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City gives Red Bull soldiers a salute

Standing by the new signs that will soon be placed along 34th Avenue West in Alexandria are (left to right) city council member Owen Miller, First Sergeant Travis Manzke, First Lieutenant Matt Kunkel (both with Company A 1-194 Combined Arms Battalion), Dennis Carstens, a Vietnam veteran who served wth the Red Bulls, and Mayor Dan Ness.

The city of Alexandria is giving a special salute to soldiers who have served in the Alexandria National Guard's 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division.

It's designating a street in their honor.

At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council unanimously voted to place signs along a section of 34th Avenue West from Highway 29 to Pioneer Road that will carry the Red Bull name and insignia.

The signs will also incorporate Yellow Ribbons in the design. The city, county and townships are in the process of becoming Yellow Ribbon communities, which is a program that provides outreach and support to veterans and their families through all phases of a soldier's deployment.

Council member Owen Miller, who has been spearheading the Yellow Ribbon effort, made the motion to approve the signs.

"We have to continue to bring our troops back and continue to support them after they come back," Miller said.

Local Vietnam veterans Dennis Carstens and Joe Nemo requested the street designation.

The honor won't change the official addresses of businesses and residences along 34th Avenue. It's a first-of-its kind recognition the city has bestowed on soldiers serving in the Red Bull division.

Before the vote was taken, council member Virgil Batesole asked how much the signs would cost. Public Works Coordinator Bryan Bjorgaard noted that the city street department will make the four signs using its own sign-making equipment that will reduce the total cost to about $74.

After the signage was approved, the council asked members of the VFW, American Legion and Vietnam Veterans who were attending the meeting to come forward. The city presented them with a smaller version of the Red Bull street sign to put on display at the Alexandria Armory.

The council and others in the audience then gave the soldiers a big round of applause.

When Carstens made the initial request for the signs in January, he noted that at one time, Minnesota National Guard members were looked down upon as "weekend warriors," said Carstens, who was also a Red Bull member. But Guard members have been deployed to active duty overseas repeatedly in recent years, putting their lives in harm's way.

"It's time we recognize these young people that have been serving our country," Carstens said.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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