but we cannot rest or become complacent. In fact, I believe that here at MDVA one of our greatest strengths is our ability to anticipate and encourage change. This willingness to find new and better ways to serve Minnesota Veterans and their families was evident over this last year as we provided relief to Veterans through special needs grants to help keep them in their homes, opened the nation’s second Veteran focused Adult Day Center, explored new ways of outreach, launched an award-winning website, and made education more accessible to the Veterans who need it most. This might sound like an impressive list, but I can assure you we still have more work to do!
February is designated Black History Month, a month in which we reflect on the great contributions made by this community of heroes. I want to especially thank someone who played a transformational role in my life. Let me explain!
As a young, naive Lieutenant in Vietnam, I ‘commanded’ a five-man team of Advisors. We lived with the Vietnamese and supported their Popular and Regional Forces. One of my team members was named Hindu, an African American E7, Special Operations Forces qualified, Infantryman. Being from Northern Minnesota, not an area known for diversity, my experience with African Americans was limited. I was blessed to have gotten to know Hindu. On evening nights when all was quiet, we would talk. As time went on, Hindu would open up a little more and share some of his experiences as a young African American man growing up in Mississippi. Not something we as a nation could be proud of! Hindu taught me more during these evening talks than I ever would gain in a ‘diversity seminar.’ Thank you Hindu for being a part of my life, and I think of you as well as Mazz, Ketchum, and Bent!
The activities of our office have increased as the weather turns colder. Several key events occurred recently that contributed to the increase. First was our open house and ribbon cutting for the remodeled claims office at the St. Paul Claims Office in the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building. The renovations were long awaited and the open house was well attended. The new facilities will enable our staff to serve Veterans more effectively. I also thank the leadership at the Whipple Building for their support during the extensive remodeling period. I am proud of the partnership our agency has with the Federal VA staff. Another event was the groundbreaking for a new State Veterans Cemetery in Southeastern Minnesota. The 169-acre site was donated by Fillmore County and is located just off Highway 52 in Preston, Minn. Often burial is the only benefit Veterans claim and we are pleased to expand burial service to Veterans in Southeastern Minnesota.