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Minnesota National Guard
Iraq War left mark on Minn. National Guard members, families

Minnesota National Guard ST PAUL, Minn -- The Iraq War, which started 10 years ago today, left a lasting imprint on the men and women who served and on their families

One Minnesotan who served in the war, 31-year-old guardsman 1st Lt Jesse Pope, arrived in Baghdad on Halloween in 2004

To calm his nerves, the St Paul native turned the music in his Humvee up full-blast as the convoy entered the city for the first time



"I'm 23-years old I'm wearing a bunch of body armor and driving into Baghdad Iraq and listening to Outkast 'Bombs Over Baghdad,' like I'm out for a joyride in my Pontiac Firebird with my buddy," Pope said "It was very surreal That was almost like the Superbowl of my deployment"

Pope's company was one of the first Minnesota National Guard units to go to Iraq in the early days of the conflict In fact, Minnesota's 34th Red Bull Infantry Division has been one of the most deployed units since the September 11, 2001 attacks

He was based near the Baghdad airport on a road that became notorious for insurgent attacks His feeling of invincibility was soon shattered when he climbed a wall to secure a surveillance camera

"I hear something whiz by me," he remembered

It was a sniper shot

"The fraction of a second between hearing that sound and then hearing the report from the rifle was confusion for me That is what it sounds like when somebody just misses hitting you in the face," he said

After that first attack, Pope made it through his almost two-year tour safely Others did not At least 113 people with Minnesota ties have died in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Despite coming home to a job, it still took months for Pope to adjust to civilian life Even now, he feels the war's effects

"When I walk down the street and I'm by myself, I look at what people are doing," Pope said "I feel like I'm kind of always surveying the scene a little bit more than what I used to do in my normal life"

TROUBLES AT HOME
Pope is one of thousands of Minnesotans living with recent memories of combat There are almost 48,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan in Minnesota The state Department of Veterans Affairs says that's around 13 percent of the state's total veteran population

Many of these men and women served overseas more than once

The guard's Maj Aaron Krenz said the separation of deployment was tough on Minnesota military families

"You're leaving your spouse, you're leaving your kids and a lot changes in a year's time," Krenz said "You're leaving your employer Just being gone and leaving your family to do everything that you were a part of"

But the reunion can be even more stressful than the separation

Many service members come home with physical and psychological injuries sustained in combat that can lead to mental health problems down the road Research also shows it's often difficult for veterans to find their place in the family again, as so many roles and relationships have shifted during their absence

"Many service members and their families struggled and unfortunately some of them either ended up in divorce, their homes were foreclosed on," Krenz said "Things got out of control a lot quicker than we all expected"

A NEW APPROACH IN MINNESOTA
And that need led to a reintegration initiative that's revolutionized how soldiers come home In 2005, the Minnesota National Guard launched a mandatory program they call Beyond the Yellow Ribbon

It's designed to connect veterans and their families with resources to stabilize health, relationships and finances The program begins even before soldiers leave US soil, to prepare them and their families for what's to come

In previous conflicts military veterans returned home to little, if any, support at all And while there is no hard data on the program, guard officials say Beyond the Yellow Ribbon has been successful Other states have expressed interest in launching similar programs

Minneapolis attorney and military veteran Brock Hunter said that while the Minnesota National Guard has made great strides, even more help is needed He said the demand for services to assist the rising number of soldiers coming back with undiagnosed combat trauma is growing

"We still, 40 years after Vietnam, have hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans across the country who are chronically incarcerated, homeless and addicted and I think we can do a lot better job this time around," Hunter said "I think we already are doing a lot better job this time around"

To help support today's returning veterans, Hunter said, the federal government will need to spend more money, something he anticipates could become more politicized as the war in Afghanistan also winds down and more service members return home

by Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
March 19, 2013
Article source
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/03/19/news/iraq-war-minnesota-national-guard



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Minnesota National Guard leaders visit traveling tribute in Austin

Posted: 2018-05-22  10:16 AM
Traveling Wall AUSTIN, Minn. - A replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was on display May 16-20, in Austin and leaders of the 347th Regional Support Group took the opportunity to visit during the event's closing ceremony.

The display, dubbed the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, was hosted by Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Austin and featured a near-replica of the memorial in Washington, D.C.

"It was an honor to be part of this humbling and moving tribute to our Vietnam veterans," said Col. Stephen Schemenauer. "The traveling Vietnam Wall is a powerful display, and this event provided an opportunity to meet, and thank, service members from WWII to present-day conflicts. Regardless of their branch of service, or the era or conflict in which they served, we all share a common bond."



Minnesota Aviators lead multi-state National Guard partnership for NTC rotation

Posted: 2018-05-21  03:51 PM
2-147 NTC FORT IRWIN, Calif. - The Minnesota National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion is working together with aviation units from four different states to provide support to the Tennessee-based 278th Armored Calvary Regiment during a rotation at National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.

Making up Task Force Ragnar is Utah-based B Company, 1st Battalion, 211th Assault Reconnaissance Battalion; Nevada-based B Company, 1-189th General Support Aviation Battalion; Michigan-based C Company, 3-238th GSAB; and Minnesota-based A, D, E and Headquarters Companies, 2-147th AHB and F Company, 1-189th GSAB.

"Early coordination with the units across four states combined with exceptional unit leadership and motivated Soldiers helped us to quickly build the task force when we closed on Fort Irwin," said Lt. Col. Kevin O'Brien, Task Force Commander. "I was thoroughly impressed with the professionalism and teamwork of task force Soldiers. This was an outstanding training opportunity that challenged every Soldier to grow as individuals and units daily."



Deployed Minnesota Guardsman honors grandfather, Hmong heritage

Posted: 2018-05-17  09:57 AM
Brandon Xiong CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - "My heritage is Hmong," said 21 year-old Minnesota National Guard Spec. Brandon Xiong from his desk at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. "A low-key culture that originated from southern Asia. Hmong is not a place, but it is a people."

Xiong, the eldest grandson of the late Col. Song Leng Xiong, is deployed in Kuwait as an information technician for Area Support Group - Kuwait.

"We were not nomadic, but have been in many different conflicts," said Xiong. "Many places I go, I am questioned about my nationality and when answered, end up being even more confused. There is a movie called, "Gran Torino", where Clint Eastwood is introduced to the Hmong culture and I think it portrays the Hmong people not so terribly."



Month of the Military Child recognizes contributions of military kids

Posted: 2018-04-07  01:54 PM
Minnesota National Guard FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 7, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn.- The month of April is designated as the Month of the Military Child to recognize the contributions and sacrifices military children make so their family members can serve. An estimated 15,000 children in Minnesota have been affected by the deployment of a parent.

"Military children bear a lot while their family members serve," said Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard. "It is up to us to support these resilient kids and help to lessen their burden."

An event to honor military kids in Minnesota will take place April 13, 2018, at the Mall of America rotunda from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Activities will include appearances by the Teddy Bear Band and meet and greets with Nickelodeon characters.



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