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WASHINGTON — A new nonprofit wants to give every Minnesota servicemember fighting overseas a cash grant to show the state’s appreciation for his or her service.

Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund, launched Aug. 3, aims to raise more than $10 million over the next year and hand out at least $500 each to families of troops who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan in the war on terror.

“This is a chance for the citizens of Minnesota to show their gratitude and respect for the great work and sacrifice of our military,” said Michael Gorman, one of the project’s organizers. “And we believe that every person serving deserves that thanks.”

State officials said that about 5,000 Minnesotans are serving or have served in a combat zone since Sept. 11, 2001.

If the $10 million goal is reached, Gorman said, organizers will be able to award between $500 and $1,000 to everyone who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and give $2,500 to $10,000 to the families of those injured or killed while serving, based on the severity of injuries.

Servicemembers who aren’t Minnesota residents but are attached to state military units also would be eligible for the payouts. Other support organizations in the state have similar programs to help military families with financial problems, but Gorman said those monetary issues won’t be considered for these grants.

“It’s not based on financial hardship; we’re trying to make it as objective as we can,” he said. “I believe it’s the first appreciation grant program in the country.”

Supporters have been working for the past year to launch the fund, and include a mix of prominent state Republicans and Democrats, including two former governors and former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Donation boxes for the fund will be set up at banks across the state, and organizers will hold a “military appreciation walk” through downtown Minneapolis next month.

The group also has tentatively planned a 2006 telethon from the Mall of America.

Gorman said the group already has received a $1 million donation from Minnesota-based Sit Investment Associates, but he hopes the base of donors will not just be corporate charities.

“Since Sept. 11, a lot of everyday citizens have been looking for a way to say ‘thank you’ to our military,” he said. “So we do have a goal of broad participation, to show that appreciation.”

Servicemembers and their families can apply for the grants through the organization’s Web site, www.thankmntroops.org. Gorman said he expects the first grants to be awarded in early 2006.

Visitors to the site can make donations there and also send thank-you letters to troops serving overseas.


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