Retired four-star general shifts focus from front lines to home front

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Photo Courtesy: U.S. Central Command

Minnesota’s military community is welcoming home one of its own. Four-star General Joseph Votel retired from the U.S. Army two weeks ago.

The St. Paul native is now back home in Minnesota. After spending 40 years in the military, his focus is moving from the frontlines to supporting the troops at home.

“I’ve been in the military for such a long period of time, I’ve been the recipient of support from the home front when I’ve been deployed and places where I’ve been stationed and I think my family and I have understood how important that was to our service,” said General Votel.

Votel doesn’t take that support for granted. A career U.S. Army officer, he rose to the highest levels of military leadership. For the past three years, he served as the Commander of the U.S. Central Command, which meant he was in charge of all U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Now retired, he’s helping with the Minnesota Military Appreciation Fund. This Thursday, he’s the keynote speaker at the Minnesota Military Appreciation Fund dinner.

“And what they do is they have a single mission and that is to say thanks to Minnesota Veterans,” said Votel. “They provide an amount of funding for those that are injured. They base that amount on the severity of the injuries. They recognize every Minnesotan that serves in a combat zone and the unfortunate situations where they, service members from Minnesota are killed in action, then they reach out and we provide some amount of funding for those families. So, this is about the community taking care of its own.”

It’s an important role in a state that cares about its military members.

“You don’t think of Minnesota as a typical military state, but it really is,” said Votel. “And as I traveled around the military in my years, I always ran into people from our state. And there is a very common bond and you can talk about numerous things and that was always very, very reassuring to me. But I think what makes it special is the support that it gets from the people. It shouldn’t go without notice from the people of Minnesota or the people of our country that the Minnesota National Guard is one of the most deployed organizations within our Department of Defense and certainly within the National Guard. They are always deployed. They are currently deployed. I have to tell you in the last three years as I commanded the US Central Command, virtually everywhere I went I ran into Minnesota National Guard member or a Minnesota reservist.”

Votel says the Minnesota soldiers did not disappoint.

“Everywhere that I have seen them they performed very well,” he said. “They performed critical functions for us, whether it’s in the combat arms area, or the combat service support area, absolutely superb.”  

The Minnesota Military Appreciation Fund’s dinner is Thursday night at the DoubleTree Bloomington. For more information, click here.