In 1908, a Redwood Falls banker named M.W. Hingley organized Company L, Second Regiment of the Minnesota National Guard.

According to a piece edited by J.W. Inglis, also a member of the National Guard unit in its early years, which was published in “The History of Redwood County, Minnesota” by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge in 1916, Captain Hingley “did some strenuous work, first enthusing the citizens, then interesting the young men and finally securing the concessions from the city council” all which led to the establishment of the National Guard unit in Redwood Falls. 

Nearly 110 years later, the National Guard continues to have a place in the community and to serve it in a variety of ways.

To celebrate the unit and its history, a reunion is being held Feb. 24 at the National Guard Armory in Redwood Falls.

Four past and present members of the local unit came together this past Wednesday to talk about the Redwood Falls National Guard, including retired members Lee Simmons, Jim Mertens and Doug Moody, as well as current member Sergeant First Class Dustin Hunter.

“We have been talking about having a reunion for a long time,” said Simmons.

Mertens added the local unit held a reunion in 1998, and at that time talked about getting together every five years. While that plan never came to fruition, the plan to reunite again 10 years later has taken shape, and anyone who ever drilled with the Redwood Falls National Guard Unit, as well as their spouses/significant others, is invited to attend.

The reunion is being held from 5-9 p.m. that Saturday and includes a social hour followed by a meal at 6 p.m. A short program will follow the meal, with live music by the band Hit List following at the Redwood Falls American Legion. The cost to attend the reunion is $15 per person, and those planning to attend are asked to RSVP no later than Feb. 10.

When sending information regarding your intent to attend, those planning ask that information including name, address, e-mail and a check payable to “NG Reunion Committee” be sent. They can be mailed to Jim Mertens, 909 East Elm Street, Redwood Falls, MN, 56283, or Jerry Ludwig, 28948 County Road 15, Redwood Falls, MN, 56283.

Checks may also be dropped off with Hunter at the Redwood Falls National Guard Armory during its hours of operation.

For those who may not be able to attend but would like to send a message they can be mailed to the above addressed. A memory board will be placed allowing those who attend the chance to read them.

For Simmons, Mertens, Moody and Hunter, celebrating this reunion is a chance for those who have been part of the local National Guard unit to get together and share memories of their time of service.

They can also enjoy the camaraderie that comes with knowing they are all part of the same group that had the same mission – to serve their community, state and country at home and around the world.

The local National Guard Unit has a strong history in the community. What began in an armory in downtown Redwood Falls (now Redwood Alliance Church) – a building dedicated in 1914 at a cost of $25,000 – continued with a new facility in 1974. That armory building on CSAH 101 is the home of the Redwood Falls National Guard Unit today.

Over the years, the Redwood Falls unit has served in places as far away as Kosovo and Croatia, with some of its members serving in Iraq. It has also been called to different places across the United States, including a group that was sent to Alaska.

Those who have served in the National Guard have also fulfilled the mission of serving at home, as the members have helped in a variety of emergencies from floods and tornadoes to being in Austin during the meat packers strike.

While the primary mission has remained the same, the unit itself has served different roles, including being a tank company, an infantry company, a medical company and in its current role as an engineering company.

“The National Guard is a good way to get started in your military career,” said Mertens, adding the nice thing is it is close to home.

Unlike active duty, serving in the National Guard is not, for the majority of its members, a 365 days a year job. Rather, it requires a certain number of days each month for drills, but those who serve also know at a moment’s notice they could be called in to help in an emergency situation.

Those members could also be called to serve overseas. Hunter added the benefits as a member of the National Guard are excellent, adding those who serve in the Minnesota National Guard can have 100 percent of the cost of college tuition covered. While the history of the unit is rich with stories and memories, there are also times of sadness, as well.

One of its members, Sgt. Brent Koch, was killed in action while serving in Iraq as a member of the Redwood Falls National Guard unit.

The upcoming reunion will offer a time for those current and former members to share their stories.

Dress is casual, and no one is expected to try to fit into their old uniform.

For more information about this event, contact Mertens via e-mail at jmertens627@gmail.com or by calling (507) 430-2261 or Ludwig via e-mail at jlludwig@arvig.net or by calling (507) 430-2195.