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Gov. Doug Burgum, Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer issue statements after death of Grand Forks resident Gen. Al Palmer

Palmer was instrumental in the construction of Veterans Memorial Park in Grand Forks.

Retired Brig. Gen. Al Palmer, speaking at right, was the chairman of the Veteran's Memorial Park Committee and master of ceremonies for the dedication of the Veteran's Park, Sept. 11, 2021. The visitors center at the park is named in Palmer's honor. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Retired Brig. Gen. Al Palmer "had an immeasurable and lasting impact" on aviation in the state, Gov. Doug Burgum said Wednesday evening.

The governor and the state's two U.S. senators all commented Wednesday evening on Palmer, a Grand Forks man who died Tuesday due to COVID complications.

"Al Palmer had an immeasurable and lasting impact on aviation in North Dakota, from his quiet, steady leadership in the Air National Guard to his roles as a flight instructor and director of flight operations at UND, to coming out of retirement to help lead the UAS program at UND in its early stages,” Burgum said in a statement.

As governor, Burgum is commander-in-chief of the state's National Guard. Palmer joined the North Dakota Air National Guard in 1981 and eventually served as chief of staff and assistant adjutant general. That came after service in the Vietnam War in the 1970s; he also spent three decades at UND's John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

Most recently, he was one of the chief boosters of Veterans Memorial Park, a years-long project that culminated in September with the park's dedication. The visitor center there bears his name, an honor that he was reluctant to accept.


“Al enjoyed helping others succeed and was a strong advocate for the National Guard," Burgum said. "He cared deeply for his fellow veterans, and we are grateful for his service on the Task Force for Veterans Affairs and for his service to his country. Kathryn and I extend our heartfelt prayers and condolences to his family and friends.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., called Palmer a "wise a compassionate man and a great friend."

“Al Palmer dedicated his career to the military, aviation, and supporting veterans," Cramer said. "He was a member of my Military Academy and Veterans Advisory Boards, always providing valued advice. I am forever thankful for his service to our nation in the U.S. Air Force and North Dakota Air National Guard, as well as his support of the UND Aerospace program. His family and friends are in our prayers.”

Said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.: “Brig. Gen. Palmer was a pivotal leader in North Dakota aviation and aerospace and served our nation honorably as a member of both the Air Force and the North Dakota Air National Guard. We look back on his life with gratitude for the many contributions he made, not only in defending our nation, but also in supporting the training of generations of pilots and helping advance North Dakota’s leadership in unmanned aviation. He will be missed and remembered fondly. Mikey and I send our thoughts and prayers to his family and loved ones.”

And on social media, U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., said Palmer "served North Dakota and our country honorably. During his more than 30 years with the University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, he helped our state become a leader in UAS. Our prayers are with his family."

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