Chaplain (Major) Elmer 'Sandy' Aakre of Vermillion retired from the South Dakota Army National Guard (SDARNG) in February 2010. Sandy served for 22 years as a chaplain, first with the 1st Battalion of the 147th Field Artillery in Sioux Falls and since 1999 as the chaplain for the 153rd Engineer Battalion in Huron.
Sandy was deployed several times – the longest being to Iraq from December 2003 to March 2005. He was also deployed for state relief efforts to Hurricane Katrina Relief in Louisiana, Fargo Flooding Relief in North Dakota and served as the SDARNG Chaplain for the Spencer, SD Tornado Relief efforts.
Sandy was also deployed to Germany, Italy, Korea and Suriname as a chaplain for Army work deployments. He felt blessed to be able to travel and serve soldiers on four continents.
The retirement party was held in Huron on Feb. 6. A framed HHC pennant and a display case for his awards were presented to him by the unit. Letters from the President Obama, Gov. Mike Rounds and the Chief-of-Chaplains were read. The Chief-of-Chaplains sent a thank you letter to Shelley along with a pin and a necklace for her steadfast support of Chaplain Sandy. Gov. Rounds has designated Feb. 28 as Major Elmer O. Aakre Day in South Dakota.
Sandy earned the following awards during his Army service:
Meritorious Service Medal//Army Commendation Medal//Army Achievement
Medal//Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal//National Defense
Service Medal (Second Award)//Army Service Ribbon//Army Reserve Overseas
Training Ribbon (Second Award)// Driver and Mechanic Badge with Driver – Wheeled Vehicle(s) Clasp//Armed Forces Reserve Medal W/M Device//Global
War on Terrorism Services Medal//Overseas Service Ribbon//Overseas Service Bar (Second Award)//Meritorious Unit Citation//Navy Unit Commendation//Iraq Campaign Medal W/ Two Campaign Stars//Louisiana Relief Ribbon//North Dakota Relief Ribbon//
When asked how retiring from the Guard would be like, Sandy replied that he would miss ministering to the soldiers and sharing in the relationships with soldiers that made serving in the Guard special. Sandy urges any of our ABCD ministers that qualify to check out the military chaplaincy.
Sandy is currently working on the history of the 153rd Engineer Battalion and will have a published book by mid-May 2010.