SUBSCRIBE NOW AND SAVE 3 months just 99¢/month



Northlands Rescue Mission banquet to feature Purple Heart recipient as guest speaker

Annual banquet and silent auction set for Thursday, Nov. 11 at Alerus Center

Tony Drees, a Gulf War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, will be the keynote speaker at the Northlands Rescue Mission annual banquet on Thursday, Nov. 11 at the Alerus Center. (Submitted photo)

Gulf War veteran and Purple Heart recipient Tony Drees is returning to his hometown as the guest speaker at the annual Northlands Rescue Mission banquet Thursday, Nov. 11, at the Alerus Center.

This year’s event is focused on homeless veterans. Proceeds from the banquet will support the Northlands Rescue Mission and the Backpack Program for Kids.

Tickets for the Mission of Hope Banquet are $55 per person and table sponsorships are $550 or higher. Guests may attend in-person or virtually.

Drees, who lives in Denver, will share his experience as a veteran and his perspective on meeting and overcoming obstacles.

He is a “charismatic speaker,” said Sue Shirek, executive director of the Northlands Rescue Mission.


Years ago, as a child, Drees came to Grand Forks as a member of a military family, she said. Due to difficulties in his family, he was removed from that home and placed with John and Vivian Drees, of rural Grand Forks, who became his foster parents.

As a young man serving in the U.S. military’s Gulf War in Saudi Arabia, Tony Drees was in his barracks on the evening of Feb. 25, 1991, when the compound was bombed. Iraqi forces had launched a Scud missile attack that killed more than two dozen U.S. soldiers and wounded many others, according to a news release from Northlands Rescue Mission.

Drees remembers the attack vividly.

“We heard the air raid siren,” he said. “I heard, specifically, the sergeant say, ‘Close the door! Close the door!’ The next thing, I felt, more than I heard, the most concussive force …. It literally knocked me off my feet.”

During the attack, Drees was struck by shrapnel which shattered the femur bone in his leg and led to more than 70 surgeries over the following years. That injury is best treated as an open wound, Shirek said, but after he returned to the U.S., the wound was closed, which resulted in the eventual loss of his leg.

The attack also changed the direction of Drees’ life. He became a fearless advocate for veterans and people who are experiencing hardship.

As a group, veterans constitute about 6% of the U.S. population, but 8% of homeless people in the U.S. are veterans, according to Matthew Collings, communications coordinator for the Mission. Many veterans deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or don’t have a strong support system in place, making a return to civilian life difficult.

Last year, the Mission served 29 homeless veterans, providing food and shelter, in addition to housing, employment and mental health support, Collings said.


The public is invited to hear about the work of the Mission at the annual banquet, along with a message from Mayor Brandon Bochenski. A video featuring testimonials by clients of the Mission will also be shown.

At Thursday’s event, a social hour with hors d’oeuvres and silent auction viewing begins at 5 p.m., with dinner and the program at 7 p.m. More than 100 packages are available for bidding, including home decor, sports memorabilia, family and date-night packages and more. The online auction opens Tuesday, Nov. 9, and closes Thursday, Nov. 11. Auction registration is free at . All proceeds will benefit homeless men, women and veterans through the Northlands Rescue Mission.

Banquet information and tickets are available at .

Anyone who wishes to contribute to the auction, or make a monetary donation, may contact Korrin at 701-772-6600, ext. 215, or email .

For more information, call Collings at the Mission, 701-772-6600, ext. 212.

What to read next
Group hopes to raise enough funds to repair roof to transform site into a cultural center
What do you remember from the first week of 2022?