Minnesotans from across the state recently nominated veterans of recent wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan, for making outstanding contributions to their communities. From a host of nominees, 25 veterans, including Jonathan Steinbach, have just been chosen to receive honors at the Minnesota Humanities Center's 25 Veterans' Voices Award Ceremony on September 11, 2013.

Minnesotans from across the state recently nominated veterans of recent wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan, for making outstanding contributions to their communities. From a host of nominees, 25 veterans, including Jonathan Steinbach, have just been chosen to receive honors at the Minnesota Humanities Center's 25 Veterans' Voices Award Ceremony on September 11, 2013.

More than 60,000 Minnesotans have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and there are more than 381,000 veterans of all wars residing in Minnesota. Adding their voices to public discussions is crucial to the democracy they have fought to preserve. The Humanities Center recognizes and is committed to the contributions of Minnesota veterans and will create new opportunities for veterans to speak in their own voice and connect with other Minnesotans. Some examples of our 2013 awardees include the following:

Hector Matascastillo, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who was deployed 13 times over his 18-year Army career, uses his own experiences and recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder to enhance mental health recovery for newly returned veterans. This Bronze Star awardee, who lives in St. Paul, is a certified clinical social worker who helps veterans acclimate and get the help they need.

Ryan Else, a Richfield veteran of the war in Kosovo who served with the Minnesota National Guard, was nominated for his education and advocacy work involving veterans in the criminal justice system. Besides handling a full legal caseload of veterans with invisible injuries, Else is an active volunteer in the Twin Cities veterans community.

To celebrate the commitment of Minnesota veterans and all that they bring to their communities, the 25 Veterans' Voices Award Ceremony will be held at the Humanities Center on the east side of St. Paul. Public and private sector achievements of 25 Minnesota veterans (listed below) will be recognized. This event launches a long-term, statewide program—Veterans’ Voices—that uses the power of the humanities to bring the voices of veterans out of the shadows into the light. The Humanities Center focuses on bringing into public life the stories and experiences of people and communities that have been missing.

The veterans being honored will tell their own stories—how they found their new mission in life—to increase public understanding and inspire other veterans. The Humanities Center is working with veterans of various wars to introduce Veterans' Voices to Minnesota communities where they live and work, so that they will not remain marginalized.

Through a statewide nomination call, the following 25 Minnesota veterans were recently selected to receive this initial 25 Veterans’ Voices Award.

Jonathan Steinbach, Army, Montevideo

Jaimie Bahl, Navy, Mounds View

Alison Baker, Army, Vadnais Heights

Ryan Else, Army, Richfield

Ryan Erickson, USMC, Maple Grove

Angie Gagnier, Army, St. Paul

Pete Hegseth, Army, Marine on St. Croix

Michael Herring, Army, Golden Valley

Benjamin Krause, Air Force, Minneapolis

John Kriesel, Army, Cottage Grove

Jacqueline Mahon, Air Force, Eden Prairie

Hector Matascastillo, Army, St. Paul

Sakinah Mujahid, Army, Minneapolis

Tom Newman, Army, Hugo

Ryan Ross, Army, St. Joseph

Phiengtavanh Savatdy, Army, Brooklyn Park

Matt Schafer, USMC, Woodbury

Patrick Sweany, Army, Lakeville

Alexander Tittle, Army, Woodbury

Nick Vorvick, Army, Dawson

Luke Weinandt, Army, Mankato

Stephen Whitehead, Army, Mankato

Jeremy Wolfsteller, Army, Plymouth

Larry Yatch, Navy, New Hope

Mohammad Zafar, USMC, Oakdale