News: Senior military leader visits Minnesota Soldiers and Airmen
Story by Master Sgt. Rich Kemp
ROSEMOUNT, Minn. – During a visit to Minnesota, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, took the time to visit with Minnesota National Guard soldiers and airmen, Aug. 16, in Rosemount, Minn. Later in the day he presented awards to Army Lt. Col. Mark Weber at an End of Service ceremony.
Gen. Dempsey serves as the principal military adviser to the President, the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council.
"It is a privilege and honor to host Dempsey during his visit to Minnesota to meet with our service members," said Army Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General.
Dempsey started his day with a town hall meeting with more than 300 soldiers and airmen from the Minnesota National Guard.
“The Minnesota National Guard has been in this fight from the start,” Dempsey told the group. “On that basis I want to tell you how proud we are of what you have done, how you have put your lives on hold and how your families have put their lives on hold. I am awfully proud of what you have done and I wanted to come and tell you that personally.”
Dempsey told the soldiers and airmen there are many changes in the future for our military.
“I had some challenges changing my approach from cold war to counter insurgency, those of you who have done nothing but counter insurgency will have a hard time looking back at it the other way,” said Dempsey. “We can figure this out, not for ourselves, but for our country. We have been down that road before and we can do it again.”
The soldiers and airmen were given the chance to ask questions of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dempsey took the time to answer each question, which revolved around annual training time, foreign policy strategy, and budget cuts.
“We are going from largely unconstrained budgets from the last ten years, to something that is going to be more constrained. Again, we have an obligation to make ourselves more affordable to the country,” said Dempsey.
Another reason for Dempsey’s visit was to honor a Minnesota National Guard officer upon his retirement. Weber was diagnosed with stage IV cancer two years ago and once worked for Dempsey in Iraq.
Some the guests in attendance for the ceremony were elected officials, medical personnel who had been instrumental in Weber’s care and military members both past and present including Gen. Jack Vessey, who was the 10th Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“What is most important about Mark is who he is, not what he has done,” said Dempsey. “He is one of the finest leaders I have met in my 38 years of service and I mean that. He was one of the most remarkable mentors, someone who would take a young soldier and spend some time with them to actually find something out about them. He would take time to help develop his subordinates.”
Dempsey presented Weber’s wife, Kristin, with the Minnesota Civilian Volunteer Service award and Weber with the Legion of Merit and Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
Weber focused his remarks on his wife of 18 years. “She’s my hero,” said Weber. “And her example is the reason I have a hard time with people trying to call me a hero following some great occasion.”
He went on to say, “True strength is about getting things done despite tears and external obstacles, and you, Kristin Coughlin, epitomize the definition of the word – strength. By the soldier’s standard for uncommon valor and bravery under mind crushing conditions, you are a hero in every sense of the word.”
As he said these things about his wife, his voice wavered and the audience shared in his emotion.
The 34th Red Bull Infantry Band Quintet played and sang “Old soldiers Never Die” and in true Army spirit they finished the evening with the “Army Song.”