Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund hosted its annual fundraising dinner on Thursday, October 6 at the Doubletree by Hilton in Bloomington. The keynote speaker for the evening was the Director of Air National Guard for the United States, Lieutenant General Michael Loh. Joining Lt. Gen. Loh was retired Marine Corps Major Roy Mokosso, of Plymouth. The evening’s speakers joined over 400 MMAF supporters who were excited to gather to raise money for Minnesota’s service members and their families. Efforts from the evening raised nearly $500,000.
The evening’s program was emceed by Tom Hauser of KSTP 5-Eyewitness News. Tom welcomed guests and told personal stories of why the military and MMAF are important to him. 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, taking a moment to recognize the POW/MIA table at the front of the room and stated that the Minnesota National Guard recently provided funeral honors for the remains of two MIAs from World War II, a somber reminder that the search for POW/MIA service members continues long after war has ended. After the invocation, a video detailing the history of MMAF was shown to provide background to those guests who were new to the organization.
MMAF Chair Roger Sit updated guests on the progress the organization has made over the last year. MMAF has awarded more than $13.2 million dollars to over 19,500 Minnesota service members since inception in 2005. MMAF has sent grants to recipients in over 800 cities throughout the state and has received donations from over 6,000 unique donors throughout the state. Roger noted that Minnesota service members are still being deployed to the Middle East and that MMAF is closely watching the situation in Ukraine and in Taiwan. Roger reiterated that MMAF will be there to support our service members as they continue to be called to duty.
After dinner, guests were introduced to Retired Marine Major Roy Mokosso, of Plymouth. Major Mokosso enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1992 and served through the rank of Sergeant before attending Officer Candidate School in 2004. Major Mokosso spoke about life while deployed to Fallujah, Iraq in 2005. The deployment brought his unit into some of the most dangerous areas of the world, providing security for high profile U.S. diplomats and military leadership and also support for the Iraqi people as they conducted their historic first election after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The special brotherhood and comradery that forms between Marines was evident, as Major Mokosso had the nine Marines with whom he served, in the audience, showing their support. Major Mokosso detailed how the most difficult part of a deployment was leaving his wife and children at home and all of the milestones that are missed while away. Major Mokosso joined the St. Paul Fire Department in between deployments in 2007. The training he received in the military continues to apply to his career. Upon conclusion of his speech, Major Mokosso was surprised with a grant from MMAF for his service.
MMAF Co-Founder, Retired Brigadier General Dennis Schulstad, took the stage to give a heartfelt and very personal introduction to the keynote speaker for the evening, Lieutenant General Michael Loh. Lt. Gen. Loh began his remarks by detailing some of the duties and locations of the more than 2,000 members of the of Minnesota Air National Guard and Army National Guard that had been deployed worldwide in 2022, in addition to statewide deployments, proving that the Guard is a “ready today” force. The U.S. Military must remain steadfastly prepared to respond to hostile aggressions, particularly from Russia and China, as they aim to restructure order in Eastern Europe and Asia. Lt. Gen Loh detailed how complacency during the 20th Century in the U.S. and Europe led to two World Wars and the loss of hundreds of millions of lives and how after those wars, nations, including the U.S., pledged that military strength would deter future aggression. These lessons must be remembered as the U.S. strives to maintain a strong military force, and update infrastructure and technology to deter competitors. Lt. Gen. Loh’s remarks regarding the national defense strategy indicated that our military commanders are realistic about the challenges they face and the strategies needed to overcome those challenges. America is still a nation of innovation and adaptation, and our military is at the forefront of those traits.
Roger Sit presented Lt. Gen. Loh with a desk award from MMAF in appreciation for taking the time to travel to Minnesota to advocate for the organization. The evening concluded with a performance by VocalEssence of “God Bless America.”
We appreciate those individuals and corporations who gave so generously to this primary MMAF fundraiser. One hundred percent of funds raised at the dinner go directly to Minnesota troops and their families thanks to underwriting by the main event sponsor, Sit Investment Associates.