South Dakota is a special place. We all know that. It’s where we choose to live, work and raise our kids. It’s where we call home and are surrounded by the people we love, our family.
Last week, I was out in the Black Hills visiting with folks. On my way home to Fort Pierre, I stopped in Philip, as I often do, to grab coffee and see a few familiar faces.
Near the end of our visit, I was stopped by a lady who asked, “You’re that Rounds guy, aren’t ya?” I said, “Yes, I’m Mike.” She told me her name was Lynn and she was from Cavour, a small town outside of Huron. Lynn said her uncle was the late state Representative Bob Glanzer. Bob was my brother Tim’s seatmate in the South Dakota legislature until Bob’s tragic death earlier this year. He was an honorable man and his perspective will be missed in the state legislature. Lynn told me she often enjoys getting together with my cousins while camping, so she figured she would stop and say ‘hello’. It’s a “small world” in small town South Dakota.
As we made our way out the door and to our cars, Lynn was joined by the two ladies traveling with her. I asked “Where are you guys heading?” They were headed home because the next day they’d be going to Aberdeen to attend the National Guard welcome home ceremony. I said, “Well you must be going to the welcome home for the 1-147th. I’ll be there, too.”
That’s when I was introduced to Lindsey Friedrichsen, but she won’t be a Friedrichsen for long. Lindsey told me that she was looking forward to welcoming home Specialist Brandon Haber, who left for his 10-month deployment to Europe as her long-term boyfriend. In a lot of cases when folks get deployed, life all but stops for their loved ones back home. But there’s one thing a deployment cannot stop, and that’s love. In this case, Specialist Haber certainly didn’t let it stop him. During Lindsey’s visit to see him in March, Brandon got down on one knee in front of the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and asked her to marry him – a setting fit for a fairytale.
When you activate the National Guard in South Dakota, you not only activate the unit, you activate the community and an entire state. In South Dakota, we’re all so tightly woven together in this “small world” that it feels like we’re part of one big family. Just like a family, we experience the ups and downs of life together. When we lose good people like Bob Glanzer, we cry together. When we see kids like Brandon and Lindsey get engaged, we feel overjoyed together. And when our troops come home from a tour overseas, we all breathe a sigh of relief together.
Maybe I’m biased, but life doesn’t get much better than living in South Dakota. In larger places like California, New York or DC, you don’t come across genuine “small world” connections like you do in South Dakota. I’m so proud to call this state my home and be part of this big family.