More than 550 soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division “Red Bulls” and their families and friends packed Eden Prairie’s Grace Church auditorium Thursday morning for a ceremony honoring the soldiers as they prepare for their upcoming deployment to the Middle East.
The soldiers, including four from Eden Prairie, are headed to Fort Cavazos, Texas, for a month of training before heading to the Middle East. They are expected to return in December 2024.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of all of you and how much I look forward to seeing you by the next time snow actually falls,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said to laughter from the crowd.
The soldiers come from 216 communities across Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, and eight other states. For about half of them, this is their first deployment.
“We are blessed to have high-caliber citizen-soldiers from each of your communities filling our formations to carry on (the) proud tradition of selfless service,” Army Major General Charles Kemper, the 34th Infantry Division commander, said in a press release. “They are well trained and will execute their mission with vigor.”
Headquartered in Arden Hills, the 34th Infantry Division provides training and readiness oversight for nine National Guard brigades with more than 27,000 soldiers across Minnesota and 29 other states.
As part of the ceremony, retired Army Tech. Sgt. Don Halverson, age 100, from Brooklyn Center, was introduced to the crowd, which greeted him with cheers and applause. He will turn 101 later this month.
The headquarters’ most recent deployments include Kuwait in 2018-2019 in support of Operation Spartan Shield, and Iraq from 2009-2010, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Minnesota National Guard consists of more than 13,000 soldiers and airmen and women who serve in 58 communities throughout Minnesota.
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