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Minnesota National Guard soldier remembered for dedication to public service

Updated: December 12, 2019 06:41 PM

The first of three funerals for a group of Minnesota National Guard soldiers who died in a helicopter crash was held Thursday in central Minnesota.

Warrant Officer Candidate Kort Plantenberg, of Avon, was given full military honors following a funeral service that was held at the Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville.

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Following the service, two Black Hawk helicopters from the Iowa National Guard flew over the chapel.

Members of Plantenberg’s guard unit were in attendance, along with other law enforcement officials from the area.

The 28-year-old recently left a job as a corrections officer with the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot, according to a tweet from the agency.

Sheriff Steve Soyka first met the Plantenberg nearly a decade ago when Plantenberg signed up as a Stearns County Sheriff Explorer. Soyka served as an adviser to that program, which connects young adults with law enforcement experience and professionals.

Funeral arrangements set for 3 National Guardsmen killed in Stearns County helicopter crash

“He’s definitely driven,” Soyka said in an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “He knew he wanted to be in law enforcement or the military even back in his Explorer days.”

The sheriff described Plantenberg as a hard worker who was easy to get along with.

Plantenberg also served for two years on the county’s water patrol before transitioning into his role as a corrections officer, the sheriff said. He left the position in July after learning he’d been accepted to the state’s Warrant Officer Program.

Plantenberg was scheduled to start flight school next fall.

Soyka said his men who work in the jail are feeling the impact of the loss. Counselors were brought in last week after news of the crash to help those we needed it.

“When it’s someone you know, it makes it so much more personal,” he said. “It’s one thing to go to an accident, but it’s another to have this when it kind of hits close to home.”

The soldier was an avid outdoorsman, spending time hunting and fishing, according to this obituary. He leaves behind his parents, his grandmother and sister.

Chief Warrant Officers Charles Nord and James Rogers Jr. will be laid to rest in their hometowns in the coming days.

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Kirsten Swanson

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