MMAF raised more than $500,000 at its fundraising dinner on November 17, 2011 at The Depot in downtown Minneapolis. More than 400 people came out to support MMAF and hear Medal of Honor recipient, Colonel Jack Jacobs, deliver the keynote address.
The 34th Infantry Division Band provided musical entertainment and FOX 9 News Anchor Heidi Collins served as emcee. Collins is a passionate supporter of our troops as she serves as a board member or is otherwise involved with several local military organizations and is the wife of a former Air Force pilot.
The highlights of the evening came from our powerful speakers, each bringing a different perspective of service to our country. High school student Kiana Kelii spoke about her father, Major Bruce Kelii, an MMAF grant recipient currently deployed in Kuwait with the Minnesota National Guard. Kiana’s father has been deployed three times in the past eight years of Kiana’s young life. Kiana spoke of the impact each of her father’s deployments have had on her, from the sadness of her father missing events in her life, to her difficulties concentrating in school and the isolation she often feels when few of her friends can relate to her situation. Kiana turned her difficulties into something positive: She is a founding member of the Minnesota Military Teen Panel, a group that brings teens together using age-appropriate activities and methods to help teens cope with a parent’s deployment.
The next speaker gave a vivid first-hand account of a soldier’s life on the front lines. Corporal John Elliott enlisted in the Army shortly after graduating high school and was deployed to Iraq during the surge of American troops in 2008. In just one year, he survived seven major explosions and was shot twice. Cpl. Elliott received three Purple Hearts for injuries suffered in combat and is a $14,000 MMAF grant recipient. He now is a college student and continues to share his life-altering combat experience with others, demonstrating the strength and resilience of our service members.
The keynote speaker, Colonel Jack Jacobs, is one of only 85 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest combat decoration. President Nixon awarded Jacobs the Medal of Honor in 1969 for his heroic actions in Vietnam. Col. Jacobs also holds two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. After retiring from the Army, Col. Jacobs had a successful career in business, in academia as a professor at the U.S. Military Academy, and as a military analyst and commentator with NBC and MSNBC.
With great modesty and humor, Col. Jacobs captivated the crowd with his message of reviving a national sense of duty to this country. Col. Jacobs finds it distressing that only about one-half of one percent of Americans today are on active duty, serving our country. Jacobs contrasted this fact to his generation and his father’s generation, where almost every household made some contribution to the wars of its time. Col. Jacobs stated that more Americans were killed in New York on September 11, 2001 than were lost at Pearl Harbor and yet the response of Americans offering their services for our country’s defense was but a small fraction of that offered after Pearl Harbor. Col. Jacobs suggested that for the past ten years this country has been going about its business almost as if nothing catastrophic has occurred, leaving military service and its sacrifices shouldered by a very small number of brave and dedicated young Americans.
Col. Jacobs’ candid observations and belief that all Americans should contribute in a meaningful way to this country’s collective defense was both inspiring and thought-provoking. The evening affirmed the continued significance of MMAF’s mission of raising awareness of our military’s sacrifices and saying “thanks.”