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Minnesota National Guard
Support and Sacrifice

"Our military families are extraordinarily strong"

April 5, 2009

MARSHALL, Minn -- More than 100 Soldiers stood in uniform on the floor of the PE Gym at Southwest Minnesota State University on Saturday in Marshall in front of at least 1,000 people who would be left behind when those Soldiers are deployed to the Middle East this month

"We're very proud of you," Gov Tim Pawlenty said to the Soldiers of the Battery A 1st Battalion of the 151st Field Artillery Unit of the Minnesota National Guard unit in Marshall "You make a huge difference by advancing the cause of freedom, by advancing and protecting our security and interests, both here and abroad"

But Pawlenty and his wife, First Lady Mary Pawlenty, said it's not just the Soldiers who will be sacrificing during this deployment

"We know the burdens are heavy," Mary Pawlenty said of the separation of Soldiers and their families

The Pawlentys were among those who spoke Saturday in a send-off event for the Soldiers

"We recognize our military families are extraordinarily strong," Mary Pawlenty said

She encouraged family members to use the resources locally and those found on her Web site to help families with needs - from lawn care to financial

The Pawlentys would spend much of Saturday traveling between National Guard units, including Marshall and Montevideo, in send-off events

The PE Gym was not only filled with Soldiers in uniform, but friends and family who sat on bleachers, many dressed in red to show support for the unit

"To those Soldiers in uniform, I want you to clearly understand the gift that has been given today," Minnesota National Guard Adjutant Gen Larry Shelito said "This is not normal," Shelito said of the crowd which had gathered Saturday

The support shown Saturday shows that people in the community "care about you, care about your family, value you and your family," Shelito said

Jake Vos sat in the bleachers and wore a gray Army T-shirt His brother Justin Condelli will be deployed with the 151st

"It's tough," Vos said of the thought of deployment Vos is also a National Guard member but is part of a different unit

"I know what it's like to be away from home," Vos said

As Emily Weidauer sang "Mountain of God," Vos and his mother Joyce Ludewig of Marshall cried

Behind them, Lori Eischens was also crying Her son-in-law Kyle Sheik is a member of the 151st

"This was very good," Eischens said of the event "This was just outstanding"

When asked about Sheik's deployment, Eischens could not speak

It was family members and friends such as those Mary Pawlenty addressed during and after her speech

"These Soldiers, these families are sacrificing so much," Mary Pawlenty said after the event

To take part Saturday to show support is a privilege and not a burden, she said

"We are just so proud of all of our guys," Pat Timmerman said

Timmerman and her husband Gary's son, Travis, would be deployed

The Timmermans' son Jason was killed during the unit's first deployment to Iraq four years ago

"We just want to thank the community so much for all of its love and support It's been totally awesome," Pat Timmerman said

When the official event ended Saturday, Soldiers stayed on the gym floor as family and friends gathered around them for another hug or conversation Some had photos taken with the Pawlentys, who spent a few minutes talking to the Soldiers and the children

"I tell them their mom or dad is a hero," Pawlenty said "I tried to put in a context they understand like a police officer or like Superman for the younger kids"

Jon Vandelanotte, of Aberdeen, SD, and formerly of Cottonwood, took his son, Eli, on the floor to meet the Pawlentys

"They thanked me for serving my country," Vandelanotte said "They talked to Eli about staying strong"

Vandelanotte and his son left to allow another family to take their place

Mary Pawlenty bent over to talk to another boy, and they each made a fist and bumped the fronts of those fists together in what she said was a "power" bump

The Marshall American Legion Post served a noon meal for local Minnesota National Guard Soldiers in their families Saturday at the Armory The meal was served after the formal send-off event

Rae Kruger "ยข Marshall Independent

Read more at MarshallIndependentcom
April 2, 2009: "Battalion Prepares to Deploy," Minnesota National Guard

1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery

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