Thursday, April 14, 2016

Eddie Frizell - Taking Care Of Veterans: Keeping America’s Promise

Eddie Frizell is a Veteran of the Minnesota Army National Guard who earned the Bronze Star during his service as commander of a Red Bull Cavalry Squadron. He currently serves as commander of the Domestic Violence Unit with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). Eddie was awarded the Medal of Valor for his heroic efforts during the Minneapolis I-35W bridge collapse along with several citations for heroism and outstanding leadership during his years with the MPD. He is a 2015 Veterans’ Voices Awardee.

Nearly three decades ago, I recited an oath that many before me had also taken. While raising my right hand, I stated proudly, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of United States and orders of the officers appointed over me; so help me God.”

At the time, I had no idea that the path I had started upon would force me to mature and face the tremendous responsibility of leading and protecting the freedoms we all hold dear. As a young person, considerations of benefits, long-term sustainability, and financial stability, were just fleeting thoughts. I was going to be a soldier and preparing myself to defend my country was at the top of my list.

In these early years, it was hard to imagine that our country would be attacked on 9/11 and embroiled in persistent conflict for the 13+ years since. In 2011, I was the Commander of a Cavalry Squadron preparing to go to war in the Middle East. In this position, I was responsible for everything we did and or failed to do--the most important of which was the training and health/welfare of the men and women who made up the organization. This weighed heavily on me, as I knew that if I did not get this right, it could cost lives on the battlefield.

This became ever more apparent when, at a pre-deployment event, an elderly woman, a quarter of my size, grabbed my collar and pulled me down towards her. I saw her piercing blue eyes stare deeply into mine as she stated, “you’re taking my grandson over there, and you better bring him back or you will answer to me!” Needless to say, I took her very seriously. She certainly outranked me that day! My mission was simple: take care of those that were ready, willing, and able to put their lives on the line for their families, country, and each other. The squadron covered over 1 million miles on hundreds of convoy escort missions throughout Iraq, but all of my Cavalry troopers returned home.

According to 2014 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ estimates, there were 22 million military Veterans in the U.S. population and 7.3% of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives. These figures give you an idea of how many others among us swore to support and defend our way of life.

Upon the successful conclusion of their service obligations, these men and women earned the esteemed title of “Veteran,” and deserve the rights and benefits promised to them for that service. With age, family, and health considerations, some older Vets view these promised benefits as not just “nice to have,” but necessities. The delivery of these entitlements should be non-negotiable. It is every American’s obligation to make sure that these warriors are taken care of, now and in the future.

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