Former U.S. Commander of Afghanistan, General (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal joined more than 600 guests for a memorable night of support for service members and their families on Tuesday, April 16. The event took place at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bloomington and raised nearly $600,000.
The evening began with a Q&A session between General McChrystal and General (Ret.) John W. Vessey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. MMAF Co-Founder General (Ret.) Dennis Schulstad served as moderator. This intimate session let some of MMAF’s greatest supporters hear from two of the brightest military minds of our time as they spoke about current world affairs.
When the doors opened to the main ballroom, guests were escorted into the room by a group of energetic young Junior ROTC members. Event emcee Heidi Collins of Fox 9 News welcomed guests, and the Minnesota National Guard Honor Guard posted colors as choir members from Musical Portraits of America sang the Star Spangled Banner and Armed Forces Medley. Roger Sit, MMAF Chair, updated guests on the progress the organization has made since inception in 2005, noting that more than 14,500 cash grants have been awarded to Minnesotans, totaling over $9 million. Retired Army Chaplain Glen Bloomstrom delivered the invocation.
During dinner, guests listened to local musician Kurt Orning and his song, My Name is America, which he wrote after 9/11. Heidi Collins then introduced MMAF grant recipient SSG Patrick Nelson, of Eden Prairie, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, U.S. Army and received Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals. Patrick spoke briefly about his time in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he captivated the room describing the struggles veterans face returning to society, focusing specifically on the growing need to hire veterans.
Heidi Collins then introduced Sonja Faust of Waconia, whose son SGT Colin Faust served in Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment and received a Purple Heart. Sonja told the story of her son joining the Marine Corps and the changes her family experienced helping Colin recover from serious injuries, including an amputated leg. She described how grants from MMAF helped pay for daily trips to the VA Hospital as well as remodeling to the home Colin needed to return to college. She concluded her remarks by quoting a verse from the Book of James, Chapter 1, verses 2 & 3: “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”
Local vocalist Deja Gill performed Wind Beneath My Wings, and General Vessey introduced General McChrystal, who began by saying he was honored to speak as General Vessey was someone he had admired throughout his life. General McChrystal described how he had recently been in Pennsylvania and encountered the memorial to the 1St Minnesota Regiment. He talked about how Minnesotans have never shied away from battle and have always answered the call to arms when the nation has needed it. General McChrystal stressed the importance of honoring and thanking veterans. When he finished speaking, General McChrystal was joined by his wife Annie and Roger Sit, who awarded General McChrystal with a plaque of appreciation. Mrs. McChrystal received a bouquet of roses. Heidi Collins offered closing remarks and thanked everyone for attending. The evening closed with Musical Portraits of America singing God Bless America and From Sea to Shining Sea.
All individual and corporate sponsors are greatly appreciated. One hundred percent of the funds raised at the dinner went directly to MMAF, as event expenses were underwritten by the main sponsor, Sit Investment Associates.