AMVETS give Walz prestigious award

Published 3:38 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Calling 1st District Rep. Tim Walz “a critical voice” for veterans, leaders from the national, state and local AMVETS on Tuesday presented the congressman with its prestigious Congressional Silver Helmet Award.

The ceremony, at the American Legion Leo Carey Post 56 in Albert Lea, brought out about 60 veterans and audience members from around Freeborn County and the state.

“As a sergeant major, Walz was dedicated to caring for his troops here in Minnesota, and he has carried that dedication to his work in Washington,” said AMVETS National Cmdr. Duane Miskulin. “Congressman Walz has demonstrated a sustained commitment to our nation’s troops and our veterans with more than two decades of continuous service as a soldier and a statesman.”

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Though Walz was recognized with the award for his work on Capitol Hill earlier this month, AMVETS wanted to take the time to recognize the congressman in his homestate alongside the veterans he represents, according to a news release.

The Congressional Silver Helmet Award is presented by AMVETS each year to a member of Congress for exemplary service to members of the military and the veterans community.

Walz said he was humbled and appreciative to receive the award.

“I clearly understand I stand on the shoulders of giants,” he said.

He enlisted in the Army National Guard at the age of 17 and retired 24 years later as a command sergeant major.

He is the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress.

Miskulin said Walz is the best veterans advocate he has seen in the 25 years he’s been advocating for veterans in Washington, D.C.

Since he took his seat in 2006, Walz has introduced, supported and testified on multiple bills designed to serve today’s veterans, Miskulin added. The congressman has addressed issues including pain mitigation and equity in travel reimbursement. He has also pushed for increased funding for veterans’ optical care and traumatic brain injury care.

After receiving the award Tuesday, Walz told the group of veterans in attendance that their service in uniform has shown the greatest sacrifice and commitment a person can make to the country.

And because of this, people of the United States have a moral responsibility to care for their veterans, he said.

“It’s also the right thing to do,” he added.

Walz said he will display the Silver Helmet Award in his office in Washington, D.C., and use it as his mission statement of how to move forward in his service.

AMVETS Post 47 Commander Ruth Perry said she was pleased Walz received the award.

“He does do wonderful things for us,” she said.

Even veterans from across the state came down for the ceremony, including Manuel Aguirre of St. Paul AMVETS Post 5.

Aguirre, the most decorated Navy veteran in Minnesota, said he wanted to attend the event because he is a veteran. He wanted to show his support for veterans’ issues.

Commonly referred to as “The Veterans Oscar,” the Silver Helmet is a unique silver replica of a World War II GI’s helmet, according to the release.

The first Silver Helmet was presented to Gen. George C. Marshall in 1954 at the AMVETS 10th anniversary dinner. Today, the award recognizes “excellence and outstanding accomplishment in the fields of Americanism, defense, rehabilitation, congressional service and civil service.”