Veterans Day has special meaning ... For member deployed in Middle East

Publish Date

This Veterans Day will have a special significance to Local 1601’s Chet Bodin, a staff sergeant in the Minnesota National Guard. That's because Bodin is on his first deployment to the Middle East.

Chet Bodin and family -- Veterans Day

In the photo on the right, Chet Bodin (center) is pictured with his daughter, 19-month-old Celia, and his wife, Amanda.

Bodin joined the military a decade ago and is one of 650 soldiers in the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. The soldiers recently completed a month of pre-mobilization training at Fort Hood in Texas and are now primarily stationed at Camp Arifian, Kuwait. The troops will be building partner capacity in the Middle East as part of Operation Spartan Shield, which also promotes regional self-reliance and increased security. The division will be responsible for operations in approximately 10 countries.     

“Our country is so politically divided. In the military, you see other parts of the world that lack basic freedoms and it reminds you how important democracy is. We take it for granted way too often and it took a lot of sacrifice to get where we are,” Bodin said.

Bodin cited free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom to elect government officials as some of the American values especially important to him. “Joining a union is an American freedom. I feel like our work force is as strong and proud as it is because of a history of unionization in our country. I hope the Janus vs AFSCME decision is a reminder to people of how important it is to come together and express our rights and be heard,” he added.

Bodin, a regional analyst for the Department of Employment and Economic Development in Brainerd, said there are similarities between his union and military experiences. “The military has a set of values that has helped me grow, and I find they often apply to MAPE as well – especially integrity, loyalty and selfless service," he said. "Teamwork is also crucial. In the military, teamwork can mean the difference between mission success and failure.”

When asked what he would like Americans to remember this Veterans Day, he replied, “I think the most important thing is to never take for granted our democratic principles and institutions. Remember that they were hard-fought for and those principles should supersede any of our political divisions.

“I would encourage people to participate in some sort of community activity honoring veterans but also build ties with each other in our communities,” he added.

Bodin’s wife Amanda said the Brainerd community is already following her husband’s advice to honor veterans and build community ties with each other. “The community has been absolutely amazing. My neighbors come over to my house, they bring me food, constantly ask what I need. My colleagues at Brainerd Savings & Loan do, too. People just want to help in some way. I’ve never seen anything like this before: Offering a helping hand, people are really stepping up. It’s made it so much easier -- a better transition than I ever imagined,” she said. 

She and the couple’s daughter, 19-month-old Celia, were able to chat with Chet via Apple’s Facetime app while he was training at Fort Hood and the family is hoping this can continue during his deployment. “Celia doesn’t say a lot of words, but when she sees his face on the iPad screen, she gets so excited and says, ‘Da-a-a-a-d!’ She doesn’t understand technology yet so she keeps looking at the iPad, and behind and underneath it trying to figure out how he got inside the screen,” Amanda said, laughing.

Minnesota National Guard officials are expecting the Red Bulls to return home from their Middle Eastern deployment in late July of 2019.

“I’m a little nervous,” Amanda admitted. “But I’m happy this deployment has started. We’ve been preparing for a year and now that it’s started, it means it will end.”