our veterans

2016 Recipient

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Kory Twardoski

SSgt Kory Twardoski was raised in Beach, North Dakota and entered the North Dakota National Guard in 2005.  He served two combat tours, 2007-2008 in Iraq and 2012-2013 in Afghanistan.  His tour in Iraq was part of the 164th Headquarters Company who provided Entry Control Point to the Baghdad Airport.  He served his Afghanistan tour as part of the 818th Engineering Company of Williston.  During this tour on Dec 3, 2012 while performing Route Clearance in Afghanistan, the armored vehicle directly in front of his Husky, was destroyed by an IED.  While the vehicle was still engulfed in flames with continuing explosions of ammunition,  Sgt Twardoski dismounted and attempted to save his fellow soldiers using a fire extinguisher to extinguish their burning clothes, cutting of their gear, and beginning buddy aid.  After first responders arrived, he immediately returned to his Husky vehicle to clear the area of other IEDs to ensure the safety of the rest of the patrol.   SSgt Twardoski carried the injured fellow Guardsmen to the Medivac helicopter.  The memories of the horror of losing comrades and the constant vigilance required during his two combat tours has remained with him.  He has over 19 medals and devices including 3 Army Commendation medals, 2 North Dakota Commendation Ribbons, North Dakota Emergency Service Ribbon,  Combat Action Badge, Afghanistan and Iraq Campaign Medal Stars, and the  NATO Medal. Kory currently lives in Dickinson, ND

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2015 Recipients

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Keith O’Donnell

Keith O’Donnell was born in South Dakota where he attended high school. In 1996, he joined the Army where he served with the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He was on IRR until August of 2001, the joined the North Dakota National Guard of which he is still a member. He was not medically retired following over 30 surgeries. He was cleared to go back to the National Guard where he serves as a state employee and wears his uniform daily and drills on the weekend. Keith O’Donnell has over 19 years of service.

His military honors include the Purple Heart, Army Accommodation Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Armed Forces Medal with M Device, Air Assault Badge, Combat Action Badge and Valorous Unit Citation. Besides getting to serve next to America’s best men and women, meeting President George W. Bush highlight’s Keith’s career.

In a recent letter from Retired Brigadier General David B Anderson, he stated Staff Sargent Keith O’Donnell’s military record speaks for itself. He has served his country with distinction both in combat and in peacetime. His service has been marked by tremendous courage and perseverance and despite having been seriously wounded, he continues to serve his country without complaint. He added Keith has continued his service to his state and nation while serving in the full time force with the North Dakota National Guard. His dedication and commitment has truly been outstanding in his capacity as a Logistics NCO. He has been instrumental to the success of many National Guard Units by assisting them as a Supply Assistance team member ensuring that their supplies and logistics were in order before deployments.

Keith continues to serve in the ND National Guard with great dedication and is a great example of the best of our service men and women.

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Eric Mewes

Eric Mewes, son of Ralph and Melanie Mewes grew up on the family farm in Colgate, ND with his brothers Lew and Brian. He is a 2002 graduate of Hope-Paige High School and went on to NDSU, graduating in 2007 with a degree in Mass Communications. He accepted a position as a pre-school language teacher in Beijing, China.

On June 22, 2010, Eric joined the United States Army. Upon completion of basic training and AIT Training, he was a Combat Engineer ranked as Specialist. He was then assigned to serve with the 4th Engineers Battalion, 567th company and deployed to Afghanistan in July 2011. On October 29th, 2011, Eric and fellow soldier Chris Tarte were injured encountering an IED explosion while on a mission.

Eric spent the next 16 months recovering from his injuries at the William Beaumont Hospital and Wounded Warrior Unit in Fort Bliss, TX. He was honorably discharged in March of 2013.

Specialist Mewes received the Afghanistan campaign medal with campaign star, National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism service medal, the Army Service ribbon, a combat action badge, the NATO medal, and the Purple Heart. He received a certificate of appreciation from his unit and other commendations.

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