More than 450 people came out to support MMAF and hear world-renowned television journalist and best-selling author, Tom Brokaw, speak at MMAF’s fundraising dinner on September 30, 2010 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in St. Paul. Over $500,000 was raised at the event. 100% of these funds went directly to Minnesota Service Members because of the generosity of MMAF Chair Roger Sit, whose firm, Sit Investment Associates, underwrote all expenses of the evening.
The evening was a mixture of pride and patriotism with sobering reality of the sacrifices and lost lives during the past nine years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. KARE-11 Anchor Julie Nelson served as Master of Ceremonies. A 100-person choir and orchestra provided first-class musical entertainment.
The highlights came from our amazing speakers. Speaker Annette Kuyper is the mother of MMAF grant recipient SGT Jared Kuyper, who served with the Army National Guard in Iraq from 2005 to 2007. Mrs. Kuyper recounted the day her son left for Iraq and her deep feelings of pride and fear. Mrs. Kuyper turned the stress of having a child serving overseas into an outreach program that has helped thousands of families. She now serves as Director of Military Outreach for the State of Minnesota’s Military Affairs Department.
The next speaker received a standing ovation before he reached the podium. Now-retired Staff Sergeant John Kriesel served in the Minnesota National Guard for 10 years, is a MMAF grant recipient, and a war hero. On his second deployment since 9/11, SSG Kriesel was sent to Camp Fallujah in Iraq and his life was forever changed. SSG Kriesel lost two legs and two friends in a roadside bomb explosion that he should not have survived. His is an inspiring story of overcoming extraordinary challenges.
Tom Brokaw capped the evening with a speech that reflected the deep admiration and respect he has for our military men and women. He described his trip over 20 years ago to the beaches of Normandy with the American veterans who landed there and staged the massive Allied invasion of Europe that marked the beginning of the end of Hilter’s Third Reich. What Brokaw believed would be a routine assignment to prepare an NBC documentary, turned into a life-changing experience that inspired his best-selling book, The Greatest Generation. Brokaw believes that a sense of duty and service to one’s community and nation was encoded in these WWII veterans and should continue to instruct and inspire our nation today.
The evening was powerful tribute to our Service Members and affirmation of MMAF’s mission of “thanks.”