My friends who have served in the National Guard all hold former Adjutant General of the MNG, Larry Shellito, in high esteem for the wauy in which he worked to reintegrate soldiers coming back from deployments in the wars. Doing that job for all of Minnesota's vets--young and old, and from all branches of the military, is going to be hard, but if anyone can, Shellito is the one. A great choice by Governor Dayton.
In Retired Guard general accepts 'calling' to state Vets Affairs post, staff reporter Mark Brunswick lays out how difficult a mission the job will be:
Shellito, 65, a Vietnam veteran who stepped down as head of the Minnesota Guard while facing mandatory retirement, said he actively sought the Veterans Affairs post, which coordinates programs and resources for the state's 131,000 veterans and their dependents.
"I threw my hat in the ring. One day you just wake up and say, 'There's still a lot of work that needs to be done,'" he said.
Under his guidance, the Guard began a pioneering Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign, which worked to ease the transition and reintegration of soldiers and their families after a deployment. It became the template for similar national programs for the Reserve, Guard components and active military.
The state faces a $6.2 billion budget deficit, but Shellito said he would work to sustain current $112.5 million funding for the department, the bulk of which is taken up with providing health care, including operating five veterans homes statewide. He said he also will work to break down barriers between state and federal programs, and will encourage such things as coordinating medical care on the local level for outstate veterans who might find it inconvenient to travel to VA Medical Centers in Fargo, St. Cloud or Minneapolis.
Representative Tim Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress, issued a statement about the appointment that echoes my friends' sentiments about Shellito:
“From the days when General Shellito and I served together in the Minnesota National Guard, his commitment to those who have served our nation has been clear. He is a strong leader, a good listener, always focused on the mission at hand, an excellent manager and a visionary thinker. His foresight had the Minnesota National Guard prepared years in advance for their combat missions, guaranteeing the highest level of performance from our brave troops.
I am thrilled with Governor Dayton’s selection. I know as General Shellito transitions into this new role, he will bring the same dedication and work ethic he has in the past and will put veterans and their families first. I look forward to working with him to ensure that all the men and women who have risked life and limb in service of our country have the care they have earned.”