In 1981, Galyn Minkel joined the United States Air Force.

Having grown up in the Olivia area, Minkel admitted at that time his main reason for signing up was to get away from small-town Minnesota.

After completing basic training at Lackland Air Force Base at San Antonio, Texas, Minkel went off to air traffic controller school at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. Due to a presidential cut in air traffic controllers there was a demand for that career, which was good for Minkel.

“The Air Force was a good fit,” said Minkel, who then was stationed at the Air Force base in Minot, N.D. until he was sent to serve in Korea. 

Ultimately, Minkel decided to end his time in the Air Force, but then joined the Minnesota Air National Guard.

What he discovered is he really missed active duty. So, in 1993 he re-entered the Air Force and began serving at Volk Field in Wisconsin where he continued his role as an air traffic controller for the United States.

“The last five years there I was the tower manager,” said Minkel.

During his second stint, a call went out for volunteers who were willing to serve in Iraq. That was in 2005. Feeling the call to serve, Minkel volunteered, admitting that was not a very popular decision with his family. Yet, he knew this was something he needed to do.

For four months, Minkel worked at the airport in Baghdad. While he knew serving in Iraq was not the safest place in the world, Minkel said he always felt safe while he was there – even though mortar rocket explosions were something he heard regularly.

In total, Minkel served his country for 25 years, including 20 of active duty, and he retired permanently in 2007.

Since retiring, Minkel has worked in various roles, including serving veterans through the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

“What I learned was that tribal veterans were being underserved,” said Minkel, adding his first role was working with veterans in the Upper Sioux Community. He soon expanded that to include the Lower Sioux.

Minkel opted to step away from that role for a while, but in the end, like his decision to return to the U.S. Air Force, Minkel came back and started working for veterans again. He continues to serve in that role, and today Minkel, who has an office on the Lower Sioux Community, works in an equivalent role for Native Americans as those who work as a veterans service officer at the county level but on a larger scale.

Minkel is the tribal veterans services officer for the southern Minnesota region.

Minkel’s experience has often meant helping out in counties that are without a veterans service officer for a period of time. He filled that role for Redwood County not that long ago, and in the past five years he has served in 11 counties. He has also become the assistant tribal liaison for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

Minkel is grateful for the opportunity he has to serve veterans in the state, adding he enjoys the chance to help them learn what benefits are available for them.

“This is my sixth year in this job. I find it very rewarding, because it gives me the chance to help lots of veterans,” said Minkel. “This is my passion. I don’t just do it to collect a paycheck. I know I am helping those who are in need.”

Minkel knows there are others out there who are missing out on what they deserve, and he encourages them to contact him to see how he can help them.