Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear readers,

A few weeks ago, I put out a call for nominations of local heroes. I’ll return to your Ask Your Government questions next week, but thought it appropriate this week to run the hero responses.

Joel Martwick of Wahpeton, N.D.

Nominated by Travis Kjorsvik of Wahpeton.

“Joel is a local hero because he works for Richland County Communications and is always very helpful when the public calls. Joel always goes above and beyond of what is required of a 911 dispatcher when he takes a call. Whenever someone calls and they are overly excited, Joel always is able to get them calm and help them. He is also a former North Dakota state Telecommunicator of the Year.”

Linda Larson Engelman, of Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Nominated by Steve Larson of Detroit Lakes.

“Linda Larson Engelman presently lives in Detroit Lakes, Minn., where she and her husband retired, but lived in Mayville and Bismarck during her working years.

“I believe Linda deserves special recognition due to the many years she spent traveling the state of North Dakota, counseling the many military families whose husbands and wives were in Afghanistan, Iraq and other world hot spots standing between us and the many threats around the world.

“She worked tirelessly and without much personal ado, leaving her family to make sure that others had comfort in their time of need.”

Capt. John Gaffaney

Nominated by Michele Vannote of West Fargo.

(Edited for length.)

“I am writing to tell you about my local hero, who is my brother, Capt. John Gaffaney, formerly of Williston, N.D.

“(He) was killed on Nov. 5, 2009, at Fort Hood, Texas. He died while completing his final training prior to deployment to Iraq. (In fact, he had arrived at Fort Hood just 16 hours prior to his death, which resulted from being shot at close range by Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, a psychiatrist who has been charged with murder of the 13 soldiers at Fort Hood.)

“USA Today carried a story in their November 23-24, 2009, edition, ‘Witnesses say reservist was a Fort Hood hero.’ … ‘Two eyewitnesses recounted how the reservist (Gaffaney) threw a folding chair and ‘tried to knock (Hasan) down or knock his gun down.’ … ‘soldiers were able to escape the gunman when Gaffaney confronted him.

“After 9/11, John was inspired to re-enter the military because he was compelled by an intense sense of duty and honor to his country and his fellow soldiers. He wanted to lend his knowledge and expertise to help in any way he could those who had suffered the emotional wounds of war.

“In his civilian work capacity, John was a county government employee employed by the San Diego County Adult Protective Services Department of Aging and Independent Services. John served seniors and persons with disabilities who were victims of abuse and neglect.

“Thank you for considering John as a person worthy of recognition as a North Dakota local hero. He loved his heritage and was truly a North Dakota ‘native son.’ “

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, N.D. 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Sneak peak: The impact of 9/11 10 years later

DICKINSON, N.D. – Naomi Obrigewitch knew an hour after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, that her life in Dickinson was about to change.

“It started to dawn on me that I have a husband in the military, and I truly believed right then, there and that day that it was going to become a reality that he was going to be involved in some way, shape or form,” she said during a recent interview at her home.

Despite being about 1,500 miles from New York City, the tragic events of 9/11 affected the lives of thousands of North Dakotans during the past 10 years.

The North Dakota National Guard has mobilized nearly 3,800 soldiers and more than 1,800 airmen in support of what’s been called the Global War on Terrorism.

A dozen soldiers with the North Dakota National Guard have been killed, as well as 12 other service members with North Dakota ties.

To honor their service and to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, we visited with four North Dakotans in the military about how that day in history would go on to change their lives.


I began this project a month ago and crossed the state capturing the stories of North Dakota servicemen. Be sure to read The Forum, The Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun or The Dickinson Press this weekend to read the stories of these soldiers. 

Also go online to the newspaper websites to watch the documentaries and hear these men talk about how that day in history would go on to impact them.


If you’re interested in attending a Sept. 11 event, there are several being offered across the state. This includes a public event at the state Capitol starting at 1:30 p.m. CT on Sunday.

Gov. Jack and first lady Betsy Dalrymple will host the ceremony on the Capitol steps and will honor members of North Dakota’s law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, military and families of the fallen, a news release said.  

Featured speakers include Lt. Col. Dean Eckmann, one of the three Happy Hooligans pilots who patrolled over the nation’s capital on September 11, 2001; Lincoln police officer Marcel Sim, who worked as a paramedic with the New York Police Department at Ground Zero on 9/11; Jenette Nelson, whose daughter, Ann, was killed in the north tower of the World Trade Center; and Paul Goodiron, whose son, Cpl. Nathan Goodiron, was killed in Afghanistan while supporting the Global War on Terrorism.

Also Sunday, an event will be offered at 11 a.m. CT at the International Peace Garden. 

Premier of Manitoba Greg Selinger, North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger, Canadian Council General to the Midwest Martin Loken and Alex Forrest, president of the United Firefighters of Winnipeg, will be among the officials participating in the ceremony.

Canadian Major-General Alain Parent is a special guest speaker. He was responsible for directing American and international flights into Canadian airports on Sept 11, 2001.

Former North Dakota Lt. Gov.and International Peace Garden board member Mrs. Rosemarie Myrdal will act as emcee for the event. Admission to the park will be free.