They fought for our country, and they fought for our freedom, and KX News continues to share their stories in our special series: Veterans Voices.
After almost three decades in the military, one Bismarck veteran is traveling the state dedicating his time to honoring fallen soldiers.
Duane Sand attended the University of North Dakota in the 1980s where he was also a football player, but it wasn’t the time he spent on the gridiron that he cared about, he had his eyes set on something else.
“I studied hard because I hadn’t given up on my dreams to get to the Naval Academy. It’s the only place I cared to want to go to,” U.S. Navy veteran Sand said.
Placing his football career on the back burner, he began taking the steps to achieving his dream.
“It took me twice to apply to get in, takes most people twice to apply to get in, but I finally got in and started in 1986,” Sand said.
Sand went on to serve 20-plus years as a sailor on various submarines, working his way up the ranks, eventually achieving the rank of Navy Captain.
In 2008, he retired.
“Travelling to 45 countries once I got married and started having children, being away from my kids was a big issue that eventually was the real reason why I left active duty,” he said.
Upon returning home to Bismarck, in 2011, Sand began a non-profit called the North Dakota Heroes Foundation.
Its purpose, to honor the service and sacrifice of North Dakota soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“So, the first statue I started, I built was in I believe 2012 in Dickinson and it went on from there,” Sand said.
So far, he’s held 11 Battle Cross ceremonies where hundreds of people have attended.
He says he has 12 more to go before his mission is complete.
“I get great satisfaction from just bringing joy to the Gold Star moms who lost their sons, and it’s what veterans do for other veterans, we take care of each other, you know,” he said.
Caring for others, something he says is near and dear to his heart.
Sand says he plans to be finished with the foundation in the next five years, but will probably begin something new shortly after.