American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.

Minnesota Chapter

Hero Wall at Ring Mountain Creamery in Eagan, MN. Tribute to our MN fallen Heroes are created by Gold Star mom, Gwen Olsen. If your child is a fallen MN Hero contact Barbara Farrell at mngoldstarmoms@yahoo.com

If you have a Minnesota Hero that you would like posted below, please fill out the Hero History form and e-mail to mngoldstarmoms@yahoo.com.

Almendarez, Staff Sergeant Antonio

Bentzlin, Cpl. Stephen E.

Bursaw, Pfc. Clarence H.

Devinney, Warrant Officer Robert E.

Drevnick, Specialist Daniel P.

Farrell, Machinist Mate 1st Class Ben

Fedder, Msgt Daniel L.

Leinen, Vance R.

Lund, Sergeant Joshua D.

McGaver, Private Leon Vern

Mettling, Craig S.

Miller, Sergeant Benjamin Jon

Olsen, Lance Corporal Daniel R.

Opskar, Sergeant Bryan

Otto, Engineman 3rd Class Daniel J.

Pfingsten, Sergeant Jacob L.

Schindler, PFC Eugene D.

Valentine, Senior Chief Thomas J.

Almendarez, Staff Sergeant Antonio

U.S. Army, 2 tours in Iraq, 1 tour each in Bosnia and Haiti, Died 9/4/10, Age 33

Almendarez

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Bentzlin, Cpl. Stephen E.

USMC, Operation Desert Storm, Died 1/29/91, Age 23

Bentzlin

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Bursaw, Pfc. Clarence H.

USMC, Vietnam, Died 3/25/67, Age 21

Clarence H. Bursaw, born July 11, 1945, died March 25, 1967. Clarence was very acitve in drama club, auto club, and sports. He loved working on cars with his buddies and his dad. Holidays were always special for him and his family. When he decided he wanted to join the Marines, he was proud to serve his country and always wrote to his family and friends. Remembering when he told the family he was going to Vietnam, he said he was scared, but proud to serve his country and his love would always be with his family no matter where he was or what happens. Just remember I love you.

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Devinney, Warrant Officer Robert E.

U.S. Army, Vietnam, Died 12/7/69, Age 22

Military Honors: Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Purple Heart

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Drevnick, Specialist Daniel P.

Army National Guard (Red Bulls) 34th Military Police Unit, Died 7/17/09, Age 21

Drevnick

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Farrell, Machinist Mate 1st Class Ben

U.S. Navy, USS Ronald Reagan, 8/2/78 to 1/18/05, Age 26

Military Achievements: Air Warfare / Surface Warfare

At the end of the Summer of 1989, as we were rounding up school supplies for the upcoming school year, our eleven year old son, Ben, asked to go to the local Army Surplus store to purchase his "new" school backpack. At the store he found a well-used WWII daypack to fit the bill. It was much faded and somewhat tattered; exactly what he wanted. He used it for his school backpack that year and found many other uses for it over the years. Many years later, while serving in the Navy, Ben called home to talk. During the ensuing conversation Ben was complaining about military life. I stated that he didn't have to be in the military; it was his choice. His response to me was "Mom, how many eleven years olds do you know who buy their school backpack at the Army Surplus Store. The military was my destiny."

The first time Ben ever brought up serving in the military he was a seventeen year old junior in High School. The Service Academies representatives had been to school to talk to possible candidates. Ben's friend was going to apply to West Point. Ben decided he wanted to fly fighter jets, but not for the Air Force. Those pilots had it too easy. He preferred the Navy because their runways were shorter.

Over the next few years Ben's desire to fly increased. However, his discipline to study and achieve academically did not. He half heatedly applied for ROTC scholarships, attended college for a year, and worked minimum wage jobs while trying to discover what he really wanted to do with his life. Eventually he ended up at the Naval Recruiting Office with a friend who was joining the Marines. He arrived home that beautiful spring day to inform us he'd joined the Navy. He had been accepted in the Nuclear Mechanics Program, a six-year commitment. Once he had completed the Nuclear Mechanic training he would be able to apply for the Seaman to Admiral Scholarship. If accepted into the program he would have the opportunity to get his college degree and become a pilot. On Mother's Day 1999, at the age of twenty, Ben left home for Basic Training.

The Navy wasn't an easy life, but Ben thrived with the outside discipline keeping him on track as he worked toward his life's goals. He enjoyed the challenges the Nuclear Mechanic program presented. After graduating as a Nuke he was assigned to the PCU (Pre-Commissioned Unit) Ronald Reagan. This was a new nuclear aircraft carrier just being built in the civilian shipyards of Norfolk, Virginia. Most of the new nuclear mechanics were being assigned to the Reagan to help prepare her for sea duty. Ben was proud to be a Reagan Plankowner, the designation given to those who help build a new ship, but was not happy that he may spend his entire tour in the Navy without ever going to sea. Over time he became resigned to his fate. Eventually, he reenlisted in May of 2001, extending his service another two years.

As the years went on, Ben talked more and more frequently of retiring from the military or changing branches. Flying with the Navy was still his ultimate goal but time was running out for his opportunity to qualify for the Seaman to Admiral Scholarship. If the Navy wouldn't give him a flight spot he would consider another branch of service. He could fly helicopters for the Army at the rank he had achieved.

On September 11, 2001 Ben called home shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Centers to let me know he was okay, and to find out if I had heard from his sister, who was attending the U.S. Air Force Academy. His first concern was for his family, his second for his country. Once he knew his family was okay he wondered how our country and way of life would be affected. He was ready to protect and defend. After all, that is what he signed on for.

In January of 2003, as the war in Iraq became imminent, the USS Ronald Reagan was still undeployable. Her Navy crew continued to prepare her for service. The Naval Base in Norfolk, VA became empty as the other carrier groups headed to the Middle East to provide support for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Ben tried to transfer to another ship, so he could help in the effort but he was told that Nukes aboard the Reagan were already in short supply. He would not be allowed to transfer. When he called home and told me this, he was angry. He said he was in the business of protecting and defending and now they wouldn't let him do his job. It was difficult for him to be one of the few left behind and even more difficult to listen to those being deployed complaints. He couldn't understand why they wouldn't want to go to where he felt they would be most needed to do the job they had signed on to do.

We thought Ben would be safe on a carrier, especially on a carrier that wasn't ready for sea duty. We believed that it was a good thing that, over the history of our country, there were those who were willing to put themselves in harms way to protect and defend our land and its way of life. We are proud to have our son willing to protect and defend our country. Yet, we were happy God was protecting Ben by keeping him out of the war zone.

Ben continued to serve aboard the USS Reagan. After construction was completed, the Reagan was assigned a homeport in San Diego, CA. They went on an extended cruise around South America to move the Reagan from Virginia to California. Ben wrote frequent e-mails to family and friends while on this cruise keeping everyone updated with the ships progress. Ben liked the change to the San Diego area saying that the people were more supportive and appreciative of the military personnel there.

On a dark January evening five and a half years after Ben first enlisted in the Navy we received a call from the Commanding Officer of the USS Ronald Reagan. We knew the ship was doing some testing in the Pacific while cruising to Hawaii. We had received an e-mail from Ben the day before telling us of his upcoming liberty in Hawaii and his anticipation of seeing the USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor among other sites. When the ship is at sea communication is limited to ship e-mail therefore we immediately knew the seriousness of the call. The Commanding Officer informed us that Ben had been involved in a mishap aboard ship. As the CO continued telling the details of the accident we realized Ben was fighting for his life. Ben had been burned on 85% of his body with 2nd and 3rd degree burns while working on a valve in the ship's power plant. The ship turned around and raced toward California trying to get close enough to land so an airplane could be launched with Ben aboard to get him to a hospital. The captain and many crewmembers went to heroic efforts to save Ben's life. In one of Ben's final moments his dream of catapulting off the flight deck of a US carrier was fulfilled. He died a couple of hours later, in flight to the hospital.

They brought him home to us in his Dress Blues. His coffin was draped with the United States flag. They played taps and had a 21-gun salute in the cemetery; a heroes burial. Several months later, Ben's belongings were delivered to our home. Among them was the faded green Army backpack from so many years before. Ben believed it was his destiny to serve in the military. He loved what he was doing and thought it a privilege to serve his country. We know we have paid the ultimate price to live in the land of the free, because of the brave. Yet we are proud of our son and the sacrifice he made. And we are grateful to those who are willing to stand with him and continue to protect and defend.

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Fedder, Msgt Daniel L.

USMC, Afghanistan, Died 8/27/10, Age 34

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Leinen, Vance R.

Korea, Died 10/7/51, Age 22

Leinen

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Lund, Sergeant Joshua D.

Army National Guard (Red Bulls) 134th BSB, Died 9/18/05, Age 22

Lund

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McGaver, Private Leon Vern

Okinawa Island, Ryukyu Islands, Died 5/2/45, Age 20

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Mettling, Craig S.

Vietnam, Died 3/13/69, Age 22

Mettling

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Miller, Sergeant Benjamin Jon

Iraq, Died 6/18/08, Age 24

Miller

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Olsen, Lance Corporal Daniel R.

Iraq, Died 4/2/07, Age 20

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Opskar, Sergeant Bryan

USMC, Iraq, Died 7/23/05, Age 32

Opskar

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Otto, Engineman 3rd Class Daniel J.

U.S. Navy, Died 5/26/08, Age 19

My brother knew from a very young age that the Navy was his calling. He was always taking things apart and putting them back together again so when he became an engine man in the US Navy it was less than shocking. My brother was the guy that would be there to pull you out if you got stuck or help fix your car if something was wrong. He was always up for a good time. He liked anything outdoors and anything that involved going fast. He was stationed in San Diego on the USS Rushmore after he finished his Basic training and A school. He was getting settled quickly, found friends to call family, found things that interested him. He loved taking his truck out to sand dunes and grilling. He loved his motorcycle. We always warned him to watch out for traffic and what not and he always had the same response, "It's all good." My brother was killed on May 26th 2008 in a motorcycle accident. He left myself, our younger sister, our parents, and many friends that we are proud to consider part of our family. Through his death, I believe that we all have learned some valuable lessons from my brother. Live your life to fullest that you can and then some. Make every moment count because it could be the last moment that you have. My brother was only 19 when he died but he probably lived more in those 19 years than most 90 year olds do.

Otto

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Pfingsten, Sergeant Jacob L.

Army National Guard, HHC, 2nd Battalion, 147th Aviation, Died 2/12/05, Age 22

Pfingsten

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Schindler, PFC Eugene D.

Army, Died 7/22/68, Age 19

Schindler

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Valentine, Senior Chief Thomas J.

U.S. Navy Seal Operator, 9 Deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Died 2/13/08, Age 37

Valentine

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