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ROTC Snow Angels lend helping hand to veterans with disabilities

Published March 28, 2014

When the snow begins flying and blizzard-like winds sweep across campus, many NDSU students hunker down in residence halls and apartments. For a group of Army ROTC cadets, it’s the signal to begin mobilizing snow removal teams.

For the last two winters, teams of NDSU Army ROTC cadets have helped Fargo-Moorhead military veterans clear snow from sidewalks and driveways following significant snow events. The program, called Snow Angels, provides a needed service to veterans while teaching leadership to cadets.

With more than 20 years of Army service, Robert Fugere remains active supporting fellow area veterans. Lately, he’s been busy raising funds for the next Honor Flight, which provides free transportation to World War II veterans interested in visiting their memorial in Washington, D.C.

However, service-related disabilities make it difficult for the 71-year-old to keep the sidewalks and driveway clean at the corner-lot house he’s lived at in north Fargo since 1992. In previous years, Fugere had to pay someone to remove snow. Now he turns to the Snow Angels.

Cadet Daniel Grages is leading this year’s efforts. The senior from Montevideo, Minn., who is majoring in electrical engineering, joined the Army ROTC his freshman year. He attended NDSU primarily on the strength of its engineering program. He plans to pursue a career in the growing field of biomedical engineering.

Grages said the Snow Angels enjoy helping veterans with disabilities who otherwise would have difficulties removing snow. “It’s positive for them and enriching for us,” he said. “It’s always a fun experience when veterans come out and talk with us.”

Following a large snowfall, teams of four or five cadets are dispatched to several homes in Fargo and Moorhead. Team leaders coordinate efforts on both sides of the river.

“They let me know when they plan on arriving,” Fugere said. “One time I came running out with a shovel in my hand. They said, ‘No, you put that shovel away.’”

After a January storm, city snowplows left ice chunks Fugere measured at nearly 7 inches thick on his driveway. “Those weighed up to 50 pounds,” he said. “The cadets said it was good weight lifting.”

Grages said the experience offers leadership lessons for those coordinating the teams. It’s essentially a lesson in mobilizing a team and carrying out a mission.

He said the work is excellent training for a month-long Leadership Development and Assessment Course held each summer in Fort Lewis, Wash. The event pits ROTC cadets from around the country against each other in a series of training events. It’s considered the centerpiece of the ROTC program.

“It’s good to put MS3s, or those in the third year of the program, in charge,” Grages said. “They are learning the roles of becoming an Army officer. When I was an MS1 and MS2, it was some of the first introductions into Army operations and Army life.”

Lt. Col. Ted M. Preister, professor of military science, said the project also focuses on service. “Selfless service is one of the seven core Army values that we strive to foster in our cadets as they prepare to become Army officers,” he said.

The program is just one of several community outreach projects. Last year, Army ROTC cadets helped build a new fence around the Red River Zoo.

“It’s about doing the right thing,” Grages said. “It’s about being leaders in the community and showing cadets how to do that.”

For more information about the NDSU Army ROTC program, visit


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North Dakota State University
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