| Awaiting loved ones, Red Bulls families cope with isolation
Posted: Apr 17, 2012, 6:59 am
By Elizabeth Baier
Minnesota Public Radio News
When Tina Kerska arrives home from her work as a nurse at Olmsted Medical Center, she starts her second job
Every day, there are horses and dogs to tend to She also must restock a large boiler with wood That's a task her husband, Col Eric Kerska of the Minnesota National Guard, typically takes care of
Tina Kerska spends some time video chatting with her husband, Red Bulls commander Col Eric Kerska, from the couple's kitchen just outside Rochester Credit: Alex Kolyer for MPR
"This is one job that I'm glad when he's back he can take over," Tina Kerska said
Soon, he will On Monday, Eric Kerska officially completed his mission as commander of the Minnesota National Guard 1st Brigade Combat Team's 34th Infantry Division in Kuwait Next week, he expects to board the brigade's last flight out of Kuwait and join Red Bulls in their transition from soldiers to civilians at Camp Shelby, Miss, before returning to Minnesota
Kerska's return couldn't come soon enough for his wife Her husband has served overseas three times since they were married 25 years ago But his most recent trip was their first as empty-nesters Their 19-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, lives in Winona and 22-year-old son Jacob lives in Mankato
For Tina Kerska, it's been a year of solitude in their big, empty house south of Rochester
"The hardest part is being here by myself," she said "There's only so many things you can say to dogs and horses, and they don't talk back to you Many times I would say 'I can't do it anymore'"
It's been a year of readjustment for Tina Kerska and the 2,700 other National Guard families in Minnesota waiting for their loved ones to return
Like many military wives, Kerska sought new routines to cope with her husband's absence She exercised and lost 27 pounds She remodeled four rooms of the house with the help of Eric's co-workers from the Rochester Fire Department
"We did the mud room We did the living room," she said "Eric's office is no longer an office It is now a guest bath "¦ And painted I think I painted everything but the kitchen while he's been gone, too"
But as much as she accomplished around the house, there are some things Kerska is disappointed about, including her role as a commander's wife She attended only two National Guard events and declined many invitations from Guard officials, friends and colleagues She said she retreated from the spotlight to spend more time with her children
"I feel that I should have been involved with more things, and I'm not," she said "Sometimes, I wonder if I'm not really that great a commander's wife because I don't participate, you know And that's kind of bad I just don't need anyone to know what's going on I've got other things to worry about than other people, which is a bad thing, too"
Throughout the year, there was just one thing Tina Kerska craved: the sound of a call from Eric via Skype
During a recent call, she told her husband about a family bridal shower in Winona, Easter celebrations in La Crescent and the new lawnmower they need to buy Then, they began to discuss his return home
"Remember when you came home in 1992 and you slept on the floor for about a week?" she asked
"Well it was hard," Eric Kerska said "The bed was too soft after sleeping on the tank"
"I know," she replied "That's all right You can do whatever you want"
Eric Kerska told his wife that he looks forward to sitting on his porch and working in his hayfield this summer
After their conversation, he said knowing she was alone in the house without their children made his tour of duty especially difficult
"I don't know how good a job I did to help her cope There's not a lot I can do That's the worst part," he said "Things happen and you're helpless to do anything about it except talk on Skype or send emails All I can really do is try to encourage and discuss things, and it's a helpless feeling, it's a terrible feeling, but that's the way it is"
Tina Kerska said she has become more resilient, as are many families waiting for loved ones to return
"We're strong for them, we're strong for ourselves, for our children," she said "And I think you mature You have to adjust to your surroundings, and I think people realize that, 'Yeah, I can do it"
In the next few weeks, Eric Kerska and thousands of other soldiers will reunite with their families and they'll face a new assignment of sorts - to learn how to be a family again
Minnesota Public Radio News can be heard at KZSE 917 FM in the Rochester area, or go online to MPRnewsorg
Litchfield and Local Veteran Honor Gen. John Vessey at Armory Open House
Posted: 2017-03-10 08:50 AM
LITCHFIELD, Minn. -Bruce Cottington, a Navy veteran of WWII and Korea, donated a bronze bust of Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr. to the Litchfield National Guard unit during the armory's public open house event March 4. Cottington, a Litchfield resident, commands the Minnesota Chapter of the Veterans of Underage Military Service. VUMS members enlisted in the military prior to the minimum age requirement in order to serve their country during WWII. Cottington received the bust from Vessey, a fellow VUMS member. Both enlisted in the military at the age of 16.
The highlight of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion open house was the unveiling of the sculpture. The unit was very supportive when Cottington proposed donating the sculpture. The Litchfield community has always been very supportive of the National Guard over the years, so the open house was a chance to say 'thanks' to their neighbors. "This was a great opportunity to honor Bruce and to honor Gen. Vessey," said B Co., 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion Commander, Capt. Seth Goreham. Bravo Company also has a tight relationship with the local American Legion and VFW. Many Litchfield citizens are former members of Bravo Company, or the unit's predecessors A Co, 682nd Engineer Battalion, and the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company.
Camp Ripley welcomes new command sergeant major
Posted: 2017-03-08 03:29 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The garrison command team of Camp Ripley, family, friends and colleagues from the Minnesota National Guard attended a Change of Responsibility ceremony between Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Worden and Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Erickson, March 5, 2017, at Camp Ripley.
The ceremony was an official "passing of the sword" from one senior noncommissioned officer to the next and assumption of the duties and responsibilities that go along with the position of Garrison Command Sergeant Major.
As with many military ceremonies those in attendance welcomed Erickson as a new member of the team and bid farewell, recognized and thanked Worden for his service.
Norwegian youth recognized for response to vehicle accident
Posted: 2017-02-22 09:59 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Norwegian youths Stian Dahl and Haavard Engen received the Camp Ripley Garrison Commander's coin from Col. Scott St Sauver February 19, 2017, in recognition for reacting to a vehicle accident they witnessed earlier that week.
As part of the U.S.-Norway Reciprocal Troop Exchange, Norwegian youths ages 19-20 are matched up with a host family in order to spend an evening experiencing American culture. In most situations the "Buddy Weekend" as it's called allows the youths to go shopping, attend events and have home-cook meals along with their host family.
"We are able to match up youth members with families all over the state," said Staff Sgt. Tim Krouth, Buddy Weekend organizer. "Lots of the families have hosted one or two of our Norwegian friends for several years in a row now, it a great way to relax and see some of Minnesota."
To the top of the mountain and back, NOREX 44 members embrace the Norwegian winter
Posted: 2017-02-21 01:25 PM
HALTDALEN, Norway - After two days at a base camp near Haltdalen, Norway, Minnesota National Guardsmen participating in the 44th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange were ready for the most challenging aspect of their four-day field training exercise - a ski march up the mountain.
It was Day three of the FTX, meaning members of the 44th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange had slowly adjusted to surviving and thriving while living in a winter environment and also honed their skills on cross country skills well enough to begin a climb that would take nearly three hours.
"Our goal was to get you to know how to use the winter, see how the Norwegians use the winter, and how we survive the winter so we can conduct combat," said Vidar Aune, one of several members of Home Guard 12 guiding the Minnesota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen during their training here. "By getting the experience living outside in the snow, you manage to survive it and handle it quite well."