More than 650 people came to The Depot in downtown Minneapolis on February 15, 2007 for the second annual Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Dinner. The fundraising dinner featured Tom Friedman, the Minnesota native and three-time Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times columnist.
Friedman’s keynote speech was an inspirational tribute to our military men and women and a thought-provoking look at the war, and how going “green” and reducing dependency on other countries is key to maintaining America’s position as global leader. The program also included remarks from former U.S. Senator Rudy Boschwitz, Govenor Pawlenty (via video), General Vessey, former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer as well as members of the MMAF leadership group.
The audience also heard from two MMAF grant recipients, Capt. Jennifer Beck-Brown and SGT Brian Saaristo. Capt. Beck-Brown left behind two young children to serve in Bosnia. Her story of the effect her absence had on her children and the sacrifices made by her husband was heartwrenching. SGT Saaristo walked to the podium on his artificial legs. Saaristo lost his legs to a roadside bomb while serving near Kirkuk. He gave a moving recount of his experience in Iraq and the sacrifices made by his young family. Saaristo planned to use the $10,000 grant he received from MMAF to make his home handicapped accessible. Saaristo spoke of the importance of MMAF to Minnesota soliders: “We are sending a message to each and every one of them that the state of Minnesota and people who live here are behind them, even if they agree or disagree in the conflict at hand.”
The MMAF Appreciation dinner was a patriotic and thought-provoking evening. Over $950,000 was raised, including a $450,000 gift from one donor.