CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait City (WCCO) – There are currently more than 600 members of the Minnesota National Guard deployed in Kuwait. This week, we’re proud to share their stories.

WCCO-TV’s Reg Chapman and photojournalist Tom Aviles are embedded with the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division at Camp Arifjan.

In 100-degree heat, a group of volunteers from Minnesota is preparing to give a little something back to the men and women who serve the Minnesota National Guard– 4,500 steaks are prepped and stored in a cool place.

“It is the most gratifying thing I think that most of us do. We started this project in 2004 and this is our 14th project. Today, we’re gonna serve our 100,000th steak,” Dan O’Gara said.

O’Gara, owner of O’Gara’s in St. Paul, is talking about Serving Our Troops, a civic organization that sends steaks and volunteer cooks to Minnesota troops serving overseas.

Here in Kuwait, hot is an understatement and standing next to the grill in this weather is a labor of love.

“Just to see their smiles when I can get them a medium-rare steak cause they said, ‘All we’ve had is well-done since we’ve been here,’ then they come back home and they’re so happy,” John Mancini said.

Mancini, owner of Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul, says preparing the meals for soldiers is how he and other restaurateurs back home say thanks.

“And a message to the soldiers of Minnesota that we haven’t forgotten about them and we really care about what they’re doing,” O’Gara said.

And it’s not just the soldiers who are being appreciated.

“We do a video link and a meal with the families back at the river center and the soldiers eat here at the same time, which is a big part of the project to show appreciation to not just the soldiers but to the families back at home,” O’Gara said.

To the Red Bulls serving in Kuwait, this kind gesture is one they’ll always remember, especially Theodore Cameron Williams from Bloomington – he got the 100,000th steak.

“It actually feels great. I feel very honored to receive this. It’s a lot of soldiers before me, so I want to thank all those before me and the staff that came out here and served us as well today,” Williams said.

It’s a relaxing atmosphere here for these Minnesota soldiers, a much-needed break from the pressures of overseas duty and a room full of computers so they can hear from family – a perfect ending to a day designed to honor their service.

Reg Chapman

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