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Area Vets Honored for Good Work

Two alums, one current student honored.

Dan Nienaber, Mankato Free Press, 9-25-2014

MANKATO — There's a tight group of young Mankato area military veterans who are working to help their fellow vets, so it shouldn't be a surprise that three men who recently received a statewide honor know each other very well.

Two of the men are from Mankato and one is from Waseca, but they have a tie through Minnesota State University, Mankato. Two are graduates and one is a student.

The award presented recently to Dave Wentzel and Jason McNamara of Mankato and Chris Hinton of Waseca is the Veterans' Voices Award. It's used by the Minnesota Humanities Center to honor veterans "who served honorably, are thriving and are making extraordinary contributions to their communities."

This is the second year the awards have been issued. Ten veterans received Legacy Awards, which are given to older veterans who have been doing good work for a long time. There were 20 On the Rise Awards, which are given to younger veterans just getting started with their work outside the military.

The three area veterans all received On the Rise Awards.

Jason McNamara, who is a Minnesota State Mankato management student, received the award for his work as an advocate for veterans at the state Legislature. He helped pass legislation that created anew "Combat Wounded" motorcycle license plate. He is also a staff member of the Wounded Warrior Guide Service, which helps wounded veterans participate in outdoor sports such as pheasant hunting, and a past commander of the American Legion Post in Madison Lake.

After being wounded while serving in Iraq as an Army soldier, McNamara spent nearly two years being treated in Army hospitals.

McNamara couldn't be reached for comment, but Wentzel said he knows him well. Wentzel, McNamara and Hinton are friends and often work together on various projects through Mankato's chapter of Disabled American Veterans.

"Every day we think about veterans and give back by giving them a voice," Wentzel said.

Wentzel, an Army National Guard Veteran, was honored for his work through his position in the Wounded Warrior Program with Congressman Tim Walz's office. He works as an advocate for veterans at the local, state and federal level. Much of his work is with mental health issues. He helps veterans services providers give input on federal policy.

Hinton is a Navy veteran who works as a Veterans Court case manager through his job with the Minnesota Action Council for Veterans. He developed a peer mentor program for the court where he makes regular visits to veterans with legal problems. Hinton also helps those people successfully complete Veterans Court requirements and helps them find a variety of resources available to veterans.

The Minnesota Humanities Center awards help show there are many veterans doing many good things, Hinton said. He also said he was honored to receive one.

"Anytime that you can show people that you are trying to help other people, it shows the good side of human nature," he said.

Wentzel said the three men all enjoy the work they do with Disabled American Veterans. It helps that they are veterans as well, he said. They understand the issues some veterans are facing and are able to relate better to some of their problems than a spouse, friend or therapist without military experience.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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