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Minnesota National Guard
Deployed guardsmen treated to home cooking

Published: February 27, 2012

SOTVolunteers from Minnesota grill up thousands of steaks last week for Minnesota National Guard soldiers deployed to Kuwait at Camp Arifjan

SOTRochester Mayor Ardell Brede and Col Eric Kerska, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, talk at Camp Arifjan Kerska, a National Guardsman, is a battalion fire chief in Rochester when not activated


CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — For Col Eric Kerska, a visit from the boss last week didn’t mean some Army general but the mayor of Rochester, Minn

Back home Kerska is a battalion fire chief in Rochester, and the mayor was in Kuwait as part of an event to support the Minnesota Guard soldiers It’s the kind of thing that, despite all the talk of National Guard and active-duty soldiers being One Army when deployed, highlights a key distinction between the two: deep, lifelong roots in a community

And so it was that Minnesota restaurant owners and city leaders — who had known some of the soldiers serving with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division since grade school — showed up in Kuwait with 13,000 steaks They were there to grill up a good meal for their friends and neighbors, as well as those who serve alongside them

The dinner was beamed via video link to a convention center in Minnesota, where the soldiers’ families were also treated to steaks (but theirs came with beer) It was like dinner with the family

“We stick together and take care of each other,” said the event’s ringleader, Pat Harris, who without a second’s thought, can rattle off the childhood phone number of the brigade’s executive officer

This is the ninth time since 9/11 that the Minnesota group had flown overseas to cook a steak dinner for the deployed troops In all, they’ve served 75,000 steaks at a cost of more than $200,000 per trip The Minnesota meat, which had to be halal certified, was frozen and shipped ahead of time, and then the volunteers brought with them the secret seasoning from one of St Paul’s popular restaurants

Cooking the steaks on outdoor charcoal grills, set up especially for the event, took about six hours and 50 jet-lagged volunteers, all of whom paid their own way to be there The volunteers, who ate in the chow hall the night before, were quite pleased to offer the soldiers a taste of what they miss from home

“I can already tell these will be way better than what we normally get,” a soldier said, eyes wide as he happily accepted two medium-rare 12-ounce filets

A steak chow-hall style? Boiled
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