Feb 8, 2023
Steak dinners and saying thank you
Since 2004, Serving Our Troops has done its part to ensure military soldiers and their families are supported in a unique way. Their famous 12-ounce steak dinners are known as a staple of any event. Last week, in Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Serving Our Troops was at it again, providing the delicious meal for members of the Minnesota National Guard, Norwegian military and government leaders in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange, also known as NOREX. With Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Ambassador to Norway Marc Nathanson, Norwegian Ambassador to the U.S. Anniken Krutnes and hundreds of soldiers in attendance, every person in the auditorium got a taste of what Serving Our Troops offers.
19 years ago, a community of people rallied around the idea of honoring members of the Minnesota National Guard and their families by serving them a hot meal to be shared with family and friends. The soldiers were stationed in Kosovo and their families were back home in Minnesota. The organization newly named Serving Our Troops found a way to coordinate a hot meal for both families and soldiers, uniting each other via satellite phones during the dinner. Through the power of technology, soldiers sitting in Kosovo thousands of miles away and families on the floor of Xcel Energy Center shared an emotional meal. “The soldiers are deployed for a year-plus and it’s tough to be away from family that long,” John Marshall, Regional Vice President of Community Relations & Foundation at Xcel Energy, said. Marshall is also a part of the team who coordinates Serving Our Troops events. “In Minnesota, we stand up and embrace those in need. That’s what we do. The ability for a community to come together to say thanks and break bread is very Minnesotan. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Since then, Serving Our Troops has organized over 110,000 steak dinners for soldiers and families around the world, both before deployment and during their stint overseas. Their largest meal served 8,000 people in 2012, with tasty steak eaten in both Saint Paul and Kuwait. In a small way, this is a chance to say thank you to the brave women and men who put their life on the line. “We want to remind people that the National Guard is always working, always active. And to say thank you,” Marshall said. Throughout the years, the team at Saint Paul RiverCentre and Morrissey Hospitality have had the honor of serving the soldiers that have served us, and honoring their families with many of these steak dinners taking place in the various spaces around Saint Paul RiverCentre.
With the NOREX event, Serving Our Troops once again stepped up to the plate. Each year for the past half-century, Minnesota National Guard soldiers have been sent to Norway to train, and Norwegian soldiers come here to Camp Ripley in Minnesota for their training. This event wasn’t so much a deployment going-away meal but rather a big thank you. “It’s very unique and humbling to watch the incredible work of the soldiers,” Marshall said. “It is tough to wrap your head around their humble approach and selfless sacrifice. These women and men are so brave and sacrifice so much. It is a blessing to be able to provide a meal and say thank you.”