Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund hosted its annual fundraising dinner on Thursday, May 3rd with co-keynote addresses from retired Air Force Colonel Ken Rizer and former Army National Guard First Lieutenant Trista Matascastillo. Col. Rizer and 1Lt. Matascastillo joined nearly 450 guests to show support for Minnesota’s service members and their families at the Airport Hilton in Bloomington.
Efforts from the evening raised more than $450,000, and Governor Mark Dayton issued a special proclamation in honor of the event and our organization’s important work, declaring Thursday, May 3, 2018 “Minnesota Military Appreciation Day.”
The evening’s program was emceed by Tom Hauser of KSTP 5-Eyewitness News. Tom welcomed guests and provided a wonderful introduction to MMAF for those not already familiar with the organization. The 934th Airlift Wing Color Guard posted colors as choir members from VocalEssence, conducted by Philip Brunelle, performed several patriotic songs. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Buddy Winn gave an invocation and recognized those who have given their lives in service to our country. MMAF Chair Roger Sit updated guests on the progress the organization has made since its inception in 2005, announcing that the organization has distributed grants totaling more than $10.9 million dollars to Minnesota service members.
Mr. Sit reminded attendees that Minnesotans continue to be deployed in record numbers, so the mission of MMAF will remain until all Minnesotans return home. He then awarded Gunnery Sergeant Kyle Halland of Farmington a milestone MMAF grant — our 17,000th.
An active duty Marine for almost a decade, GySgt Halland deployed with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, providing intelligence to Army Special Forces Units in the Philippines and Afghanistan. Kyle took a moment to thank those in attendance for their support, taking great pride in the fact that Minnesota takes care of its own.
After dinner, guests were introduced to retired Colonel Ken Rizer, who shared stories of his 25-year Air Force career. Col. Rizer described many examples of heroic, selfless acts by fellow service members throughout his military experience, as well as the honor of commanding Andrews Air Force Base and personally serving President Obama.
Tom Hauser then returned to the stage and introduced former Army National Guard First Lieutenant Trista Matascastillo, who spoke about her career, including as a Watch Officer where she notified families that a loved one had been injured or killed. One of her most difficult moments was the day she received information about injuries and casualties in her own training unit — a unit she would have been deployed with had it not been for a ban (at the time) of women in combat.
Roger Sit presented both speakers with plaques from MMAF in appreciation of their service and sacrifices. The evening concluded with a performance by VocalEssence of “God Bless America” as the colors were retired.
We appreciate those individuals and corporations who gave so generously to this central MMAF fundraiser. One hundred percent of funds raised at the dinner will go directly to Minnesota troops and their families thanks to underwriting by the main event sponsor, Sit Investment Associates.