Since 9/11, the great citizens of this state have supported the soldiers and airmen of the Minnesota National Guard with unwavering enthusiasm. You have cheered us, stood with us as we left for overseas deployments, celebrated our homecomings and mourned our losses.
Collectively you have inspired us, motivated us, financially supported us and loved us. On behalf of the 13,000 men and women in our ranks, I thank you. Together, we are facing an unprecedented moment in history, and I share Gov. Tim Walz’s vision that Minnesota can use this challenge as an opportunity to be great, to serve each other and to make a difference.
Just as Minnesotans rallied around service members, veterans and military families during times of war, so should we collectively do the same for our first responders, medical professionals and caregivers as they bear the emotional and physical burden of fighting this unseen COVID-19 enemy.
These women and men — our neighbors — go to work each day knowing that they are putting their lives on the line for us and our loved ones. Our police, fire and EMS departments bravely serve their communities, and our state is blessed with the finest medical professionals and industry in the world. It is essential that Minnesota unites behind them with the same passion shown to those of us in the armed forces.
This will be a challenging time for those on the front lines of the pandemic. Much will be asked from our first responders, medical professionals and caregivers. Their resiliency, bravery and commitment to duty will serve as a beacon for us all, and our collective energy, passion, resources and support can help overcome their fatigue and ultimately save lives.
Minnesota companies, colleges, counties and towns formed “Yellow Ribbon” networks to support service members and their families after 9/11. Today, it is encouraging to see so many examples of individuals, civic groups, veteran organizations, small businesses and corporations stepping up to aid those on the front lines. Let’s keep this momentum and do what we can to continue helping those who are sacrificing for us during the coronavirus outbreak.
Minnesotans can also help by maintaining constructive civil discourse. When the American military is called upon for war, our society passionately debates the merits of decisions made by leaders. But this pandemic is not a war. War is an extension of politics. What we are faced with today has nothing to do with politics and has everything to do with our humanity, our community and our love for one another.
There will be a time to hold every senior Minnesota official, including me, accountable for their actions and inactions, but now is not the time. Now is the time to come together and find ways to constructively contribute to the most significant health and economic crisis of our lifetimes.
Finally, we need everyone to do their share and carry their portion of the burden. During World War II, our nation reacted with a collective response in the form of war bonds, rationing, scrap metal drives and Victory Gardens. Our response today must support the goal of flattening the curve of infection and needless deaths, so there is not time for any of us to skirt our responsibility.
This virus knows no boundaries and discriminates against no one, so washing your hands, avoiding gatherings and social distancing are the call of the state and nation. I’ve heard some say they are willing to risk their lives for our economy. While many of us can be cavalier about our own lives, would we make the same statement about our children’s, spouse, parents or neighbor’s lives?
You have been there for the Minnesota National Guard, and now it’s time to be there for each other. Be strong, Minnesota, be united, and together we will get through this time. This is our time to be great, to serve each other and to make a difference.
Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen is the adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard. As a member of Gov. Tim Walz’s cabinet, he oversees 13,000 citizen-soldiers and -airmen operating in 62 locations throughout Minnesota.