Schmitz delivers Veterans Day address at WDC
His military career spanned 38 years with multiple deployments.
WADENA — The keynote speaker at Wadena-Deer Creek Schools Veterans Day program on Thursday, Nov. 10, was Ken Schmitz of Verndale, whose military career began in 1975 and ended in 2013.
Schmitz was born in South St. Paul and moved to rural Verndale at age 6. He grew up on a dairy farm north of Verndale, attending Verndale school and graduating in 1976. He joined the Wadena unit of the Minnesota Army National Guard on the delayed entry program in 1975.
After basic training, Schmitz entered the law enforcement program at the Alexandria Vocational Technical College for one year. He worked for the Wadena County Sheriff's Office and the Verndale Police Department. He left the law enforcement field and went on to work in the masonry restoration business for nearly 40 years.
"Most of the work was away from the area, so I spent a lot of time working in other parts of the state and in other states," Schmitz said.
His career in the National Guard took him to many places as well, while also offering him many training opportunities. Over the years, he has been to Germany and Norway with the guard. He was trained in air assault and trained to be an instructor for winter operations and winter survival. He spent several winters training soldiers to survive in winter environments. He also worked with the annual Norwegian exchange program.
"Norway would send roughly 100 of their youth program soldiers here to get a taste of U.S. training, while Minnesota would send the same number to Norway to be trained there," Schmitz explained.
In 2004, Schmitz was deployed to Iraq with a unit of 150 soldiers from several units throughout central Minnesota. He was stationed at a small base about two hours north of Baghdad. The unit was protecting a group of locals living on an Iraqi base. They also did local patrols, stationary defense and watched over the destruction of tons of Iraqi munitions stored nearby.
When the unit returned in 2005, Schmitz was promoted to First Sergeant of the Wadena National Guard unit, which gave him the responsibility over all the soldiers in the unit. From 2007 - 2009, he worked at Camp Ripley, training other soldiers to deploy.
In 2010, First Sergeant Schmitz was deployed to Afghanistan, where he oversaw soldiers from all U.S. branches, as well as soldiers from other countries as they trained the Afghan soldiers to form a stronger military of their own.
Schmitz retired from the Army National Guard in 2013. He retired from his civilian job in 2020.
Ken is married to Val, a recently retired teacher from Verndale. They have four adult children and 10 grandchildren.
Quilt of Valor
Also during the event, representatives from the Home Spun Quilt Club presented the "Quilt of Valor" to Mr. Ervin Price, thanking him for his service to his country and his community.