Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund hosted its annual fundraising dinner on Friday, October 8 at the Doubletree by Hilton in Bloomington. The keynote speaker for the evening was former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis. Joining Secretary Mattis was former member of MMAF’s Steering Committee and retired Navy Seal, Eric Lundquist. The evening’s speakers joined nearly 450 MMAF supporters who were excited to gather, in person, to raise money for Minnesota’s service members and their families. Efforts from the evening raised more than $500,000.
The evening’s program was emceed by Kevin Doran of KSTP 5-Eyewitness News. With a festive atmosphere in the air, Kevin welcomed guests and provided an introduction to MMAF for those not already familiar with the organization. The Color Guard from Marine Wing Support Squadron 471 posted colors and the Ensemble Singers from VocalEssence, conducted by Philip Brunelle, performed America the Beautiful, The Star-Spangled Banner and the Armed Forces Medley.
Chaplain (Colonel) Buddy Winn provided the invocation, recognizing 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 MMAF’s last dinner in May, 2019. During the COVID Pandemic, MMAF increased outreach and awarded over $900,000 in grants from March 2020 through July 2021. MMAF has awarded more than $12.5 million dollars to over 18,600 Minnesota service members since inception in 2005. Roger reminded attendees that Minnesota’s long history of military service and sacrifice continued as hundred of Minnesota National Guard Soldiers provided security during the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
After dinner, guests were introduced to former MMAF Steering Committee member, Senior Chief (Retired) Eric Lundquist, who served as a Navy SEAL from 1995 until 2019. Senior Chief Lundquist shared insight on what led him to the SEALs and how the lessons he learned in the Navy can be applied into every day life. He detailed his experience in (BUD/S) training, the grueling 24 week training course needed to become a SEAL and also gave brief accounts of situations he encountered while deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations in the Middle East, which provided an authentic look at the hostility our service members have faced in combat. At the conclusion of his presentation, Roger Sit joined Senior Chief Lundquist to award him a MMAF grant for his service.
MMAF supporter and keynote speaker of the 2019 Fundraising Dinner, General (Retired) Joseph Votel took the stage to provide a warm welcome to former Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Secretary Mattis retired from the Marine Corps as a Four-Star General with 43 years of service prior to serving as the 26th Secretary of Defense from 2017 through 2019. Secretary Mattis spoke about how many Americans will remember September 11, 2001, the reason for the U.S. going to Afghanistan, and the withdrawal after 20 years in country. What is forgotten by most are the service members and their families who sacrificed over the duration of the war in Afghanistan and the importance of showing our appreciation to those who served. Secretary Mattis’ also shared his beliefs on the importance of American values and that we must continue to come together as a country for the betterment of the entire world. Secretary Mattis’ address has been regarded as one of the best our audience has heard, and an admiration for him permeated throughout the crowd.
Roger Sit presented Secretary Mattis with a from MMAF in appreciation for his taking the time to travel to Minnesota to advocate for the organization. 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.