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Minnesota National Guard
Gold Star Retreat

They gathered together on a windy autumn morning in the Town Hall Ballroom at Madden’s in Brainerd, Minn There were about 130 of them seated at round tables  Some knew each other from last year, while some were brand new to this group and didn’t know how this day, this weekend would unfold

Their children had been safely dropped off next door at children’s camp and childcare Their child’s day would be spent with kids in their own age group and filled with activities, counselors and friendship from Soldiers in uniform

The adults at the round tables began standing up one by one and sharing the reason why they were there

“Our  son died on July 21, 2011”

“Our son died on February 21, 2011 of pancreatic cancer after his 3rd tour in Iraq”

“My son was killed during his fourth tour in Iraq”

“We pick up our son from Dover Air Force Base one year ago yesterday, he was killed in Afganistan”

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“Our son died on February 12, 2005 of natural causes”

“Our brother died on September 11, 2004”

“I lost my son on June 6, 2011 He was 20 years old”

“I lost my husband July 28, 2010 in an airplane crash in Alaska”

“We lost our son on January 8, 2007, while he was home on leave from Iraq he committed suicide”

“On August 27, 2010 our son was in his third tour in Iraq when we lost …” This parent couldn’t finish her statement as tears choked the words from her mouth

“I lost my son on July 29, 2006 Today would have been his birthday He would have been 25”

“We lost our son on October 10, 2010 from an IED … At least we’re in good company”

They are Minnesota’s Gold Star Families 

Minnesota’s Gold Star Retreat was held Oct 14-16, 2011 at Madden’s on Gull Lake in Brainerd, Minn  For the fourth year in a row Gold Star families came together for a weekend of healing, sharing and remembering their Servicemember who died while on active duty  

This year Minnesota author, and grief expert, Tom Ellis lead the conference and tackled topics to include; “This thing called grief, what makes mine unique?” and “Self Care and Resiliency” There were also breakout sessions with Military Family Life Consultants to connect parents, siblings and spouses together with others who are going through the same thing

One of the most poignant parts of the weekend was meal time, not because of the food - though it was wonderful, but because of the opportunity to share  Gold Star Mothers shared stories about the Casualty Assistance Officer that came to their door, and how their children still at home are coping with the death of their sibling Gold Star Dads were proud of the branch their child served in, and banter between a Marine and Navy dad was heard Gold Star Grandparents shared stories of their fallen loved one as a child

“I must take a moment to let you know that the members of the Minnesota National Guard and I continue to keep you in our thoughts and prayers,” said Minnesota Adjutant General Richard C Nash in a letter that was read to the families during dinner one evening  “It is you, Minnesota Military Gold Star Families who have made the ultimate sacrifice Your spouse, son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister, died while serving their country -- our country -- in the United States Armed Services and for that we are forever grateful”

His comments were echoed in a letter from Governor Mark Dayton, “I join the people of Minnesota in honoring and remembering our fallen and their families left behind We will do all that we can to memorialize your Soldier, Sailor, Marine, or Airman It is our responsibility to never forget”
Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito, (retired Minnesota Adjutant General) and his wife Evonne enjoyed a meal with the families they have come to know over the last few years, and he had a message of heartfelt appreciation for all the families Shellito also warned that while the Minnesota National Guard has funded the Gold Star Retreat for the last four years, funding cuts threaten its future in 2012  

The retreat continued Sunday morning as the families gathered in the memorial room, a place with memorials for each of the fallen  This morning they were surprised with a memorial keepsake box at each memorial that had been handmade and donated by a Mel Hartmen of TLC Toys in Andover, Minn   

State Chaplain Lt. Col. John Morris led the packed room in a memorial service, complete with a child’s sermon and communion As the service concluded, the name of each of the fallen was read and the honor bell was rung
The moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents and children wrote a note to their loved one on a tag Then as they exited the building they were handed a red, white or blue helium balloon and greeted by a lone piper and dozens of waving flags from the Honor Guard

Each family member tied their note to their balloon as the bagpipe music floated through the air Then, all together, they let their heartfelt notes fly into the air, and they were left on the ground in solidarity with their Gold Star family 
The Gold Star Retreat was organized and planned by Minnesota’s Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) coordinators, Jonathan Groeneweg and Gail Springborg  SOS is the Army's long term care and commitment to surviving families of Service members who have died while serving on Active Duty They expand casualty assistance services beyond the role of the casualty assistance officer providing resources and assistance with grief counseling, benefits, financial counseling and other relevant needs for as long as the family desires

"A military death has unique, complicated, even traumatic issues,” Springborg said “This retreat provides assistance with grief recovery and allows us the opportunity to 'Never Forget' the men and women who died while in military service"

There is currently no funding identified for future Gold Star Retreats

16 Oct, 2011
Story and photos by 2nd Lt Melanie Nelson
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs



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Forging a path to career success

Posted: 2018-03-16  08:45 AM
Col. Angela Steward-Randle ST. PAUL, Minn. - Col. Angela Steward-Randle grew up in a military family - her father served in the Army on active duty - but it was a chance encounter with a friend at college that led her to want to make the military a career.

"My story is no different than many others," Steward-Randle, the Director of Human Resources, Manpower and Personnel for the Minnesota National Guard said. "I was in college and looking for financial resources to help pay for it."

Her college friend suggested they attend a summer training with the Reserve Officer Training Corps that had no obligation and could earn them some money. The friend never ended up going, but Steward-Randle did. After earning recognition as the top honor graduate and receiving an offer of a scholarship, she was hooked.

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Posted: 2018-03-09  03:13 PM
Counterdrug WOODBURY, Minn. - Staff Sgt. Benjamin Kroll, an analyst with the Minnesota National Guard's Counterdrug Task Force who is assigned to work with the Hennepin County Sherriff's Office was recognized for his achievements as the Analyst of the Year during the 2018 Minnesota Association of Crime and Intelligence Analysts Training Symposium in Woodbury, Minnesota, March 7, 2018.

Through a partnership with Minnesota law enforcement agencies throughout the state, the Minnesota National Guard Counterdrug Task Force (MNCDTF) supports the anti-drug initiatives to counter all primary drug threats and vulnerabilities through the effective application of available assets, said Maj. Jon Dotterer, Counterdrug Coordinator for the State of Minnesota. The goal for the program is to support federal, state, tribal, and local agencies in the detection, disruption, interdiction, and curtailment of illicit drugs.

Kroll is one of sixteen service members on the Counterdrug Task Force that provides this force-multiplying service to our communities against illicit drug-use. With the information that law enforcement provide through their patrols and daily operations, Kroll and his colleagues across the state assist by putting together a figurative picture with all of the gathered information which aids in identifying how to move forward with legal action to deter or prevent the sale or use of illegal narcotic drugs.

Women Opened Doors in Minnesota National Guard

Posted: 2018-03-08  09:05 AM
Minnesota National Guard ST. PAUL, Minn. - "The battlefront is no place for women to be," said Command Sgt. Maj. Earl Kurtzweg, 125th Field Artillery, in an article published in 1976. "There are certain jobs girls say they can do, but they just can't do ... the battlefront is no place for women to be. Other countries in the world use women in combat, but the U.S. has not come around to that way of thinking." Kathy Berg, a New Ulm reporter summarized at the time. "So women in the New Ulm unit take care of personnel files and pay records and leave the fighting to the men."

The Minnesota National Guard has "come around to that way of thinking" since those early days of gender integration. In the last 44 years women have made momentous strides toward inclusion and acceptance. Their accomplishments are testimony to their fortitude and the progressive development of the Minnesota National Guard.

When an accomplished female Soldier is credited with breaking barriers she will often pass that honor to the women that preceded her. Brig. Gen. Johanna Clyborne is such a leader. She acknowledges that she is one of the first females in the Minnesota National Guard who has held key leadership roles, however she sees it differently. "I feel responsible for all women in uniform," said Clyborne. "Women before me opened the door, now I've cleared the room. It's up to the women behind me to hold the room."

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Posted: 2018-02-02  10:45 PM
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"This is what we do," said Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard. "When the local community can't meet the public safety needs, they come to the Guard. We're their normal partner, we're a natural partner, and we're their preferred partner when it comes to filling in the gaps that they can't fill."

At the request of the city, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton authorized the Minnesota National Guard to provide support to security efforts leading up to and during Super Bowl 52. The Guardsmen are providing direct support to and working alongside law enforcement officers from across the state. Like their civilian law enforcement partners, Minnesota Guardsmen are focused on ensuring a safe experience for the residents and visitors who are attending the Super Bowl festivities.

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