Say Thanks Day and The Wall That Heals
Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund held its annual Say Thanks Day event on Saturday, September 12 at the Boy Scout Base Camp at Fort Snelling. The 11th annual event included a 10K run, 5K run, two-mile walk and Marine RECON Challenge which challenged competitors to run three miles in less than 18 minutes.
Participants began arriving before 8:00 am on a beautiful morning with temperatures in the upper 50s and plenty of sunshine. As participants arrived and checked in, they were greeted by music from the Emerson Avenue Band and a host of volunteers from Sit Investment Associates, TDS Inc. and the Harding High School Junior ROTC program. KFAN FM’s Dan Barreiro was the event emcee. he kicked off pre-race festivities at 8:45, welcoming participants and thanking them for supporting Minnesota’s service members. Following a moment of silence to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our country, Emerson Avenue played moving renditions of Taps and the Star Spangled Banner and four T6 Texan aircraft flew over the site in a missing-man formation. Nearly 200 runners moved to the starting line at 9:00. A few minutes later, more than 500 walkers made their way to the starting line and began to walk the two-mile route.
Walkers and runners returned to more music from the Emerson Avenue Band, carnival games and bouncy houses for the kids while the Base Camp climbing walls and ropes course provided a challenge for those looking to take on a vertical endeavor.
Dan Barreiro opened the post-race program and alerted participants to look to the sky to see the Patriot Parachute Team descend towards Base Camp. The skydivers unfurled a giant American flag as they approached and landed precisely in front of the building to the delight of the crowd. MMAF Chair Roger Sit then gave a brief recap on the current grant totals and the important milestones MMAF has reached in the past year. The winners of the 5K and 10K runs along with door prize winners were announced at the close of the program.
A special thanks goes to event sponsors: Sit Investment Associates, Federated Insurance, TCF Bank, Atomic Data, Morrie’s Automotive Group, iHeartMedia, Nelson Tietz and Hoye, Coldwell Banker-Burnett, Bank of America, B & F Fastener, The Frauenshuh Companies, 7Up/Snapple and Cub Foods. MMAF also thanks the Northern Star Council Boy Scouts of America and Base Camp for allowing Say Thanks Day to take place at their beautiful location.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the 11th Annual Say Thanks Day. We appreciate your support of Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund and look forward to seeing you again for our 12th Say Thanks Day event in September of 2016.
MMAF sees Say Thanks Day as an opportunity to show appreciation to veterans of all generations along with those who are currently serving. As part of the event this year, we were excited to host The Wall That Heals, a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. The exhibit includes a mobile education center comprised of photos of service members whose names are found on The Wall, letters and memorabilia left at The Wall in D.C., and a map and chronological overview of the conflict in Vietnam.
The Wall was escorted from the Minnesota/Wisconsin border by nearly 50 Patriot Guard riders and arrived at Base Camp on Wednesday, September 9. A dedicated group of volunteers which included local recruiters for the U.S. Navy assembled the memorial. Once assembled, the Wall was open for viewing 24 hours a day for the duration of its stay in Minnesota.
The official opening ceremony to welcome the Wall took place on Thursday, September 10 with MMAF Chairman Roger Sit thanking members of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Fund (VVMF) for bringing the Wall to the Twin Cities. MMAF Board Member and Vietnam Veteran Barry Winslow shared his perspective on what it meant to host the Wall, and General Jon Jensen shared a message of gratitude from the Minnesota National Guard. General (Ret.) Larry Shellito, Minnesota Commissioner of Veterans Affairs, shared comments on the climate of the nation when he and other Vietnam Veterans returned from combat and how that experience has altered the way that current troops are welcomed home from conflict. General Shellito’s message resonated with those in attendance and shed a great light on the importance of MMAF and veterans organizations that support those who have sacrificed on behalf of our country.
On Friday, September 11 a Reading of the Names Ceremony recognized the 1075 Minnesotans who perished in Vietnam. More than 30 participants — including local veterans, family members of Vietnam vets and supporters of MMAF —took turns reading the names of the Minnesotans on the Wall. A photo of each service member was displayed on screens as his or her name was read, a first for the VVMF as they have collected photos of all 1075 Minnesotans on the Wall. The ceremony had a great impact on all those in attendance, especially for those whose family members or friends names were read.
A short closing ceremony was held at 5:00 pm on Sunday, September 13 and the Wall was then disassembled by a large group of volunteers. More than 6,300 people visited the Wall in the five days it was in Minnesota, a larger than normal crowd for a metropolitan area. MMAF would like to thank the many volunteers who assisted visitors at Base Camp.
The Patriot Ride
The Minnesota Patriot Guard, Dennis Kirk and Tribute to the Troops presented the 2015 Patriot Ride. This year the ride moved to Key Air, on the north end of the Anoka County Airport. More than 3,300 riders participated in the 50 mile ride to show their support for Minnesota’s service members and their families. Participants enjoyed live music, food, parachute jumps, the Donnie Smith Bike Show and special speakers. MMAF was proud to award a grant to SGT Marcus Kuboy who sustained injuries while serving in Iraq in 2007. Proceeds benefited MMAF along with the Minnesota Patriot Guard.
Freedom Run, Minnesota Lake
The 9th annual Freedom Run took place on Saturday, June 20 in Minnesota Lake. Hundreds of motorcycles participated in the 100 mile ride to show appreciation for Minnesota’s military personnel and their families. The Freedom Run has raised over $125,000 for MMAF over the past nine years.
Minnesota Twins Armed Forces Appreciation Day
MMAF honored four Minnesota military service members with grants at the Minnesota Twins Military Appreciation Game on Sunday, July 12 against the Detroit Tigers. All four Minnesota service members had received Purple Heart for injuries sustained in combat: Army Specialist Joshua Sams of Hanover, Army Specialist Marco Solt of Brooklyn Center, Army Sergeant Joseph Devon of Minneapolis and Army Specialist Richard Smith of Elko. Thanks to everyone for helping us to honor these heroes at the game.
WCCO More Than Names Campaign
WCCO believed our troops deserve a record-breaking show of gratitude, and that’s why we created “More Than Names,” an Accomplish MN campaign launched to recognize and support our military members and their families. Minnesotans all across the state stepped up and signed a 102-by-76 foot flag, a flag large enough for more than 150,000 names. The flag was unveiled during a Minnesota Wild game and broke the world record for the largest Thank You card for veterans.
Twin Cities River Rats Water Ski Show
The Twin Cities River Rats hosted their 7th Annual Military Appreciation show in Minneapolis on August 25th a week later than originally planned due to severe weather. The Rats put on another outstanding performance as they barefoot skied, ski-jumped, built human pyramids and performed to a crowd of nearly 1,000 people. The event raised more than $2,000 for MMAF this year.
Leech lake Area Ride for Vets
The 5th Annual Leech Lake Area Ride for Veterans took place on Saturday, August 22, 2015 at the Walker American Legion Post 134. The 100 mile ride raised awareness for veterans while also raising funds for MMAF. Nearly 100 bikes took part in the ride that has raised $20,000 for MMAF over the past four years.
Minnesota State Fair Military Appreciation Day
The Minnesota State Fair held its annual Military Appreciation Day on Tuesday, August 25 as veterans and current service members and their families received discounted admission into the fairgrounds. MMAF encouraged those who stopped by the booth to sign a panel of the More Than Names Flag and handed out information about The Wall That Heals and Say Thanks Day. Hundreds of t-shirts and “Thanks” pins were also distributed.
Minnesota Viking Salute to Service
On Sunday, November 8 the Minnesota Vikings honored both current service members and veterans at their game against the St. Louis Rams. MMAF Board members Skip Krawczyk and Barry Winslow presented grants to two service members in a pre-game ceremony that drew a standing ovation from the sellout crowd. The grant recipients included:
- Sergeant First Class Deric Williams – Buffalo
- Staff Sergeant Andrew Walker – Maple Grove