On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, as we pause for a few collective moments across the state, I urge you to spend time showing appreciation for the thousands of veterans who call Minnesota home. Reflect on the selfless acts of the men and women who have served this great nation in times of conflict.
This Veterans Day, I have a special message for Minnesota employers: Never let your commitment to supporting Minnesota’s citizen soldiers and airmen fade. When you empower your employees and colleagues who serve in the Minnesota National Guard, you join in our mission success.
It is not lost on me that what I ask of you as employers is significant. But through your great commitment to our state’s guardsmen, you will reap the benefits that come with employing the most dedicated men and women around.
Serving as airmen and soldiers in the Minnesota National Guard, whether at home or abroad, requires a sense of purpose, uncompromising integrity and fierce humility. As a force, we stand strong — always ready.
When the vast forests of northern Minnesota burn, we are ready with our Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters carrying thousands of gallons of water.
When the mighty Minnesota River crests, threatening homes and lives of Minnesotans in the southern part of the state, our engineers are ready with sandbags.
And when our soldiers and airmen are needed to stand alongside our active-duty counterparts, fighting against those who threaten our nation, our allies, and our partners, we are always ready.
This is possible because of the commitment so many Minnesota employers have made to support our guardsmen.
For nearly two decades, our nation has been sending American troops to war. Since 9/11, the National Guard has supported more than 850,000 overseas deployments.
Minnesota employers have certainly experienced the challenge of keeping a business running when our guardsmen are called to duty. The 62 Minnesota employers that have been honored with the designation “Yellow Ribbon Company” understand that managing absences in their workplaces is not a burden, but instead a significant contribution to our overall national security.
In Duluth, 500 airmen from our 148th Fighter Wing have spent months away, deployed in support of overseas operations in the past year. This made for one of the busiest mobilization years in the wing’s history. Here in the metro, our 133rd Airlift Wing sent more than 300 airmen on missions around the world lasting anywhere from 60 to 200 days.
Each time we deploy our soldiers and airmen out of the state, I see the impact on our families, communities and civilian employers. Last month, more than 600 soldiers from the Rosemount-based 34th Infantry Division deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield. Over the course of their nine-month deployment, I know that these soldiers will represent Minnesota well.
And while they work toward mission success abroad, I want you to know that these citizen soldiers and their families take comfort knowing their employers will be ready to welcome them back on their return.
Without employer commitment, serving in the National Guard would not be possible for our soldiers and airmen. Thousands of our guardsmen are employed by private companies throughout the state. It’s not only employer commitment to maintain jobs for service members when they are away that supports our mission. The readiness of our airmen and soldiers depends heavily on the financial strength and stability that comes from the full-time employment Minnesota employers provide.
When soldiers and airmen don’t have employer support, it takes a huge toll on their ability to show up to our units each month mentally and physically ready to contribute to our mission.
I extend my sincerest gratitude to each and every veteran who has bravely and selflessly served our nation. Know that the world in which we live is better because of you.
And to the employers who commit to hire, develop and retain military members and veterans, thank you for what you do every day to contribute to our national security.
Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen is the adjutant general, Minnesota National Guard.