Soldiers, wives honored

By julie buntjer Daily Globe WILMONT -- Four area National Guard soldiers have been inducted into the Honorary Order of St. Barbara for their service in field artillery, while three of their spouses are new inductees into the Honorary Order of Mo...

By julie buntjer

Daily Globe

WILMONT -- Four area National Guard soldiers have been inducted into the Honorary Order of St. Barbara for their service in field artillery, while three of their spouses are new inductees into the Honorary Order of Molly Pitcher.

MAJ Dave Haugom of Luverne, SFC Robert Newman of Wilmont, 1SG Brock Thielbar of Hardwick and CPT Don Kramer of Ellsworth were among fewer than 20 soldiers to be inducted during a ceremony Feb. 23 in Anoka. Molly Pitcher inductees recognized that evening were Julie Haugom, Gina Newman and Jody Kramer.

The Honorary Order of St. Barbara recognizes individuals who have demonstrated "the highest standards of integrity and moral character, displayed an outstanding degree of competence and served the Field Artillery Branch with selflessness."


According to the Legend of St. Barbara, she was regarded as the patron saint in time of danger from thunderstorms, fires and sudden death. Following the advent of gunpowder, she was invoked for aid against accidents resulting from explosions, and later became the patroness of the artillerymen.

U.S. Marine and Army field artillery, along with their military and civilian supporters, are eligible for membership in the Honorary Order of St. Barbara.

"There's very few from this area that are in it," said Newman, who works at the National Guard Armory in Pipestone. Typically less than five individuals are inducted into the Order per year, but with many Minnesota National Guard soldiers serving in Iraq during the last two years, induction ceremonies had been even smaller the last few years.

Part of the reason southwest Minnesota has fewmembers in the Order is that the National Guard units in Nobles and Rock counties didn't become field artillery units until 1992, said Newman.

All four of the Guardsmen joined the 1-125th Battalion in either Rock County or Nobles County in the mid- to late-1980s. When Haugom and Kramer returned from Iraq they were transferred to the New Ulm unit. Both plan to retire from the Guard at the end of August, marking an end to a 23-year career for Haugom and 20 years of service for Kramer.

Retirement plans for Haugom and Kramer come after they each spent more than two years in overseas deployments -- Haugom in Italy and Iraq and Kramer in England and Iraq.

"It came to the point that I'm over 20 years, I'm self-employed and would like to concentrate on the business and the family," said Haugom, who owns Print Express in Luverne. "I did not want to put them through another deployment. I spent three years away from them as it is."

Kramer said his decision to retire was also based on his desire to spend more time with his family.


"I don't want to spend two years overseas again," said Kramer, who with wife Jody has six children -- the youngest born while he was serving in Iraq.

Thielbar also plans to retire, holding off his departure until January, when he will complete his 21st year of service.

After serving in both England and Iraq, Thielbar said the induction into the Honorary Order of St. Barbara is "kind of nice."

"It was kind of a nice deal for something to end my career on," he added.

Haugom echoed those sentiments, adding that he felt honored to be recognized by his peers.

"It's nice to be recognized," Kramer said. "The military is good about awards and recognition."

While three of the honorees have planned retirements, Newman will continue to serve the Guard at least through December 2009, when his current six-year contract expires.

During both the Luverne-Pipestone National Guard deployments -- the 2003 service in the European Security Mission and the 2005-2007 service in the war in Iraq -- Newman stayed back to man the Pipestone National Guard Armory.


"It keeps you young being with all the new guys that come in," Newman said. "We get about 30 new kids every year that come in."

While Newman enjoys his work, he said it's also an honor to be recognized for his behind-the-scenes duty.

"I think it's nice that he gets honored for the things no one else sees," said his wife, Gina.

Molly Pitcher inductees

The Honorable Order of Molly Pitcher recognizes women who have voluntarily contributed in a significant way to the improvement of the field artillery community and who exemplify the spirit of sacrifice and devotion.

As Gina Newman said, the award is given to women who "have been left home to 'man the guns' while their husbands were at service."

Gina Newman served as Family Readiness Group coordinator for the Luverne-Pipestone National Guard during both the European Security Mission and Iraq war deployments.

"It's nice to be recognized (for the Molly Pitcher honor)," said Gina. "It's a lot of work to go through those deployments."


Julie Haugom said her own induction came as a complete surprise. Throughout her husband's deployments, Julie was involved in the Luverne-Pipestone Family Readiness Group, attending meetings and sending care packages to the troops.

Jody Kramer was also involved in the Family Readiness Group, although she was part of the Jackson-Fairmont unit. Getting herself and all the kids to the meetings and group events in Fairmont each month was a challenge, but she appreciated the support of fellow group members.

With five kids under age 7 during her husband's first deployment, Jody said she felt challenged to send enough care packages to her husband.

"We did send him quite a bit of mail, we sent him a lot of school papers and we would burn CDs of photos and movies and would mail them to him," she said.

As for her induction into the Honorary Order of Molly Pitcher, Jody said, "Molly Pitcher actually manned a gun. She was on the artillery field with her husband.

"I feel almost not worthy, but I'm very honored to have received it. I guess we all make sacrifices in different ways," she added.

With their husbands back home since July, and Gina Newman's role as Family Readiness Group coordinator for the Luverne-Pipestone unit winding down, Gina continues to compile care packages for the troops.

"Even through we brought a large number of people home in 2007, we need to remember there are still soldiers serving overseas in Kosovo, Kuwait and Iraq from our area," Gina said. "We also have soldiers recovering. We just need to remember to still say thank you. I love that we still see yellow ribbons hanging up."

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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