/*********************************************** * Chrome CSS Drop Down Menu- (c) Dynamic Drive DHTML code library (www.dynamicdrive.com) * This notice MUST stay intact for legal use * Visit Dynamic Drive at http://www.dynamicdrive.com/ for full source code ***********************************************/
Minnesota National Guard
Helping veterans come home

McGregor, Minn — On a recent wintery afternoon after ice fishing, several adults and children walk over a frozen Glacier Lake here to a steep snowy hill overlooking the lake Some of them climb up the hill and slide down

This is where Michael Mills of Freeport comes five times a year to unwind with his 14-year-old daughter Kenzie

Mills, a member of the Minnesota National Guard, served in Iraq He retired three years ago after his convoy was hit by a roadside bomb He suffered third degree and deep tissue burns over nearly a third of his body

"I broke my foot, my hip, I actually shattered my hip and I broke my shoulder," Mills said "Along with the burns, I lost a pinky on the left hand, my thumb on my left hand, part of my nose, but my nose has been rebuilt"

Larger view
Mike Mills receives the Purple Heart

After the explosion, Mills blamed himself for his injuries He hated himself But he quickly got over those negative feelings with his family's support and help from his psychiatrist

To help other Soldiers do the same, he has started For the Veteran, By A Veteran , one of three nonprofit organizations that aims to help returning Soldiers and their families Given the number of suicides among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Mills and two other veterans who created nonprofits say mental health is key

"I started For the Veteran for a couple of reasons but the main reason is I got tired of losing my friends to suicide," said Mills, who fears that many vets are killing themselves because they first turn to drugs and alcohol

Because many veterans may be ashamed to ask for help, for a Veteran aims to inform them about available government and private services

"When I first joined the military and before me and even up till now, you're told, 'if you're not bleeding, you're not hurt,' " Mills said "And that's not really true because there is pain without the blood There is mental pain, especially being in a combat zone"

Officials with the St Cloud VA Medical Center acknowledge that they can't help everyone But they say they're doing the best they can to serve veterans and refer their families to other resources

To help fill in the gaps, Mills has teamed up with two other veterans He sits the board of Project New Hope, which puts together retreats in McGregor and other places around Minnesota five times a year

Larger view
Veterans helping veterans

"The VA is only able to help the Soldier," said Bruce Billington of Cross Lake, who founded Project New Hope "We help the entire family We try to provide resources that the VA is unable to give"

The three-day retreat features indoor and outdoor family activities Adults also attend sessions led by licensed counselors, some from the Veterans Administration, on topics that include money management, communication and anger management tools

Dustin Oosten, a veteran and a family and marriage therapist who volunteers during these retreats, said Minnesota is among the leading states providing care for returning Soldiers But there isn't much care in remote and rural areas, he said

"There's a gap there, and Project New Hope - hopefully we're filling that gap," Oosten said

Melanie Johnson, whose husband suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, agrees that resources are slim
Johnson lives in the small community of Princeton, about 50 miles north of the Twin Cities, with a population of about 4500 Because her husband has a hard time being out in public, she said, the retreat is one of the few places where he feels comfortable as it involves a small crowd and includes other veterans There is also no traffic noise

"It's always nice to see him here because he'll laugh, and he'll joke and he'll smile," Johnson said "That's who he once was, and it's still there somewhere It's just working through some of the issues he has now to get back to that"

Larger view
Sliding at a military retreat for families

Johnson said the retreat allows families to share experiences, especially during outdoor activities

Minneapolis native Jeff Butler, a Vietnam era veteran who lives in Wisconsin, helps out with the outdoors component His organization, Outdoors and Beyond, aims to give veterans and their families free trips to hunt, fish, hike and kayak

Butler was inspired by his uncle who served in World War II and left behind several journals in which he wrote that he had too many memories and didn't know what to do with them

"And when he got back to St Paul after World War II one of his friends said, 'Come up to my place in northern Minnesota and fish until you feel comfortable' "

After an a recent goose-hunting expedition with a veteran who is returning to Iraq for his third deployment, the veteran's father called Butler to tell him what a difference it made in his son's life

Butler said the veteran's father told him that his son was had a renewed focus, was laughing and talking and that "this goose hunt brought my son back"

by Ambar Espinoza, Minnesota Public Radio
December 29, 2009

Article source: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/12/29/vet-reintegration/

Articles archive

In The News archive

Media Advisory archive

Latest News

Minnesota Nice Extends to Puerto Rico

Posted: 2017-12-08  12:08 PM
Minnesota National Guard CAMP SANTIAGO, Puerto Rico - It has been more than two months since Hurricane Maria stuck Puerto Rico, leaving a trail of disaster behind it. The island was in dire need of some extra help. More than 230 Air National Guardsmen from 29 states have been deployed to the island and are helping in any way they can.

Eleven of those Airmen are from the Minnesota National Guard's 148th Fighter Wing out of Duluth, Minn. and the 133rd Airlift Wing out of St. Paul, Minn., are no exception in their desire to lend a helping hand. They have been at Camp Santiago, Puerto Rico, since before Thanksgiving and will leave around mid-December. Their mission is to feed military and civilian hurricane relief workers, giving them the much-needed fuel to complete their mission throughout the day.

Governor Mark Dayton installs new Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General

Posted: 2017-11-04  04:16 PM
TAG installation ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton administered the oath of office to Maj. Gen. Jon A. Jensen, installing him as the Minnesota National Guard's 31st Adjutant General during a ceremony in St. Paul, November 4, 2017.

"General Jensen has been a tremendous leader of the Minnesota National Guard throughout his years of dedicated service," said Governor Dayton. "He has served in two top leadership positions, as the Commanding General of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, and also as the Chief of Staff at the Guard's Joint Force Headquarters. I am confident that he will continue to provide the same outstanding leadership as his predecessor, General Rick Nash."

Jensen most recently served as the Commanding General of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. He previously held positions as Deputy Commanding General, United States Army Africa and Southern European Task Force, Minnesota National Guard Director of the Joint Staff and Minnesota National Guard Assistant Adjutant General - Army.

Guard Heritage Suffers with Loss of Artillery Unit

Posted: 2017-10-04  11:22 AM
ETAB ANOKA, Minn. - The Minnesota National Guard lost one of its most historically significant units when the 151st Artillery's E Battery, (Target Acquisition) cased its colors in a ceremony at the Anoka High School Aug. 19, 2017.

The Target Acquisition Battery (ETAB), 151st Field Artillery is one of the oldest and most decorated units in the Minnesota National Guard and the 34th Infantry Division. "Both Minnesota and the Division lose the proud lineage that goes back to Civil War days, through WW1 and WW2, and had a significant amount of battle streamers," said 151st Field Artillery Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Patrick Cornwell.

The 151st Field Artillery draws its lineage from the 1st Regiment, Minnesota Heavy Artillery of 1864 which fought two major campaigns in Tennessee during the Civil War.

In one month: Minnesota Guardsmen support Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria

Posted: 2017-09-29  02:25 PM
Minnesota National Guard ST. PAUL, Minn. - In the span of a few weeks, three major hurricanes hit different parts of the southern United States, causing widespread damage and destruction and requiring the response of agencies around the country. The Minnesota National Guard is one of the many organizations that have responded, sending Soldiers and Airmen to Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

"This is the most gratifying deployment of my career," said Capt. Jeremy Maxey with the 133rd Airlift Wing who was called back from his vacation early to go to the Virgin Islands. "It means a lot to be able to actually directly help people. It's why I serve. Throughout my career I've deployed numerous times, but this is the one where you actually see the people you serve."

The start of the month brought the first request for assistance. On Sept. 1, two CH-47 Chinook helicopters and 11 personnel from the St. Cloud-based B Company, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment left for Texas following Hurricane Harvey to transport personnel and equipment in support of response efforts.

Article archive