How KA and Industry Partners Team Up to Support Veterans
“Thank you for your service” is an expression often used when meeting and speaking to American military and veterans of the military, especially at this time of year. KA is proud to count many veterans as well as active military Guard and Reserve personnel among our ranks. Moreover, we work with our colleagues to provide a wide array of needed services to veterans in the interest of giving back to those who have given so much. Here’s a look at two of our business partners who show their commitment to veterans, all year long.
City of Hugo Yellow Ribbon Network (YRN)
The City of Hugo joined the Minnesota National Guard’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Network (YRN) in 2010, the second city in Minnesota to join the program. Since then, the Hugo YRN has earned a reputation of enduring, dependable, and meaningful support for our military members and their families, providing ongoing, seasonal and signature events, says Chuck Haas, Director of the Hugo YRN.
Talk about the ways YRN reaches out to veterans.
CHUCK HAAS, HUGO YRN DIRECTOR:
Ongoing programs include monthly responses to requests from military service providers and military members themselves for assistance such as home repairs, car repairs, snow plowing, lawn mowing, moving, transportation and help with payments of household and medical expenses. Not a month goes by without the Hugo YRN responding to a request for assistance.
Seasonal programs include: a Secret Santa program connecting YRN volunteers with military families in need of a little extra help with Christmas gifts. The program helps between 15-20 families every year; providing volunteers and funding for military unit events such as military unit pre-deployment gatherings and holiday parties; support for Gold Star Weekend at Camp Ripley; financial support for the National Guard Youth Camp; hosting a Youth Hunt every year at Wild Wings.
Signature programs include:
- Care packages to deployed service members. Since 2012, over 60,000 pounds of wish list items have gone to service members deployed overseas.
- Welcome Home the Troops Pheasant Hunts. Since 2010 the YRN in cooperation with Wild Wings of Oneka Hunt Club have welcomed home EVERY returning Minnesota National Guard unit from overseas deployment. This uniquely Minnesota welcome home event has hosted over 2,000 returning service members since 2010. Minnesota patriot/sportsmen have donated over $400,000 to make these events possible.
- Monthly Burger Night at the Hugo American Legion. Since 2011 the Legion has offered the YRN the use of their kitchen and banquet hall to host monthly fundraisers. What began with a modest crowd of 40 has grown into a regular crowd of over 150. There is fantastic support from local residents and businesses. Pre-covid, a local business sponsored the event each month, and there was a 12-month waiting list to be a sponsor.
Two recent, outstanding examples of YRN efforts:
- We responded to an Army Training Center’s Family Readiness Support request to provide assistance to a single soldier who had just left an abusive relationship with only a suitcase of clothes. She had an apartment and nothing else. Our network reached out and volunteers provided a queen bed, new pillows, sheets, comforter, dresser, nightstand, kitchen appliances, pots and pans, utensils, television, recliner, which was all moved into her apartment by volunteers.
- We coordinate a Military Appreciation Hunt hosted by an individual who pays for this hunting experience for 32 soldiers. This year the hunt participants are Charlie Company of the 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion (they fly helicopters). During their deployment last year and shortly before the December 2019 Welcome Home Hunt, there was a tragic helicopter crash that took the lives of three aviators from this unit and the unit was in mourning. Recently the sponsor of the hunt sent me a check to donate $5,000 to each of the three families.
- Those above were bittersweet moments, but there are lots of happy ones. We have sent over 61,000 care package items to deployed military, putting smiles on lots of faces of soldiers, airmen, and sailors serving far from home and often in harm’s way. The Secret Santa program is a delightful experience and the thank you notes I get from surprised military families are precious. I remember delivering a load of gifts at Holman Field in St. Paul on a cart to a soldier of the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, a single female soldier with five children. When she looked at the cart loaded with wrapped Christmas gifts she said “thanks so much, which one is for my family?” When I said, “All of them” she started to tear up and waved her hands in front of her face and said, “I am a soldier, I won’t cry, I am a soldier, I won’t cry.” You don’t forget moments like that.
What motivates you to support this effort?
CHUCK HAAS: Supporting the military has always been in the back of my mind because my father and several uncles served in WWII. A new urgency about the need for support was brought to my attention at a Washington County Local Government Officials dinner in 2006 (I have been on the Hugo City Council since 1998) when Minnesota National Guard Chaplain John Morris spoke to the assembly about the new obstacle facing our Minnesota National Guard; they were being tasked to deploy overseas to supplant regular military units and there was a critical need to support them and their families through this overseas deployment cycle. When the concept of City Yellow Ribbon Networks was presented, we were one of the first to join in.
How is the Hugo chapter distinct?
CHUCK HAAS: Sadly, some city YRN have started, faltered, and disappeared. We are fortunate to have a robust volunteer network that has gained a reputation for enduring, dependable, meaningful support. Hugo has been recognized for that support in a variety of ways. Hugo was recognized as the Nation’s Leading Mid-Sized City supporting our military by the Washington DC organization, Homeward Bound. Hugo has been recognized by the Department of Defense with its Seven Seals Award for exemplary service in support of military members and their families. Hugo as received the Minnesota National Guard’s Superior Volunteer Service Award, the highest award that they can bestow upon on civilian organization for its support of our Minnesota National Guard.
How has Kraus-Anderson helped with these efforts?
Hugo has partnered with KA and Jason Rentmeester for more years than I can count. We have hosted a Welcome Home the Troops Pheasant Hunt for every Minnesota National Guard unit returning from overseas deployment since 2010. There have been 23 such hunts and KA has been a sponsor for most, if not all of them. There have been times when our network has needed volunteers to move a military family and Jason and KA have responded with trucks and volunteers. Hugo considers KA a dependable partner in supporting our military members and their families.
Never Give Up: Dave Bice, Bald Eagle Erectors, Inc.
Bald Eagle Erectors has worked with Kraus-Anderson on projects spanning 25 years. In addition to a successful track record of work, KA and Bald Eagle also share a dedication to serving communities in need, including the veterans community.
How has your military service helped you in your life and career?
DAVE BICE, OWNER, BALD EAGLE ERECTORS: The Marine Corps changed my life in many ways. It helped me grow up as a young man and taught me to never give up. This lesson helped me stay in business when things look hopeless. I never gave up and kept going.
Talk about your heritage as an iron worker and Native American.
DAVE BICE: I do come from a long line of Ironworkers, my grandfather and his three brothers came down from White Earth Reservation and all became Union Ironworkers, as did my uncles, cousins and brothers. The ironworker’s union has always accepted American Indians and we have thrived in the ironworking trade. That is something that makes me very proud of my heritage and service in the Marine Corps.
What motivates you to give back to the community? How does KA fit in with those activities?
DAVE BICE: As an American Indian, I have always given back to our community and being a successful business owner, we give to a lot of great causes. I always reach out to Kraus-Anderson to join me in supporting our community and KA always gives generously.
Leanne Stevens, our Controller and Vice President, is on the Tee it up for the Troops (TIUFTT) Board of Directors and we support this organization every year. TIUFTT helps veterans and their families in numerous ways on a local and national level.
In November of 2016 we partnered with Local 512, Lejeune Steel, Vic’s Crane and a couple other Ironworking companies to build two 70’ long steel walk bridges at the Veterans Camp on the Marine on the St Croix, attached is a picture of all the Ironworker volunteers.
We have a great relationship with Kraus-Anderson, and we have been working with you since I started in Business. I have learned a lot from working with KA over the years and look forward to our continued working relationship.
What else do you want to share about your relationship with veterans?
I am starting to transition Bald Eagle to new ownership. Mike Bice with be the majority owner. He is my nephew and a Navy veteran. The other owners consist of Leanne Stevens, Robert Bice and Tori Blaisdell. Tori is a Sargent in the MN National Guard, MP Unit that is currently deployed.
For more info on how you can help:
Tee it Up for the Troops: https://teeitupforthetroops.org/