The Minnesota National Guard recently bestowed high honors on Colonel John Pearson, a 20-year Coldwell Banker Burnet sales associate in the St. Cloud/Sartell office, with induction into its Camp Ripley “Court of Honor.” COL Pearson was recognized for his work with foreign countries and his 33 years of military service and leadership in the National Guard. Only about 350 people have received this honor since 1933, half of whom were awarded posthumously.
Pearson retired in 2000 as a colonel, having served at all levels of command up to division level, beginning in 1967. Camp Ripley, the largest National Guard post in the upper Midwest, was the site of the ceremony on Sunday, October 8, 2017. Located in central Minnesota on about 150,000 acres, Camp Ripley has been a deployment site for military troops going overseas during World War II, Korea, and more recently, to Iraq and Afghanistan.
MN Military Liaison Chief for Peacekeeping and Rebuilding in Croatia
Among his many achievements, of particular significance and impact was COL Pearson ‘s leadership as the first Minnesota Military Liaison Deputy Team Chief to Croatia in the State Partnership for Peace Program in 1996.
Under the authority of NATO for the Partnership for Peace Program, the Department of Defense and the National Guard Bureau, the State Partnership for Peace Program was established in 1994. Minnesota was one of the first states to participate in the program, partnering with the newly formed nation-state of Croatia, from the Former Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).
While in Croatia, Pearson helped bring home Croatian military personnel from the five-year Bosnian War, rebuild the country, teach them to be a peaceful republic and facilitate the country becoming part of NATO. In 2016, Minnesota and Croatia celebrated the 20th anniversary of this valuable State diplomatic and military partnership.
Helped Bring MN National Guard Aviation Flight Facility to St. Cloud
In 2005, COL Pearson headed up the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce Aviation Location Committee to bring the MN National Guard Aviation Flight Facility to St. Cloud. He was the conduit between the business community in St. Cloud and The Adjutant General's Office (most senior military officer) in St. Paul.
This three-year effort resulted in the St. Cloud Municipal Airport becoming the new flight facility base for two aviation units moving from St. Paul. St. Cloud also became the site of a new hanger/armory housing Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters and providing helicopter maintenance and training missions in support of ground troops training at Camp Ripley for deployment to Iraq.
Keeping POW-MIA Awareness Alive
For more than 10 years, COL Pearson has served on the Board of Directors of Freedom Flight, a St. Cloud-based 501c3 organization that owns and operates four large, black hot air balloons emblazoned with the head of a bald eagle and the letters “POW-MIA.” The balloons have been flown to 42 states and six countries to create awareness of the more than 78,000 men listed as missing in action (MIA) from our combat military since World War II.
Pearson has traveled throughout Minnesota and several other states participating in various veteran and civic/military events with the Freedom Flight Team. The organization participates annually in the Albuquerque Balloon Festival, flies veterans to different locations and provide rides for charitable organization clients such as Make a Wish® Minnesota. Freedom Flight has also organized and completed nine Honor Flight trips for 800 WWII and Korean veterans to fly to Washington DC in association with the national Honor Flight program.
As a lifetime Rotary Club member, Pearson has assisted numerous families of deployed soldier’s through its Veterans’ Assistance Program. Among the more than 15 medals Pearson received during his service career are the Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, NATO Medal and Minnesota Commendation medal.
Pearson says, “It has been a great honor to serve this country and to work with so many professional men and women in uniform to help preserve the freedoms that we so respectfully hold.”