Soon we commemorate Memorial Day in a way unprecedented in history. Across the state, Minnesotans are unable to gather. Events, parades, BBQs, family events, and ceremonies are cancelled. Even graveside gatherings are dramatically different.

While so much has changed, one thing has remained; our commitment to honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. And in fact, we must make a commitment to set time aside. We must not let our current circumstances keep us from honoring those who served and died.

All across the state, Minnesota County Veterans Service Officers are embracing the true meaning of these two words; Memorial Day. This year is a special Memorial Day for CVSOs because we are also reflecting on a legacy that stretches back 75 years.

In 1945, just days before WWII in Europe would end, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill and sent it to Governor Edward John Thye that would allow each Minnesota county to appoint one or more Veteran(s) to serve in an entirely new position called a County Veterans Service Officer.

Soon millions of American servicemen and servicewomen would be returning home from war and would need assistance with the benefits they had earned in service to a grateful nation.

Most of the first CVSOs were Veterans of World War I. Some had been wounded, or gassed and recalled their own struggles to get care and benefits when they returned from war. These newly appointed CVSOs came together with partners to develop standardized procedures, and  forming historic relationships for the betterment of our Veterans in the process.

Although the services, programs and processes to help Veterans have evolved over the decades, the founding principles remain the same; they are written into law. Every day CVSOs connect with Veterans and families.

It is our mission to enhance the quality of life for Minnesota Veterans and families by leading the way in advocacy. We work to preserve Veterans benefits and Veterans’ rights. Beyond compensation and pensions, we help connect Veterans with healthcare, education, mental health, burial benefits, job placements, state benefits and so much more.

Today, in an effort to protect those who are most vulnerable, the process is evolving yet again.

With limited ‘office visits,’ we are finding creative ways to talk, chat, video call, gather documents, but most importantly, we are finding ways to continue to serve.

We do so proudly; we are honored to have these critical jobs. We are “serving those who have served” by making sure they have access to the benefits they so richly deserve. Benefits befitting their sacrifices.

In closing, I encourage you to take time today to reflect on those who have sacrificed, and how that has impacted the lives of every single one of us.

Right now it’s easy to feel helpless. But I challenge you to take strength in what we can do. Honor those who “gave it all” by connecting with those who are here. Use technology to reach out – through a video call, social media, attending an online event, making signs or cards… but let your voice, and a simple ‘thank you’ … be heard.  

We will never forget. We are eternally grateful, and together we are united.

This column was submitted by the Minnesota Association of County Veteran Service Officers.

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