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Minnesota National Guard
Embracing the Hole and War

I dedicate this post to SSG Jeff Larson High school classmate and the reason for much laughter and many smiles throughout his life, SSG Larson died in September 29th following three tours with the Minnesota National Guard You fought the good fight Jeff

When I left the Army in 2007, it did not take me long to realize, there was a hole inside of me Something was missing, maybe even broken The camaraderie? The mission? The sense of purpose? CPT Freeman and CPT Mahafee? A dozen, two dozen, three dozen or more troops and friends? All missing All gone

I hated the war, but I loved being a warrior It was my calling I answered it for roughly 11 years, and then I came home to an empty curbside at Bradley International in Hartford, CT In the months and years that followed, I realized America was glad to have me back Unfortunately, many didn't even know I had ever left, and those that did wanted me to be who I was before the war: no hole

I tried to be that person, and in a painful, prolonged process I learned I could never be who I once was In large part because of the hole, and in an equal part because war had condensed my life experience so much it evolved me quickly through the baser and nobler aspects of humanity that those who do not go to war may not experience I did not feel normal coming home; and I certainly did not feel okay I don't blame my family and friends They kept me alive through the process They were all, in their own way saints and angels

But I defied them with my addictions, my depression and my dreams of suicide When I found climbing in 2009, I immediately thought I had found the answer My hole could be filled with climbing It was just what I needed to replicate the positive aspects of war: camaraderie, sense of purpose, mission, a warrior spirit

The problem is that if you spend a lot of time trying to fill a hole, you can slip in The edges crumble You lean too far And, eventually, you will fall We all do At the bottom there is what you'd expect to find: darkness; and depression, suicide, homelessness, addiction; 18 suicides a day amongst veterans, active duty suicides outpacing deaths in combat this year

With arguably more money and more awareness on veteran issues than any time in history, why is the bottom of the hole so full? Is it because in reintegration programs, our country has slipped into assimilation programs in rushing to make us "normal" again? Is the reintegration process a set-up?

Or is it that damned hole?

When a friend of mine posted this quote from fitness guru Mark Twight describing his experience when he left hard climbing behind, I began to rethink my approach Substitute the Army or war with climbing:

Walking away left a hole inside me that was impossible to fill Nothing could replace what climbing had been to me so I didn't bother trying Instead I enjoyed the necessity of the hole, learned about the man around it, and never looked for something to put into it As I became comfortable with where I had come from and who I was new doors opened to new possibilities

What I realized is that for me, climbing, more than filling the hole, has actually led me to new doors and new possibilities It gave me the time to analyze and become comfortable with who I had become around the hole And, perhaps most importantly, it has helped me realize I'm not looking for just a new normal If I wanted to be normal I would not have joined the Army in the first place, so why would I want it coming home?

I don't have to fill the hole Neither do you Embrace it Define it as you see fit and move on stronger because of it

Posted: 10/16/2012 1:30 pm
Stacy Bare
Director, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors
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Iowa Red Bull takes command of 34th Infantry Division

Posted: 2017-12-13  10:11 AM
Minnesota National Guard JOHNSTON, Iowa - Brig. Gen. Benjamin J. Corell, Deputy Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, assumed command of the 34th Infantry Division "Red Bulls" during a ceremony in Rosemount, Minnesota, on December 9, 2017.

Headquartered in Minnesota, the division has been commanded almost-exclusively by members of the Minnesota National Guard since 1968.

"Typically there's been very few people who have been allowed to command the 34th Infantry Division that didn't come from the state of Minnesota," Corell said.

Minnesota-based aviation unit honors storied division, enters into new, 'expeditionary' era

Posted: 2017-12-12  11:29 AM
Minnesota National Guard ST. PAUL, Minn. - Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade (ECAB), who recently celebrated a year full of achievements, have embraced a new name: Red Devils.

The St. Paul-based unit hosted its annual aviation brigade ball Dec. 9, at the Envision Event Center in Oakdale, Minnesota, where the unit's new logo was unveiled.

Soldiers of the 34th ECAB, which falls under and supports the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, will continue to wear the Red Bull insignia on their uniforms. However, they will now be known and referred to as the Red Devils, a name that pays homage to the division's historical accomplishments and fierce warfighting.

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.

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