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Local man honored for career service in National Guard

When John Overland enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard, he decided to serve at least 20 years.

Overland, of Woodbury, reached that 20-year mark recently. After two decades of military experience, Overland decided to step aside from the National Guard.

"It just seemed like the right time," he said in a recent interview. "I had accomplished pretty much everything I wanted to accomplish in the Guard."

That included a number of in-state active duty deployments. He responded to the 1997 Red River flood. Eight years earlier, he helped in the search for kidnapped Jacob Wetterling. He also worked post-Sept. 11 security at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and elsewhere in the Twin Cities.

Overland spent a year in Afghanistan, beginning in February 2005. He served as an embedded tactical trainer with the Afghan national army.

"Believe it or not, looking back on it, and even while I was there, I enjoyed it," Overland said of the war-zone deployment. "There was immediate gratification of seeing how the training was being effective with the soldiers."

Overland retired from the National Guard at the rank of major.

In his civilian life, Overland, 43, works with outreach and career exploration programs for the Boy Scouts of America. His boss and co-workers at the Boy Scouts recognized Overland's military service at an event earlier this month.

Kris Burbank, one of Overland's co-workers, said Overland received a number of awards, but the highlight came when he was presented with a U.S. flag that had been flown over the Minnesota Capitol and a certificate from Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

All of the attention came out of "left field," Overland said.

The city of Woodbury also recognized Overland's military service. The city council proclaimed Nov. 13 as "Major John Overland Day" in Woodbury.

Overland and his wife, Katie, have three sons, 11-year-old twins and an 8-year-old.