Four years ago I was given the honor of serving Veterans as Minnesota’s Commissioner of Veterans Affairs. This came after completing seven years as the states adjutant general during extensive mobilizations as our nation fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. The importance of caring for our Veterans was branded in my heart and mind as we sent a newer generation off to battle. It is with that preface that I feel proud of the accomplishments made by the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs these past four years.
Christmas presents for all 341 Residents of the Minneapolis Veterans Home were delivered in December as part of the annual Adopt-a-Vet program.
The program allows participants to “adopt” a Veteran to buy gifts for during the holiday season. The Minneapolis Home sends its sincere appreciation to the groups listed, for bringing joy to those living at the Minneapolis Veterans Home. If you, or an organization you know is interested in participating next season, please contact Minneapolis Veterans Home Public Affairs Director Sandy Larson at (612) 548-5993.
The State Benefits Division within the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) is most known for its administration of the State Soldiers Assistance Program. This program administers eight program activities that deliver much needed benefits and services to Minnesota Veterans and their families in times when they need it most. Our team works tirelessly to provide Veterans and their families with benefits and services ranging from routine dental care; grants for housing to include, stabilization, attainment, and repairs; and tuition waivers to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
December 7, 1941, is a day in which our nation reflects on the catastrophic impact of being attacked and forced into war. December 7 has always been a day of remembrance. This year it is taken on a personal tone. In mid-November, my wife and I chose to take our daughters, son-in-law, and three grandchildren on a winter holiday to Hawaii. We stayed in Honolulu to enjoy a week’s worth of sunshine and relaxation. Having been there before, we also wanted to show our grandchildren the sites of the island. It was our visit to Pearl Harbor that I wish to focus this message.
Today Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito presented Reverend Richard L. Jenkins, Sr., and Mrs. Vivian Jenkins Nelsen with the President’s Lifetime Volunteer Call to Service Award. This award is a national honor in recognition of over 20,000 hours each of volunteer service to America.
Veterans Day is the day we pay special tribute to all Veterans who served this great nation. This became clear to me as my wife and I took our grandsons, ages 10 and 8, to Washington D.C. We visited most of the ‘must see’ sights but most importantly the Veteran Memorials and Arlington Cemetery. Walking the grounds of Arlington clearly magnified the sacrifices made and the importance of honoring our Veterans.
The snow and Minnesota winter weather didn’t stop a crowd of nearly 500 Minnesotans from attending the State of Minnesota Veterans Day Program to honor and celebrate generations of Minnesota’s Veterans. The event was held Nov. 11, 2014 at the Veterans Memorial Community Center in Inver Grove Heights.
The State of Minnesota, Governor Dayton, and the Mayors of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Rochester, Duluth, St. Cloud, Burnsville and Albert Lea have joined the Federal government and over 200 other communities across the country in committing to end Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
Five weeks ago, I joined the team within State government charged with helping us deliver on these commitments, as Special Advisor on Ending Veteran Homelessness based at MDVA with the Minnesota Office to Prevent and End Homelessness. I come to this role after serving as Policy Director for the U. S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the Federal agency charged with coordinating the Federal response on homelessness and working in partnership with communities across the country to prevent and end homelessness. In my previous role, I served as USICH’s liaison with the Department of Veteran Affairs and as policy lead on efforts to end homelessness among Veterans and youth. I am delighted to bring the perspectives and experiences of my time in Washington back to my home state, and to join dedicated people at MDVA, throughout government, and in nonprofit organizations and communities across the state focused on ending Veteran homelessness.
With fall upon us, and the elections fast approaching, we are busily getting ready for the next legislative session here in St. Paul. Much has happened these past few months, especially receiving the federal matching dollars which enables us to complete the Minneapolis Veterans Home campus renovations. Also, several of our senior leaders, Michael Gallucci and Reggie Worlds, have moved on. Michael has retired and has moved to Florida while Reggie has accepted a position with Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development in Mankato. Both are doing well and are excited about the opportunities they have in their new roles. This agency values the service they provided and know they will continue to serve Veterans in all their endeavors.
Peggy Moon will be first woman commander of the Department; Klinkner new chaplain.
Peggy Moon, St. Joseph, was elected Department Commander of the Minnesota American Legion at the recent Department Convention in Rochester.
Moon, 62, a Vietnam Era Veteran, defeated Mike Schaffer of Fulda by a vote of 491 to 278. Moon becomes the first woman commander in the state’s history.
Another contested election developed at the convention when it was determined that the Department’s constitution would not allow Department Chaplain Richard Wog to succeed himself. Wog was the only candidate for the position.