Military Appreciation Month: A look at the North Dakota National Guard

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It’s Military Appreciation Month, and we wanted to shine the spotlight on some of the hard work our local soldiers are doing for the country.

The National Guard is always ready to answer the call when our nation needs them. To find out what it is they do, we stopped at Kimball Bottoms for one of their drills.

This is the 957 Engineering Unit. During this drill, they are building rafts and floating bridge systems. It doesn’t look easy.

“It can be very challenging, especially when we get into the more in-depth training. More realistic, during a wartime training,” said Lt. Tanner Vesledahl.

So, why do they run these drills? We’re told it’s simple.

“It’s a use it or lose it skill. Just like other things, like mathematics for some people. If they don’t practice it, they don’t maintain it. It’s the same for us,” said Vesledahl.

While many of us are enjoying birthday parties, going on fishing trips or to other family events, the North Dakota National Guard is putting in some hard work.

“There are some misconceptions. People don’t understand the commitment it takes sometimes,” said Vesledahl.

“Not only is it physically demanding, you do give up a lot on the civilian side,” said Sgt. Brandon Wendland.

Vesledahl tells us he has a very busy schedule.

“I own my own business, so that can be kind of a pain in the butt sometimes. Deal with scheduling and stuff like that. It takes on my part, coordination that wouldn’t happen if I wasn’t in the guard,” said Vesledahl.

We’re told that even though it’s a demanding lifestyle, it can sometimes give you unexpected opportunities. Wendland says he met his wife while serving.

“She was the operations sergeant here in the 957 and then after we got married, she lateraled to Fargo,” said Wendland.

Relationships, friendships and lifelong lessons: they say despite the challenges, they wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I enjoy the freedom to have a civilian career outside of my military career and live here, serve here. I’m part of this community and I’m here to serve the community,” said Wendland.

There are more than 3,500 North Dakota National Guardsmen.

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