Retired Colonel Larry Herke was appointed as the 18th Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) in January, 2019. Commissioner Herke is charged with assisting the Minnesota’s 312,000 Veterans and their families. He also represents MDVA at hearings before the Minnesota State Legislature and United States Congress, and maintains close working relationships with various Veterans Service Organizations of Minnesota.
Commissioner Herke served for more than 30 years as a member of the United States Army and Minnesota National Guard. While serving in the Guard, then Colonel Herke mobilized as part of the 1st Brigade of the 34th Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2005-2008. He is the current Chair of the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force and is committed to the Task Force mission to honor and remember Minnesotans, Minnesota Veterans and their families whose lives were forever changed by the event of 9/11/2001 and the Global War on Terrorism.
Mike McElhiney retired in 2010 as a Master Sergeant with over 21 years on active duty in the U.S. Army. Mike’s assignments included duty in the 3rd Infantry Division; 5th Special Forces Group Airborne; and after sustaining life- threatening wounds in Afghanistan in late 2001, served a special duty as a resource to the 2-135 Infantry Battalion with the Minnesota Army National Guard in Rochester Minnesota.
After his military career, Mike joined the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010 where he has worked in Communications as well as the Legislative Director. Currently Mike serves as the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Chief of Staff. Mike is a life member of the Special Forces Association, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Order of the Purple Heart, National Rifle Association and is an annual member of B.A.S.S., the American Legion and the Association of the United States Army.
Mike volunteered for the position of MDVA representative for the Task Force to assist in recognizing and remembering those who served their country in the Global War on Terrorism. Mike is also a participating member of the Task Force’s Commemoration Workgroup.
Mr. Randal Dietrich is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Military and Veterans Museum (Camp Ripley) and project lead of their multifaceted Post-9/11 Project. He has served as co-chair of the state's WWI Centennial Committee and managed activities of Minnesota's Civil War Commemoration Task Force. This work often involved close collaboration with the State Historical Society, Twin Cities Public Television, Minnesota Public Radio and colleges/universities. Mr. Dietrich's current role for the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force as the Military Museum Representative and he also serves as co-chair of the Historical Workgroup.
Jill Stephenson is the Gold Star Mother of CPL Benjamin Kopp, a US Army Ranger who died eight days after being wounded during his third deployment in July of 2009. Kopp, 21, was influenced to join the military out of reverence for his great-grandfather's service with the 34th Infantry Division during WWII and by the events of 9/11, which took place only five months after his great-grandfather's passing. Because of the depth of emotion associated with these two events, Kopp declared at the age of 13 that he would become an Army Ranger.
Stephenson has made it her life mission to honor her grandfather and her son’s service to America by paying forward their legacies to our Veterans and their families. Stephenson is a member of the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force and chairs the Task Force’s Education Workgroup as well as participates as a member of the commemoration Workgroup.
Mr. Roger Reinert is an actively drilling Navy Reservists who has served a 365-day combat tour in Afghanistan, and a 90-day deployment to Italy in support of the USN COVID response. Mr. Reinert’s service in Afghanistan changed his life, and he felt it taught him the real meaning of "sacrifice."
Mr. Reinert is a member of the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force and serves on the Commemoration Workgroup. Mr. Reinert’s goal as a member of the Task Force is to ensure that the stories of those who have served, and sacrificed, these past 20 years are collected, told, and preserved.
Mariah Jacobsen is the daughter of United Airlines Flight 93 victim Tom Burnett, Jr. Tom’s fortitude and decisive action aboard Flight 93 inspires Mariah's active involvement in her community through volunteerism, board service, and participation on the Task Force.
Mariah is a practicing attorney and works as corporate counsel for a large, privately-held retail company headquartered in Burnsville, MN. She resides in Northfield, MN with her husband David and their three small children. Ms. Jacobsen is a member of the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force and serves on the Commemoration Workgroup.
David Hopkins is a 31+ year Veteran of the U.S. Army, retiring in July 2018 as a Command Sergeant Major. When the events of 9/11 happened, he was stationed in South Korea and was only able to watch from a distance as those tragic events transpired. Due to 9/11 and the Global War on Terror, he made the decision to continue serving this country as a Soldier until he could no longer serve.
As part of this Task Force, David wanted to help ensure that those that have sacrificed so much in the last 20 years were honored and remembered for everything they have done. David is a current member of the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force and serves on the Task Force’s Education Workgroup.
Mr. Garber is a disabled Veteran and the current commander of American Legion Post 290 in Cambridge, MN. Mr. Garber is dedicated to reminding the citizens of the United States of the sacrifices made by those who died and those who otherwise suffered as a result of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks and the Global War on Terrorism. Because of this commitment, Mr. Garber has volunteered to be a member of the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force to continue the effort to remember those that have sacrificed. Mr. Garber also serves as the chair of the Task Force’s Commemoration Workgroup.
Master Sgt. Daniel Ewer is the Command Historian for the Minnesota National Guard and 34th Infantry Division. He earned his Public Affairs qualification at Fort Meade during the 9/11 attacks. He served two tours overseas in support of the Global War on Terrorism. He has a Master’s Degree in Public History from Southern New Hampshire University.
Master Sergeant Ewer is a member of the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force and serves as the co-chair of the Historical Workgroup.
Curtis Anderson served 28 years in the United States Army before retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2019. After his retirement, Mr. Anderson moved his family back to Northern Minnesota and currently is employed by Beltrami County as a Supervisor in Health and Human Services.
Mr. Anderson deployed to Afghanistan in November 2001 shortly after 9/11, and again at the opening stages of Operation Enduring Freedom in early 2003 as a Civil Affairs Officer. He is active in his local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1260 as the Post Adjutant and is a life member of the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans. Mr. Anderson is married and has two boys ages 7 & 4.
Mr. Anderson volunteered to be a member of the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force to further the mission to honor and remember Minnesotans, Minnesota Veterans and their families whose lives were forever changed by the event of 9/11/2001 and the Global War on Terrorism.
Minnesota State Representative Rob Ecklund represents all or part of Koochiching, Lake, Cook, and St. Louis Counties in the Minnesota House where he chairs the Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance & Policy Committee. Prior to joining the House following a 2015 special election, Rep. Ecklund – a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps – served on the Koochiching County Board of Commissioners. He worked at the Boise paper mill in International Falls for over a quarter-century and is a past president of the United Steelworkers Local 159. He and his wife Joan live in International Falls.
Rep. Ecklund serves on the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force as the State Representative member and is a member of the Task Force’s Historical Workgroup.
Senator Andrew Lang is a 19-year Veteran of the Minnesota Army National Guard. Senator Lang has served in many leadership positions at the Company, Battalion, and Brigade levels. He has held several command positions and recently took command of C Company 2-211th MEDEVAC. He has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Inherent Resolve during two visits to the Middle East. Senator Lang’s primary duty is Blackhawk helicopter Pilot.
Senator Lang's committee assignments include Ag Finance, Ag Policy, Environment Policy and Legacy, Environment Finance, Transportation Policy and Finance. He serves on the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and the State’s Emergency Medical Services Regularity Board. Senator Lang was recently named Chair of the Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy.
Senator Lang is currently employed on the civilian side as an Air Ambulance Helicopter Pilot. Sen. Lang serves on the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force as the State Senator member and a participating member of the Task Force’s Commemoration Workgroup.
Todd Kemery is a Veteran with a long-standing history of advocacy for Veterans, with and without disabilities. Mr. Kemery is the current President and National Director for the Paralyzed Veterans of America as well as the Chair for the Minnesota Commander’s Task Force. Mr. Kemery has continued his commitments to Veterans by volunteering as a public member of the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force and serves on its Commemoration workgroup.
Dale Klitzke retired in 2012 as a First Sergeant with 21 years of service in the Minnesota National Guard. Dale’s service included a deployment to Iraq in 2004 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and again in 2011 in support of Operation New Dawn.
Dale is currently employed by the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs as the Deputy General Counsel. He is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 295 and serves as the contact for the 9/11 and GWOT Remembrance Task Force and the Task Force.