/*********************************************** * Chrome CSS Drop Down Menu- (c) Dynamic Drive DHTML code library (www.dynamicdrive.com) * This notice MUST stay intact for legal use * Visit Dynamic Drive at http://www.dynamicdrive.com/ for full source code ***********************************************/
History
Minnesota National Guard
Retired general brings message of resilience and strength through adversity to Minnesota

MG Mark Graham ST. PAUL, Minn. - Retired Maj. Gen. Mark Graham recently spoke to the Soldiers and Airmen of the Minnesota National Guard about suicide and loss. The message was of faith, hope and love. His words hit home like only a personal and tragic story can.

The Grahams lost both of their sons in the span of just seven months. Kevin, their youngest, died by suicide in June of 2003 after a battle with depression. Jeffrey, who deployed to Iraq as a second lieutenant, was killed by an improvised explosive device in February of 2004. Hit with such devastating loss, the Grahams struggled at first with finding the strength to move forward and a new purpose for their lives.

"Our journey has tested our faith, it's rattled our moral courage and left us feeling empty and hopeless at times; most importantly though, it's provided us with a direction and revealed an enormous purpose for our lives," said Graham.

It was a series of passages, of chance meetings and coincidences that Graham doesn't believe are coincidences that helped the family to find a sense of direction and purpose. Immediately following the death of his second son, Graham questioned whether or not he could continue to serve in the military. The answer came in the form of a passage from a devotional that reminded him that there was still work to be done.

"In order to survive, we had to use our brokenness to reach out and openly share our story and to try to give hope to others," said Graham. "It seemed like there was still a mission for Carol and I and our mission was to continue to serve military members and their families."

Part of that mission has been sharing their story in order to create awareness about mental health issues and suicide prevention. The Grahams also recognize that if their son Jeffrey would have survived the explosion that took his life, he would have been left severely injured, both physically and mentally. For this reason, they advocate on behalf of the wounded who are suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.

"We pledged to use Kevin's death to raise awareness of the dangers of untreated depression, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and other mental health issues," said Graham. "We're compelled to speak out for all the Kevins of the world who have no voice."

The Grahams have also found a calling in using their grief to help others who've lost loved ones. Their unique situation helps them to understand loss in a way many cannot.

"It occurred to us that maybe this was the reason we were meant to continue to serve," said Graham. "We personally knew the pain these families were feeling and we could genuinely connect in a way we never could before."

What they found by helping others through their grief was that, in turn, they were also being helped.

"We tried to comfort the broken hearts of the people put in our path and an amazing phenomenon occurred - we received more healing than we were giving," said Graham. "Everyone else seemed to be helping us more than we were helping them. Gradually little by little, we could see ourselves and feel ourselves growing a little stronger. We even began to be able to smile and laugh a little again."

As a leader in the military, Graham sought help at the on-post mental health clinic for issues related to lack of sleep after his sons died. He saw the stigma associated with getting help when he had to go to a building that was separate from the main medical facility and the looks he got when people recognized him or his vehicle at the clinic. He hopes that by speaking out, he can help fight against the stigma and encourage others to get help as well.

"That's hard to do, I'm not saying it's easy, but I'm telling you, help is out there, but you have to be willing to go," said Graham. "You don't have to have deployed to be struggling. We all know military life is stressful in itself."

What Graham has ultimately learned from his experiences is that no one is immune from hardship. If heartbreak and tragedy can impact a military general with a self-described "Walt Disney" family, it can happen to anyone.

"Twelve years ago if someone told us we could survive the death of one of our kids, we wouldn't have believed it," said Graham. "For us it was like the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center coming down. If one of those towers would have fallen, it would still have been unbelievable, but both towers coming down is truly unimaginable. Even to this day, it's still hard to believe both towers came tumbling down."

February 16, 2016
by Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs



Download best photos





Articles archive

In The News archive

Media Advisory archive

Latest News

Red Bulls Kickoff Division Warfighter

Posted: 2018-06-13  01:38 PM
DIV WFX CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - "A Warfighter is an exercise that allows the Division to evaluate their ability to maneuver assets in a battle," said Master Sgt. Greg Weaver, the Operations Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge for the Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion. "It is designed to focus on particular areas and specific objectives to be evaluated or tested."

The Division has geared its' planning and training efforts in preparation for Warfighter since July 2017. Coordinating transportation for Soldiers and equipment was often on the mind of Maj. David Johansson, the logistics officer for the 34th ID. With the coordination of Johansson and his team, troops and equipment all converged on Camp Atterbury, enlisting the help of 89 railcars, 280 tractor-trailers, and nearly 50 buses for the movement.

"I like to say my job is to 'quiet the noise'". Johansson continued, "The noise being a real life logistical problem that could impede the exercise."



Minnesota-based aviation unit takes part in Warfighter Exercise

Posted: 2018-06-08  11:59 AM
34ECAB WFX CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - More than 150 Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade are here participating in a multi-echelon training event, Warfighter Exercise 18-5, May 30 to June 15.

The exercise, which is part live and part virtual, is testing the St. Paul, Minnesota-based aviation unit's ability to conduct operations and mission command in a high-intensity, complex operating environment. Soldiers are being challenged to take decisive action as they focus on air-ground operations -- or synchronizing and integrating aviation operations into the scheme of maneuver planned and conducted by forces on the ground.

In this case, the units on the ground are being commanded by the Rosemount, Minnesota-based 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, which is also participating in the exercise.



148th Fighter Wing hosts STEM program for Duluth-area students

Posted: 2018-06-05  08:52 AM
Starbase Duluth DULUTH, Minn. - Dozens of community and industry leaders passionate about helping children become more engaged in science, technology, engineering and math gathered at the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, Minn., May 24, 2018, to see what STARBASE Minnesota Duluth is doing for young students in the area.

STARBASE is a Department of Defense youth program that engages students in STEM studies. The program began in 1991, and STARBASE Minnesota was founded in 1993 in St. Paul, which expanded to Duluth in July 2017.

Currently, the school program is open to fifth-grade students, said Charity S. Rupp, the director of STARBASE Minnesota Duluth. The summer camp will serve students in 4-6th grade. Eventually, she hopes the program will expand into STARBASE 2.0 to serve middle school students as an after school program during the academic school year.



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."



Article archive
 
top