NEW ULM - August Schell Brewery owner Ted Marti departed for Kuwait this week, possibly for the last time, to participate in a "Serving Our Troops" event that will serve meals to deployed Minnesota National Guard troops and their families back home.
"Serving Our Troops" is a non-profit organization of Minnesota residents who organize family meal events for Minnesota National Guard troops with each major deployment. The events involve serving steaks and cold drinks to all troops stationed in bases with a large number of Minnesota troops. Simultaneously, the exact same event is organized in Minnesota for the troops' families. They are able to share their meals together through video teleconferencing equipment that lets them see and speak with each other.
"Our whole philosophy is dinner with the family," said Pat Harris, an organizer for the group, "We feel this is something really important for the troops."
Marti departed Tuesday as part of a group of 50 people who will staff the event on Saturday in Kuwait. They will divide up to cover five bases throughout the country. Marti, who previously traveled to southern Iraq for this event, will work at Camp Arifjan, which is south of Kuwait City.
Meanwhile, Marti's wife Jodi and two of his three sons will be working at the state-side event at the RiverCenter in St. Paul. Schell's beer will be served there. No alcohol will be served at the bases in Kuwait due to a country-wide ban.
A total of more than 16,500 steaks will be served for the two dinners. The majority of the steaks will be served at the Kuwait bases.
Marti said he is excited to participate in the event, but he felt a tinge of sadness because it may be the last time he and his family are able to participate. He explained that the drawdown of troops has made it less likely there will be a sufficient number of Minnesota National Guard troops in any one particular base for a future event. He also said the organization isn't yet properly outfitted to operate in the more dangerous Afghanistan.
However, he said he was sure the organization will find some way to assist Minnesota troops or the National Guard.
Marti said that volunteering for the troops has been the most rewarding work he has ever done.
"It's always special to work for them. I tell people that the best thing about volunteering for the troops is how much they truly appreciate the work you do. It clearly means a lot to them," said Marti.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)