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The Good Life – September-October 2019

On the cover, Fix It Forward - The Mechanics of Faith, Local Hero, Vietnam Veteran - Mike Gruchalla, Having a Beer with the "Voice of the Bison" and Program Director - Jeff Culhane and more in Fargo Moorhead's only men's magazine.

On the cover, Fix It Forward - The Mechanics of Faith, Local Hero, Vietnam Veteran - Mike Gruchalla, Having a Beer with the "Voice of the Bison" and Program Director - Jeff Culhane and more in Fargo Moorhead's only men's magazine.

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FATHERS | MR. FULL-TIME DAD<br />

Five Stages of Toddler Sleep<br />

WRITTEN BY: BEN HANSON<br />

It’s 8:02 p.m. Macklin’s mama and I exchange knowing<br />

looks, reluctantly nod our heads and announce to our<br />

audience of one that it’s time for bed. Our nightly dance is<br />

about to begin, and we wonder, as we start the chase, what<br />

new moves may be introduced into the well-worn routine.<br />

it past<br />

Three seconds later, the sounds of<br />

three-year-old fists banging down<br />

doors made clear we hadn’t yet made<br />

stage two.<br />

Some nights, with naive optimism, I think back to the<br />

days when Mack was an infant and wanted nothing more<br />

than a quick night time bottle before being left alone to<br />

fall quickly asleep in his crib. <strong>The</strong>re wasn’t much cuddling<br />

or soothing required in those early days. If you wanted to<br />

sneak a snuggle, you had to risk waking him up by taking<br />

him out of his crib mid-slumber.<br />

It was well worth it — and still is to steal those precious<br />

moments of silent bonding — but lately, we’ve been getting<br />

our fill during the hour-plus emotional extravaganza that is<br />

toddler bedtime.<br />

My wife, Emily, is a highly experienced and sought after<br />

child and adolescent therapist. A real pro, in other words.<br />

I do my best to follow her lead and pick up on the lessons<br />

she teaches through her interactions with Mack. Her<br />

patience rarely expires, but some nights the challenge of<br />

getting Mack into bed (and keeping him there) can push<br />

even her to the limit.<br />

In the middle of one recent bout with an especially tired<br />

boy, she walked out of Mack’s room and announced, “This<br />

is like grief therapy … hoping we hit acceptance here soon.”<br />

2 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com<br />

Emily nailed it. Like I said, she’s a pro. Mack’s bedtime<br />

has evolved into what we now call the five stages of<br />

toddler sleep grief. Our goal is to navigate our way<br />

through as quickly and as quietly as possible.<br />

Denial<br />

It’s now 8:02 p.m. … and ten seconds. <strong>The</strong> proclamation<br />

of bedtime has been made, and Mack — right on cue —<br />

issues his retort: “No it’s not.” He’s in full-on denial, often<br />

going even further. “I want to wind up!’ he shouts before<br />

turning his back to make his escape. Next to acceptance,<br />

denial is the easiest stage to get past … I simply catch<br />

him, throw him over my shoulder and march him up to<br />

his room.<br />

Anger<br />

8:05 p.m. Time for some old fashioned kicking and<br />

screaming. It’s best to just keep your distance for a few<br />

minutes and let the little guy wear himself down on his<br />

own. It’s not a fool-proof strategy, but it’s better than<br />

catching an errant kick to the shorts. At some point,<br />

we do have to jump in and pry him out of his clothes<br />

before steering him into the bathroom to pee and brush<br />

teeth … and yes, cry-brushing is a common occurrence,


ut we gotta get those sugar bugs out! Anger is the<br />

least enjoyable stage for obvious reasons. Our secret<br />

weapon is Mack’s low tickle threshold. He loves it, and<br />

uncontrollable giggles always help the transition into<br />

stage three … my favorite of the five.<br />

Bargaining<br />

8:20 p.m. A slightly more tired Macklin turns on his<br />

charm and proceeds with his attempt to disarm us with<br />

an onslaught of surprisingly witty compromises he<br />

hopes will score him a few more minutes of playtime.<br />

<strong>The</strong> most common bargains are “just one more story,<br />

please Daddy?” or “how about some nighttime music, is<br />

that a good idea?” or “will you send Mama in?” Lately,<br />

he’s been very concerned about our new robot vacuum<br />

and requests to double-check that it’s safely “at its home”<br />

before he can really feel settled.<br />

Depression<br />

8:50 p.m. After a good 20-30 minutes of stories, more<br />

bargaining and more tickling, Macklin resigns to the fact<br />

that there is no escaping the inevitable. He’s not getting<br />

out of his room until morning, and the revelation crushes<br />

him. Regardless of who does the reading and the initial<br />

tuck-in, the other parent is consistently called in to<br />

replace the starter mid-way through stage four … and the<br />

back-up always gets the best snuggles. A sad toddler is<br />

sad but oh so loveable. Plus, the second parent gets the<br />

win … ushering Mack calmly into stage five.<br />

Acceptance<br />

9:05 p.m. After fifteen minutes or so of soothing Mack<br />

out of his nightly depression, he rolls over, turning his<br />

back to me and says, “<strong>Good</strong>night, Daddy, you can go<br />

now.” Stage five comes and goes in an instant, and it’s as<br />

comforting to me as it is to him. Once stage five hits, we<br />

rarely hear another sound coming from his room, aside<br />

from perhaps one last visit to the bathroom.<br />

Do I miss infant Mack and his astonishingly easy tuckins?<br />

Absolutely. Do I wish Emily and I would have more<br />

time to ourselves before we crash exhaustedly into our<br />

own bed? Yep. Would I give up his<br />

brilliant bargaining and adorable<br />

acceptance stages to avoid the<br />

other three? Nope. Some day,<br />

not too far out, I’m sure I’ll<br />

miss our nightly sleep grief<br />

therapy sessions every bit<br />

as much as I miss the<br />

other struggles that<br />

seemed so endless<br />

… until they were<br />

over. •<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 3


VOLUME 7 • ISSUE 2<br />

CONTENTS<br />

SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER <strong>2019</strong><br />

2<br />

6<br />

10<br />

14<br />

FATHERS - MR. FULL-TIME DAD<br />

FIVE STAGES OF TODDLER SLEEP<br />

FLY LIKE AN EAGLE<br />

AERIAL SPRAYER ERIC KLINDT REACHES<br />

NEW HEIGHTS<br />

RUSTICA - SIMPLICITY AT ITS FINEST<br />

BACK IN BUSINESS: RUSTICA'S OWNERS<br />

CARRY ON TRADITION<br />

HAVING A BEER WITH - JEFF CULHANE<br />

"VOICE OF THE BISON" AND PROGRAM<br />

DIRECTOR FOR BISON 1660<br />

4 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com<br />

18<br />

24<br />

28<br />

30<br />

ON THE COVER - FIX IT FORWARD<br />

THE MECHANICS OF FAITH<br />

FIX IT FORWARD'S IMPACT ON THE<br />

COMMUNITY<br />

LOCAL BAND - THE HUMAN ELEMENT<br />

BETTER TOGETHER<br />

ASK 30 WOMEN<br />

WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WISH ALL<br />

MEN WOULD KNOW?<br />

LOCAL HERO - MIKE GRUCHALLA<br />

FROM THE MIDWEST TO VIETNAM AND<br />

BACK, MIKE GRUCHALLA'S FOCUS HAS<br />

ALWAYS BEEN DOING HIS JOB WELL<br />

AND FIERCELY SERVING OTHERS


PUBLISHED BY<br />

Urban Toad Media LLP<br />

www.urbantoadmedia.com<br />

OWNER / PHOTOGRAPHER<br />

Darren Losee<br />

darren@urbantoadmedia.com<br />

OWNER / GRAPHIC DESIGNER<br />

Dawn Siewert<br />

dawn@urbantoadmedia.com<br />

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS<br />

Meghan Feir<br />

Ben Hanson<br />

Jessica Kuehn<br />

Krissy Ness<br />

Alexis Swenson<br />

ADVERTISING INQUIRIES<br />

Darren Losee<br />

darren@urbantoadmedia.com<br />

READ A PAST ISSUE<br />

issuu.com/thegoodlifemensmag<br />

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facebook.com/urbantoadmedia<br />

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<strong>The</strong> <strong>Good</strong> <strong>Life</strong> Men’s Magazine is distributed six times<br />

a year by Urban Toad Media LLP. Material may not be<br />

reproduced without permission. <strong>The</strong> <strong>Good</strong> <strong>Life</strong> Men’s<br />

Magazine accepts no liability for reader dissatisfaction<br />

arising from content in this publication. <strong>The</strong> opinions<br />

expressed, or advice given, are the views of individual<br />

writers or advertisers and do not necessarily represent<br />

the views or policies of <strong>The</strong> <strong>Good</strong> <strong>Life</strong> Men’s Magazine.<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 5


FLY<br />

LIKE AN EAGLE<br />

Aerial Sprayer Eric Klindt Reaches New Heights<br />

6 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com


“<br />

Of all the dangers<br />

that are in a job, with all<br />

the training you do, it just<br />

becomes normal work that<br />

I don’t really think of as<br />

dangerous anymore.”<br />

WRITTEN BY: JESSICA KUEHN<br />

PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA<br />

Even though many people head to the lakes<br />

in the summertime, you’ll often find Eric<br />

Klindt flying in the sky. As an ag pilot with<br />

Wilbur-Ellis Agribusiness in Wahpeton,<br />

N.D., Klindt is putting his more than 20<br />

years of experience in aerial spraying to<br />

good use.<br />

<strong>The</strong> late David Yaggie from Breckenridge,<br />

Minn., first got Klindt involved with aerial<br />

spraying. Klindt had always wanted to<br />

farm, so he helped Yaggie and his son both<br />

in a tractor on their farm and in a plane<br />

with aerial spraying. Later, he attended<br />

<strong>The</strong> University of Minnesota Crookston,<br />

where he received his commercial pilot’s<br />

license and aerial applicator training.<br />

Even though he really enjoys flying itself<br />

and how every day is different, there’s<br />

something else he loves more than<br />

anything.<br />

“<strong>The</strong> best part is that you get paid to do a<br />

job that you love to do,” he said.<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 7


Eric also uses his plane<br />

to assist in putting out fires<br />

in the community.<br />

Aerial spraying can be dangerous<br />

work, especially when it comes to<br />

the first initial pass with a heavy load<br />

or when you’re taking off a shorter<br />

strip with a full load, but Klindt said<br />

he doesn’t worry about any of that<br />

anymore.<br />

“Of all the dangers that are in a job,<br />

with all the training you do, it just<br />

becomes normal work that I don’t<br />

really think of as dangerous anymore,”<br />

he said.<br />

<strong>The</strong> biggest thing he wants people<br />

to know about aerial spraying is<br />

how much the sprayers care for the<br />

ground, the farmer’s crops and the<br />

environment.<br />

“Some can say that we’re not very<br />

good to the environment by spraying<br />

pesticides, but it’s those pesticides<br />

that help the environment in<br />

controlling weeds and bugs that can<br />

overtake your field,” he said.<br />

One of the most memorable<br />

experiences in his career so far<br />

includes being honored for the<br />

work he’s done in the industry from<br />

the National Agricultural Aviation<br />

Association (NAAA). Another<br />

memorable, albeit sadder, moment<br />

includes doing flyovers at burials<br />

after losing a pilot.<br />

“Those are quite memorable,” he<br />

said. “I mean, that’s something you’ll<br />

never forget for the rest of your life.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re’s probably a lot more I could go<br />

into, but it’s just the fact that you can<br />

do this for a job and basically have<br />

the winters off, even though I find<br />

a lot of stuff to do, that’s rewarding<br />

work.”<br />

According to his bio on Wilbur-Ellis’<br />

website, his motto is “go big or go<br />

home,” which is a message he said he<br />

can’t help but live by, especially when<br />

flying around in his Air Tractor AT-<br />

802.<br />

“I guess there’s nothing I do that’s<br />

little,” he said. “Now in this industry,<br />

it just so happens that I’m flying the<br />

biggest ag plane there is to spray with<br />

in the world, basically, so I can get<br />

a lot done with it, which ultimately<br />

helps the customers and the farmers<br />

that I’m working for.”<br />

With bigger equipment and planes,<br />

more work is being accomplished<br />

more quickly than it used to be,<br />

making the process much more<br />

efficient over time.<br />

“If you go back 20 or 30 years, there<br />

were almost twice as many airplanes<br />

that did our work, but yet the number<br />

of acres that were covered are about<br />

the same, so we cut the planes in half<br />

but we’re still doing the same amount<br />

of work,” he said.<br />

Klindt knows that some people aren’t<br />

fans of the aerial spraying industry,<br />

but he said most of their unhappiness<br />

could be solved with more knowledge<br />

about what they really do.<br />

“Usually the people who don’t like<br />

what we do are just quite ignorant<br />

on what we do,” he said. “I always<br />

say that people claim this stuff is so<br />

Whether it’s cleaning out your toilet or cleaning the countertops, those<br />

chemicals are way more toxic than the stuff that we put in our planes.”<br />

8 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com


horrible. <strong>The</strong> stuff under your kitchen sink is way more<br />

toxic than most of the stuff we put out of our airplane, but<br />

you don’t think twice about that. Whether it’s cleaning out<br />

your toilet or cleaning the countertops, those chemicals<br />

are way more toxic than the stuff that we put in our planes.”<br />

He said that they do use toxic chemicals at times, but that<br />

isn’t all that they do, so he wants to help educate more<br />

people about it.<br />

Another aspect that’s important for people to know about<br />

the industry is the importance of family support due to the<br />

long hours that can often vary due to weather.<br />

“If [the family] doesn’t understand the roles and the<br />

sacrifices that they have to give in the summer when<br />

they’re aerial spraying, that makes it very difficult,” he said.<br />

For example, Klindt was in Iowa during this phone<br />

interview, and then he was going to head to Illinois next. He<br />

said that wouldn’t be possible without an understanding<br />

family since he has to be gone often in the summertime<br />

and work long hours, which causes him to miss family<br />

outings and other events.<br />

“If you don’t have a supportive family, it makes it difficult,<br />

and I’m fortunate that I have a wife and kids that<br />

understand that,” he said.<br />

When asked what the good life means to him, he<br />

responded: “To me, the good life is to be able to live in<br />

a faith community, have a decent job, be able to do the<br />

things you want to do and spend time with your family.” •<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 9


RUSTICA<br />

Simplicity at Its Finest<br />

Back to Business: Rustica’s New Owners Carry on Tradition<br />

WRITTEN BY: MEGHAN FEIR • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA<br />

Rustica Eatery & Tavern, one of Moorhead’s favorite restaurants,<br />

closed its doors earlier this summer for two weeks. Panic ensued<br />

in the hearts of their patrons. Once they were informed it would be<br />

under new management, a second round of panic took place. This<br />

time, it was concern over potential menu changes. Would people still<br />

be able to get their “burrata fix”? Would the fried chicken and pizzas<br />

still be available? Would those items taste just as good, if they were?<br />

Would people’s taste buds ever dance again?<br />

<strong>The</strong>se and other questions bounced in the minds of many, but<br />

thankfully for these loyal customers, the new management team<br />

happened to be equally loyal employees of Eric and Sara Watson,<br />

the previous owners. Executive chef Micah Leitel has worked at the<br />

restaurant and tavern nearly four years, and Anna Weisenburger took<br />

on her role as front house manager in March.<br />

A month after Weisenburger started, the Watsons approached the<br />

two employees, encouraging them to take over the business. It didn’t<br />

take much convincing. Both Leitel and Weisenburger knew they each<br />

wanted their own restaurant someday. “Someday” just came a lot<br />

sooner than they had imagined.<br />

While it’s inevitable the two will gradually make their mark on the<br />

place, they want to keep Rustica customers happy and satisfied by<br />

keeping staples on the menu and the restaurant vibes the same. <strong>The</strong><br />

homey environment, comforting food and occasional twists regulars<br />

have grown to love will continue being a fixture of Rustica.<br />

Read on to learn more about the new owners and<br />

their unique approach toward working in the<br />

hospitality industry.<br />

10 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com


<strong>Good</strong> <strong>Life</strong>: Are there any drastic changes you two have<br />

in the works for this place?<br />

Micah Leitel: Our main goal is consistency. We want to<br />

provide the same experience to the guests they’ve come<br />

to expect. For now, we already have an existing clientele<br />

that love the place, so why mess with that? Give them<br />

what they want in the way they want it. Will it be exactly<br />

the same this time next year? I highly doubt it. It will<br />

always evolve.<br />

Anna Weisenburger: We didn’t<br />

want to rip the rug out<br />

from anybody.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re are some things that just won’t change because<br />

they’re not broken, but we definitely will slowly put<br />

our mark on things.<br />

GL: What’s something unique about how Rustica<br />

functions?<br />

ML: Our kitchen team is pretty awesome. <strong>The</strong>y’re<br />

very dedicated and disciplined, and that’s kind of rare.<br />

Usually, kitchens are very chaotic places, but ours is<br />

serene. Even on a wild Saturday night, nobody’s fighting<br />

with each other. I can’t recall the last argument that was<br />

in the kitchen. That’s something special.<br />

AW: <strong>The</strong>re’s not a lot of drama. Everybody jives together<br />

really well. Another unique thing about our operation<br />

is that we don’t have a specific dishwasher. Everybody<br />

washes dishes back there. If someone isn’t as busy, they<br />

go wash dishes. It is complete teamwork all across the<br />

board. Nobody is too good for anything.<br />

“<br />

We didn’t want to rip the rug out from anybody.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re are some things that just won’t change<br />

because they’re not broken, but we definitely will<br />

slowly put our mark on things.”<br />

— Anna Weisenburger<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 11


GL: Did circumstances or a driving passion lead you<br />

two to where you are now?<br />

ML: I never set out to be a chef, but I’ve worked toward<br />

where I’ve gotten. You experience things and look for<br />

new challenges, and I found a lot of those here. If you<br />

can survive everything, you move on to the<br />

next station or role. I’ve always found that to<br />

be exciting. <strong>The</strong>n you just keep moving and,<br />

eventually, we got to buy the place. That’s<br />

pretty cool.<br />

12 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com<br />

AW: I think for people who take this seriously<br />

and make it their career path, the goal is to<br />

eventually own something. It’s often in the far-off<br />

distance, and a lot of us never get to do it, but once you<br />

reach a management role, what else is there, besides<br />

having your own place?<br />

GL: What makes Rustica so special in town?<br />

AW: I think what makes it unique is that it’s so sought<br />

after. It’s the best of the best. It’s comfort food that’s<br />

done really well and we offer really great service.<br />

ML: Simplicity takes a certain amount of confidence<br />

because you don’t have much to hide behind. <strong>The</strong><br />

technique is very apparent right away. That’s the way<br />

I go at it.<br />

AW: I think the space we’re in also contributes to how<br />

unique we are, as well. This is the oldest bar in town.<br />

Guests can walk in and choose if they want to be in<br />

the tavern or the dining room. You get to pick your<br />

experience.<br />

ML: We occupy that odd middle ground between fastcasual<br />

and fine dining, so guests can really choose<br />

their own adventure when they walk in the door.<br />

GL: What does living “the good life” mean to you?<br />

ML: I’d say it’s being satisfied with what you do.<br />

Whatever it is you’re interested in, if you can turn that<br />

into a career, why not? You don’t need to be rich, just<br />

enjoy what you do. If you’re going to spend 13 hours a


day doing something, you should at least like it and<br />

be able to look back on what you did that day with a<br />

measure of pride.<br />

AW: In the same sense, I feel pretty good about<br />

watching the hard work you’ve put into something<br />

make a difference, like turning a negative situation<br />

into a good one with a guest and just seeing results.<br />

We come in here every day and work really hard. If our<br />

guests are happy with what they get from us, that’s a<br />

day that’s been done well.<br />

ML: I think owning this place would be a very poor<br />

idea if we didn’t absolutely love what we do. I love<br />

Rustica. I have so many good memories, and we’re<br />

making more. •<br />

“<br />

Simplicity takes a certain<br />

amount of confidence<br />

because you don’t have<br />

much to hide behind.<br />

<strong>The</strong> technique is very<br />

apparent right away.<br />

That’s the way I go at it.”<br />

— Micah Leitel<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 13


HAVING A BEER WITH | JEFF CULHANE<br />

“<br />

I think I’ve learned that<br />

time and place are very<br />

important when you have<br />

an opinion. To a certain<br />

extent, you may be right<br />

about something, but it<br />

might not be the right<br />

time to share it.”<br />

14 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com


HAVING A BEER WITH<br />

JEFF CULHANE<br />

"Voice of the Bison" and Program Director for Bison 1660<br />

WRITTEN BY: MEGHAN FEIR • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA<br />

Jeff Culhane’s family has a history — of being in broadcasting,<br />

I mean. His dad and uncle used their voices as announcers for<br />

sporting events on and off the radio. That drew Culhane in.<br />

While his friends would be playing video games, he would be<br />

announcing play-by-plays for them as a kid.<br />

By the time he was 14, Culhane was already working parttime<br />

at a radio station.<br />

After a few years in South Dakota, six years at Husker Sports<br />

Network in Lincoln, Neb., and a stint in Morgantown, W. Va.,<br />

he landed his current role as the official “Voice of the Bison”<br />

for NDSU and the program director for Bison 1660, positions<br />

he’s held for three years. At Bison 1660, Culhane has daily<br />

talk shows and covers football, men’s basketball, baseball<br />

and more. He, along with his team members, tries to cover as<br />

many men’s and women’s sporting events and conferences<br />

as possible.<br />

As we sat in Brewhalla for — what else — a brew and a holla<br />

(sorry), I had the privilege of learning more about the guy<br />

behind the Bison mic.<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 15


HAVING A BEER WITH | JEFF CULHANE<br />

<strong>Good</strong> <strong>Life</strong>: Jeff, you’re from Mitchell,<br />

S.D.?<br />

Jeff Culhane: Yes. <strong>The</strong>y’re famous for the<br />

Corn Palace.<br />

GL: Is Mitchell also famous for other corn<br />

things, like corn hot dishes, corn drinks<br />

and corn candy?<br />

JC: Not really. <strong>The</strong> Corn Palace gift shop has a<br />

lot of candy corn stuff and corncob heads and<br />

who knows what else. My parents actually<br />

own a sports bar right across the street from<br />

the Corn Palace, so corn chowder is on the<br />

menu.<br />

GL: It better be.<br />

GL: Did you have to do some vocal<br />

coaching to get your radio voice, or<br />

did all your practice in elementary school<br />

pay off?<br />

JC: I like to say I have a face for radio and a<br />

voice for newspaper. Not really. I have noticed<br />

through the years how certain things affect it,<br />

like if I drink a sugary drink. On a football game<br />

day, which is long and energetic, I’ll stay away<br />

from any pop and ice-cold water. That sounds<br />

weird, but I know how it makes me feel. I can’t<br />

eat close to or during a broadcast. My wife<br />

Sarah and I have a tradition called Game<br />

Day Breakfast. It’s usually a combination of<br />

eggs, bacon, pancakes or waffles. But, yeah;<br />

no schooling or coaching for the voice. I just<br />

have a feel for what makes my voice strong<br />

or weak.<br />

GL: Did you ever have to work on getting rid of an accent?<br />

Like me — I obviously have a very strong accent of sorts.<br />

Some people think I’m Canadian. I’m not. Some people think I’m<br />

from Alabama. I don’t know. Did you have to work on getting rid<br />

of yours?<br />

JC: Not really. When I get into the broadcast mode, I don’t have the<br />

upper Midwest sound. It’s not too over the top either way.<br />

GL: Yeah, you have a very neutral voice.<br />

JC: I was actually told from a southern school I applied for at one point<br />

that I sounded too northern.<br />

GL: Oh, my goodness. “<strong>The</strong> confederacy can’t handle it.”<br />

JC: That was a legit response from the school. So it’s real. Call it<br />

whatever you want to call it, but you have to sound like the locals to a<br />

certain degree.<br />

GL: Vocal prejudice.<br />

JC: <strong>The</strong>re you go. In this day and age, get outraged.<br />

GL: That’s right. Get upset.<br />

GL: What’s one of your hobbies outside of work?<br />

JC: I like to play golf. I recently told my wife that if we’re ever lucky<br />

enough to retire, a goal would be to play a golf course in every state of<br />

the Union. That would be fun. I’m not very good, but I like to play and I<br />

like to hang out with the guys or Sarah. We just had our first child five<br />

weeks ago, so I would say he’s my number one hobby now.<br />

GL: Congrats! Whoa, that’s a fresh baby.<br />

JC: Thank you. Yes, he’s fresh, in more ways than one. He’s taken<br />

things over, certainly for the better.<br />

GL: What’s your favorite movie?<br />

JC: Saving Private Ryan. I was in high school when it came out, and<br />

I went there with a friend. Of course, when you’re 15 or 16 years old<br />

16 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com


— or guys at any age — crying or<br />

showing any emotion is just not<br />

something you’re quite expected<br />

to do. I remember we sat there<br />

after it ended and we just kind of<br />

looked at each other like, “Who’s<br />

going to say something first?”<br />

It was just such an amazing<br />

account of D-Day, Normandy and<br />

sacrifice.<br />

GL: What’s one of your<br />

biggest personality traits<br />

that have changed since you<br />

were in your early 20s.<br />

JC: I’m quieter than I was then. I<br />

think I’ve learned that time and<br />

place are very important when<br />

you have an opinion. To a certain<br />

extent, you may be right about<br />

something, but it might not be<br />

the right time to share it. I don’t<br />

think there’s anything wrong<br />

about saying what you feel, but<br />

I definitely do think that if you’re<br />

looking to continue improving<br />

relationships and connect with<br />

people, or you’re looking to<br />

improve your career, it’s okay<br />

to not say something from time<br />

to time. That doesn’t mean you<br />

can’t say it at some point.<br />

GL: What’s one thing<br />

you’re really into, almost<br />

like an obsession — besides<br />

sports?<br />

JC: I would probably now say,<br />

my son. As every parent that will<br />

read this knows, it’s just different.<br />

He and Sarah have been<br />

constantly on my mind as she’s<br />

still on maternity leave. I’ve been<br />

thinking about the future and<br />

how to do what’s best and how to<br />

provide, protect and guide, stuff<br />

that was as far away as you could<br />

think it would be a year ago.<br />

GL: What does living the<br />

good life mean to you?<br />

JC: What I’m doing right now. •<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 17


ON THE COVER | FIX IT FORWARD<br />

THE MECHANICS OF FAITH<br />

FIX IT FORWARD'S IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY<br />

WRITTEN BY: MEGHAN FEIR • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA<br />

Auto mechanics. <strong>The</strong>y’re often met with mistrust.<br />

Women, specifically, have been told to watch out for<br />

mechanics that take advantage of the fact that many<br />

girls (myself included) don’t know a whole lot about cars,<br />

although, let’s be honest; many guys don’t either.<br />

Throw that stereotype out the window and imagine what<br />

a car obsession and philanthropy could accomplish<br />

when joined forces.<br />

Matt Carlson and Jeremy Jensen have been car hobbyists<br />

for years. <strong>The</strong>y’re probably the type of guys who tried to<br />

soup up their Hot Wheels as kids, but starting an auto<br />

care shop was never a bucket list item — for either of<br />

them.<br />

Carlson and Jensen met when they attended Moorhead<br />

High School in the ’90s. Years later, they both wound up<br />

at Microsoft and reconnected. It was there where they<br />

creatively merged their passion for cars with their desire<br />

to help others.<br />

Four years ago, their dream became a humble reality<br />

with the beginnings of what is now known as Fix It<br />

Forward Ministry.<br />

A <strong>Life</strong> of Service<br />

Mark 10:45<br />

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but<br />

to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.<br />

After 15 years of working a stable, well-paying job,<br />

Carlson took the leap and began working for Jeremy’s<br />

and his brainchild, Fix It Forward Ministry.<br />

18 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com


“It was a difficult leap,” Carlson said, “but it was a good<br />

time for me to move on, and things fell into place. I felt<br />

like I was called to do this. We really felt like God led us.”<br />

Carlson and Jensen first ran the ministry on a private<br />

property out of town, but the limitations and location<br />

made it difficult. <strong>The</strong>ir shop, while sizable for a residence,<br />

wasn’t large enough to service and store many vehicles.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y also lacked a fenced-in space that could house<br />

donated cars. Despite these frustrations, they still knew<br />

this was what they were supposed to do.<br />

— the perfect spot to start their next idea — an auto care<br />

shop to support the ministry.<br />

“We came up with the idea of just creating the shop and<br />

have it pay for the heat, electricity and the rent. We were<br />

able to get this big building that has enough room for<br />

everyone to work, and by having a regular automotive<br />

shop, we were able to get insurance,” Carlson said. “<strong>The</strong><br />

more we can grow the auto shop, the more we can grow<br />

the ministry because all the equipment is used for both.”<br />

“We found out that if you give away your services,<br />

it’s going to grow quickly,” Carlson said. “We started<br />

by working with the YWCA, and then we went to the<br />

Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. Lots of people have<br />

transportation issues, but if you’re a single mom with five<br />

kids, transporting is really difficult, so we thought we’d<br />

focus on that area. <strong>The</strong>n we went to the homeless shelters<br />

and 40 other organizations in the F-M community.”<br />

As Fix It Forward swiftly grew, they acquired their 501(c)<br />

(3) as a nonprofit and began giving away donated cars<br />

they repaired. Soon a shop with 6,000 square feet,<br />

private offices and a fenced-in area went on the market<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 19


ON THE COVER | FIX IT FORWARD<br />

<strong>Good</strong> Stewards<br />

Throughout this process, God’s impeccable timing and<br />

creative way of providing for every need have reassured<br />

and encouraged Carlson and Jensen.<br />

“Before we changed our name and realized we needed<br />

to start a shop, someone at Jeremy’s church wanted to<br />

help with graphic design. We said, ‘That’s great, but<br />

we don’t really need anything.’ Two months later, we<br />

decided to start the shop and didn’t have a name, a logo<br />

or anything,” Carlson said.<br />

“He saw what we needed before we realized we needed<br />

it,” Jensen said. “By the time we had the building, he had<br />

everything laid out. He was like, ‘Here’s the logo, here’s<br />

the name, here are the colors.’ God put Stephen Dorsey<br />

in our path and knew the exact time we needed him, even<br />

though we had no clue we would. <strong>The</strong> whole ministry<br />

has been one thing like that after another.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> people that have stepped up to the plate to help<br />

the Fix It Forward journey take off have a wide array of<br />

skill sets that are necessary for the mission’s success.<br />

Carlson and Jensen stay in their lane and allow other<br />

experts to assist them as they help those in need to gain<br />

independence and safety. This is one reason they rely on<br />

the organizations to provide the donees.<br />

“It comes back to being good stewards,” Jensen said.<br />

“We want to take the resources God’s given us, whether<br />

it’s financial or people’s time, and apply those in the most<br />

efficient ways possible. Part of that process is making<br />

sure we’re not trying to do those things we’re not called<br />

to do and avren’t skilled to do — letting the organizations<br />

do their work so we’re efficient on our end.”<br />

“We want to give cars to people so they can get that job and<br />

get out of the shelter or away from that abusive person —<br />

whatever it takes so they can be self-sufficient,” Carlson<br />

said. “<strong>The</strong>se case managers are great at identifying the<br />

people who are in that spot. We’re not. We fix the cars.”<br />

Sticking to their interest in fixing cars for a purpose and<br />

allowing others to help them along the way has been<br />

the most efficient way of growing their business and<br />

20 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com


“<br />

We attract people who are<br />

really excited about our<br />

mission, so it’s not just that<br />

they want to turn a wrench;<br />

they want to give back.”<br />

— Matt Carlson, President<br />

ministry. Both Carlson and Jensen encourage<br />

others to use their interests to help others in<br />

unique and practical ways.<br />

“Take the skills God has given you and help<br />

others,” Jensen said. “Take that gift, that passion<br />

and focus it on something bigger than you.”<br />

Finding Purpose<br />

For too many people, work is a source of,<br />

well, very little, besides earning income and,<br />

hopefully, benefits. Sure, you may have a friend<br />

or two at your job, one you can share memes<br />

with for an occasional laugh, but it might be<br />

hard to feel that sense of meaning.<br />

It’s for this very reason that people have<br />

sought out work at Fix It Forward Auto Care.<br />

Carlson and Jensen have never had to post<br />

job advertisements because the reward of the<br />

purpose is so palpable.<br />

“We have six employees here now. We haven’t<br />

ever put an ad out to hire someone,” Carlson<br />

said. “God keeps dropping the right people<br />

in place for us. That’s kind of unique in this<br />

industry.”<br />

As with many blue-collar jobs, there has been<br />

a national shortage of auto mechanics, and the<br />

turnover rate can be high. For Fix It Forward<br />

employees and volunteers, the impact their<br />

work makes in the lives of others keeps them<br />

satisfied.<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 21


“We attract people who are really excited about our<br />

mission, so it’s not just that they want to turn a wrench;<br />

they want to give back,” Carlson said.<br />

“It’s a job with a big bonus,” Jensen said. “It’s very hard<br />

to find a career or a paying job in this industry that has<br />

that purpose or mission tied to it where you can go to<br />

work not only to achieve wages but to give back to the<br />

community, too.”<br />

Fix It Forward Auto Care opened 16 months ago and<br />

continues to grow alongside the ministry. <strong>The</strong>y currently<br />

have six employees and had over 75 volunteers involved<br />

with the mission in 2018. <strong>The</strong>y’ve also been able to fix<br />

up and give away 178 cars to those in need. That number<br />

continues to grow because of the generosity of others.<br />

Many of Fix It Forward’s volunteers are a part of Carlson<br />

and Jensen’s church families. It’s been a well-received<br />

opportunity, especially for the men of their congregations.<br />

“One of the struggles of the church is to get men<br />

involved. Statistically, if a man is involved in his faith,<br />

the family follows, but how do you get men involved in<br />

the churches? Most men don’t want to serve cupcakes<br />

at funerals. That’s not our calling, and nobody wants<br />

Jeremy singing in the choir,” Carlson said. “So you have<br />

to provide opportunities for these guys. For a percentage<br />

of the population of the congregation, this gets them<br />

involved.”<br />

Living the <strong>Good</strong> <strong>Life</strong><br />

When asked how they would describe what “living the<br />

good life” means to them, the friends’ answers were as<br />

meaningful as their mission.<br />

“I think as I grow and, hopefully, become wiser, living<br />

the good life is following the pattern that Jesus laid out,”<br />

Jensen said. “Living the good life is doing the best I can<br />

to take what God has given me and do good for others on<br />

the path he has for me. It really comes down to that —<br />

that giving back and living a life of service.”<br />

“My thought is basically living out your faith,” Carlson<br />

said. “Jeremy and I are both doers. One of my favorite<br />

mottos is ‘Less talk. More do,’ so living out the faith is<br />

going out there and doing those things that your faith<br />

talks about, which is serving others. It’s a different way<br />

of saying the exact same thing that Jeremy said, but that’s<br />

22 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com


probably why we work on so much<br />

together. I think most of the people<br />

working with us would answer in<br />

the same way. <strong>The</strong>y feel that need<br />

to serve.”<br />

Get Involved<br />

If you would like to get involved<br />

with the ministry, here are a<br />

number of ways you can help their<br />

efforts grow.<br />

1 Volunteer. Help fix cars during<br />

the evenings or weekends, or offer<br />

to visit with clients as they wait for<br />

their cars.<br />

2 Donate your car, if your car is<br />

repairable.<br />

3 Give a gift. Cash donations help<br />

pay for the car parts.<br />

4 Get your car fixed at Fix It<br />

Forward Auto Care. This is how<br />

they keep the heat and lights on<br />

and how the ministry stays afloat.<br />

In order to receive help from<br />

Fix It Forward, each individual<br />

must have a referral from a case<br />

manager connected to the YWCA,<br />

Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, or<br />

one of the 40 organizations Fix It<br />

Forward Ministry works with on a<br />

case-by-case scenario. •<br />

“<br />

Living the good life is<br />

doing the best I can to<br />

take what God has given<br />

me and do good for<br />

others on the path he<br />

has for me. It really comes<br />

down to that — that<br />

giving back and living a<br />

life of service.”<br />

— Jeremy Jensen, Vice<br />

President<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 23


LOCAL BAND<br />

THE HUMAN ELEMENT<br />

Better Together<br />

WRITTEN BY: KRISSY NESS<br />

PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA<br />

Interviewing local Fargo-<br />

Moorhead bands has<br />

become the highlight of<br />

my life these days. From<br />

meeting new people and<br />

listening to music I know<br />

or I am hearing for the<br />

first time is such a rush<br />

and always a treat.<br />

For this article, I had the<br />

pleasure of interviewing<br />

the members of <strong>The</strong><br />

Human Element. Seth<br />

Holden is on drums and<br />

is the resident comedian<br />

(although they are all<br />

hilarious), Matt Johnson<br />

is their lead guitarist and<br />

sings vocals, Brant Niemi<br />

is their bass player and<br />

bookkeeper, and Kari<br />

Marie plays they keyboard<br />

and sings vocals.<br />

“We’ve been playing since<br />

2015 as a band - Seth,<br />

Kari, and myself and<br />

Brant came aboard in<br />

2018,” Said Matt. With<br />

that being said they have<br />

been playing music for<br />

many years, whether it’s in<br />

other bands like O’Fosho,<br />

Sovereign Sect, Living In<br />

Tent City, or just jamming -<br />

these four have talent like<br />

no other.<br />

Before adding Brant to the<br />

band they group can agree<br />

there was something<br />

missing. “Brant was like<br />

the Ironman that put the<br />

ship back together,” said<br />

Kari Marie. “He is our<br />

magical unicorn,” added<br />

Matt.<br />

Although his band mates<br />

are singing his praise, the<br />

love they all have for each<br />

other is admirable. Our<br />

interview was a mere 35<br />

minutes, definitely one of<br />

the shortest interviews<br />

24 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com


“<br />

When we were<br />

talking about what<br />

we should call<br />

ourselves once we<br />

decided this was<br />

a cohesive unit,”<br />

said Kari Marie,<br />

“one of the things I<br />

thought was quite<br />

prevalent is that<br />

regardless if we<br />

have original music<br />

or if we are playing<br />

cover tunes is that<br />

we each bring our<br />

own element or we<br />

each bring our own<br />

humanity to the<br />

songs.”<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 25


LOCAL BAND | THE HUMAN ELEMENT<br />

I’ve ever conducted, but it was filled with so<br />

much laughter, knowledge, and love that I felt<br />

like I’d been friends with them for years.<br />

What does <strong>The</strong> Human Element mean, you<br />

might be asking yourself?<br />

“When we were talking about what we should<br />

call ourselves once we decided this was a<br />

cohesive unit,” said Kari Marie, “one of the<br />

things I thought was quite prevalent is that<br />

regardless if we have original music or if we<br />

are playing cover tunes is that we each bring<br />

our own element or we each bring our own<br />

humanity to the songs.”<br />

No matter how hard you try you can never<br />

recreate what the original artist made, but you<br />

can bring your own element to that cover.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Human Element describes their sound as a<br />

mix of funk and singer-songwriter. It is definitely<br />

music you want to get up and move to and you<br />

really feel connected to the band when they play.<br />

“<strong>The</strong> music is so much better when you love<br />

who you play it with and love what you do,” said<br />

Seth. “It has got to be fun” added Matt.<br />

26 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com


As a group, <strong>The</strong> Human Element doesn’t take their<br />

music lightly but they approach it with a lighthearted<br />

attitude and correct their errors with little<br />

to no confrontation.<br />

“We never dwell on mistakes we’ve made while<br />

were playing or after,” said Seth. “ We may chuckle<br />

about it after the show, but then (that mistake) will<br />

never happen again.”<br />

It is easy to tell by talking with one or all the<br />

members, attending a show, or listening along in<br />

your car that they really love what they do when<br />

they are playing together in this band.<br />

“We never obsess over how we played in the show,<br />

we obsess over how fun it was to play the show,”<br />

Matt. “<strong>The</strong>re is always musicians to play with, but<br />

there is not always musicians to play together,”<br />

added Seth.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re is more to just music when it comes to<br />

shows though, “<strong>The</strong> sound and light crew are just<br />

as equally important as we are,” said Kari Marie.<br />

“It’s not always just that the songs were good, it’s<br />

how does the audience look, how crisp was the<br />

kick drum, can I hear Matt’s guitar or Kari’s Keys?”<br />

added Brant.<br />

Everyone brings their own special part to a band<br />

whether it is songwriting, composing, or making<br />

sure the sound quality is the best it can be.<br />

“We’ve been elevated to another level of magical<br />

playing since we’ve had Brant,” said Kari Marie.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Human Element is in the process of recording<br />

a live album along with their third studio album,<br />

the date is not set yet, but you can find their music<br />

on iTunes, Spotify, Orange Records in downtown<br />

Fargo or at any one of their shows.<br />

For all upcoming shows check out their Facebook<br />

page and check out some of their live shows on<br />

YouTube, you won't be disappointed. •<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 27


ASK 30 WOMEN<br />

WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WISH ALL MEN<br />

WOULD KNOW?<br />

“Yeah, I know.” “I knew that already.” “I know everything.”… False! You know some things, but not<br />

everything, about the important ladies in your life. You really don’t, and we can prove it. We asked 30<br />

women “What is something you wish all men would know?”<br />

1. Don’t try to fix it - just listen!<br />

2. Chivalry is not dead. We<br />

always appreciate when you<br />

hold open doors, or offer to carry<br />

our things.<br />

3. Women are like cats. We<br />

want attention when we want<br />

attention. But too much and we<br />

might bite/claw/scratch.<br />

4. Reaching to hold hands in the<br />

car or in public actually means<br />

a lot.<br />

5. It’s not always about the<br />

big extravagant things. Little<br />

gestures like doing laundry and<br />

dishes are appreciated.<br />

6. When you leave the toilet seat<br />

up, we fall in. It’s not fun getting<br />

wet buns!<br />

7. It’s the little<br />

things that<br />

mean a lot.<br />

8. <strong>The</strong>re is<br />

nothing<br />

wrong with<br />

owning an<br />

expensive<br />

handbag.<br />

Nothing!<br />

11. When we are venting, a<br />

great question to ask is, “Are<br />

you just venting or do you want<br />

me to help you solve this issue?”<br />

Because sometimes we just<br />

need to get it out but we will<br />

handle it on our own.<br />

12. Even strong and<br />

independent women appreciate<br />

hugs, hand holding, and kisses<br />

on the forehead.<br />

13. Women like to be told they<br />

look nice. Everyone likes to be<br />

complimented.<br />

14. “You look fine” is not an<br />

acceptable answer.<br />

15. How lucky you are to not<br />

have to sit on a toilet in a public<br />

restroom.<br />

16. <strong>The</strong>y<br />

should know<br />

women are the<br />

stronger sex.<br />

19. <strong>The</strong>y could avoid two<br />

hour long conversations by<br />

communicating well for five<br />

minutes.<br />

20. We always notice when you<br />

check out another woman. No<br />

matter how hard you try to hide<br />

it - we know.<br />

21. We love any romantic<br />

gesture.<br />

22. How much cramps hurt.<br />

23. No matter what we say,<br />

we always appreciate things<br />

like unexpected flowers or<br />

compliments or just coming up<br />

behind us for a hug that isn’t<br />

attached to any expectations.<br />

FLOWERS?<br />

IT'S NOT EVEN<br />

MY BIRTHDAY!<br />

24. We like Star<br />

Wars too.<br />

25. We shave<br />

our legs for<br />

you, not<br />

ourselves.<br />

26. A man<br />

who cooks is a<br />

dream come true.<br />

27. We take so long getting<br />

ready to look good for you.<br />

9. We know<br />

they’re not gonna<br />

understand us, but<br />

at least try.<br />

10. Money<br />

is not<br />

impressive.<br />

28 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com<br />

17. How to put the lid<br />

down.<br />

18. We need<br />

to hear “I love<br />

you” even if<br />

you are out<br />

with your guy<br />

friends.<br />

28. I need to hear how you feel<br />

about me often.<br />

29. Stop competing and start<br />

listening. It's a team project, not<br />

a race.<br />

30. My mood swings are<br />

hormonal, not personal.


urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 29


LOCAL HERO | MIKE GRUCHALLA<br />

WRITTEN BY: ALEXIS SWENSON<br />

PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA<br />

When Mike Gruchalla arrived in<br />

Saigon, Vietnam on January 11, 1970,<br />

he hit the ground rolling - literally.<br />

“As soon as we touched down at the<br />

airport base ... the Viet Cong started<br />

mortaring us. <strong>The</strong> airplane got to the<br />

end of the runway, started taxiing<br />

back, lowered the back ramp on<br />

the airplane ... we exited while the<br />

airplane was still taxiing ready to<br />

take off. So, I hit the ground rolling,”<br />

explained Gruchalla.<br />

Merely seven months prior the<br />

19-year-old had been drafted to serve<br />

in the Vietnam War.<br />

“I drafted and then I enlisted [in the<br />

Army] because my older brother had<br />

gone AWOL. I figured that if I enlisted<br />

and volunteered to be a medic and<br />

got sent to Vietnam, it would keep<br />

my brother out of Vietnam,” said<br />

Gruchalla.<br />

30 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com<br />

Gruchalla volunteered to be a medic<br />

simply because he knew they were<br />

needed and assumed it would send<br />

him to Vietnam.<br />

In August 1969, Gruchalla left for<br />

Fort Lewis, Washington to complete<br />

basic training followed by Advanced<br />

Individual Training (Gruchalla’s<br />

medic training) in Fort Sam Houston,<br />

Texas. After the abbreviated training,<br />

Gruchalla went home for Christmas<br />

leave and arrived in Vietnam on<br />

January 11, 1970.<br />

<strong>Life</strong> in Vietnam<br />

Gruchalla felt life at base camp was far<br />

less appealing than getting out in the<br />

field and often volunteered for patrol<br />

with any group that wanted a medic.<br />

“I didn’t like being at base camp<br />

where I had to have spit-shine shoes,<br />

a pressed uniform; I wanted to do my<br />

job,” said Gruchalla.<br />

This willingness to go out with anyone<br />

— Koreans or other allies — exposed<br />

Gruchalla to extremely dangerous<br />

situations. In the course of nearly 2<br />

years, Gruchalla found himself in 15<br />

different tunnels, being shot, surviving<br />

four helicopter crashes, and being run<br />

over by a tank.<br />

Earning the Combat Medical<br />

Badge Medal<br />

Most memorably, Gruchalla cites the<br />

event that earned him the Combat<br />

Medical Badge Medal, because,<br />

“there were only 2,231 combat medic<br />

badges awarded in Vietnam.”<br />

“On July 2nd, I was sent out to a<br />

firebase ... <strong>The</strong> night of the 2nd, we<br />

got attacked. When the attack started<br />

the enemy was playing Johnny Cash,<br />

Charlie Pride, and other country<br />

songs over loudspeakers in the jungle.<br />

Over a period of five or six hours, we<br />

threw everything at them we had.


“<br />

That badge says I did<br />

my job. I think I did<br />

it well. I wish I could<br />

have saved more,<br />

but there’s only so<br />

much you can do.”<br />

<strong>–</strong> Mike Gruchalla<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 31


LOCAL HERO | MIKE GRUCHALLA<br />

We even lowered the guns and fired<br />

beehive rounds (155 howitzer with<br />

seal darts), said Gruchalla.<br />

“... I was dragging a wounded soldier<br />

into the command bunker with the<br />

help of another guy. A satchel charge<br />

went off in front of us, blew me into<br />

the tunnel, and as soon as I got into<br />

that tunnel, they blew it. That sealed<br />

the entrance.<br />

“<strong>The</strong>re were 38 of us in the bunker<br />

and we called in an A-B52 strike on<br />

our position. When it was all done,<br />

63 GI’s died. 38 of us got off. I was<br />

number 38.<br />

“When we got dug out, it was my job<br />

to tag and bag the 63 guys. <strong>The</strong> first<br />

guy that I tagged and bagged was<br />

the guy that was helping me with the<br />

wounded man. He had the flag from<br />

that firebase inside his shirt. And, I<br />

32 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com<br />

have that flag today,” said Gruchalla.<br />

According to the American War<br />

Library, the Combat Medical Badge<br />

Medal was established to recognize<br />

medical personnel who experienced<br />

combat while providing medical<br />

assistance to wounded personnel.<br />

“That badge says I did my job. I think<br />

I did it well. I wish I could have saved<br />

more, but there’s only so much you<br />

can do,” said Gruchalla.<br />

Gruchalla’s Medals<br />

Gruchalla also received a Purple<br />

Heart Medal, a Bronze Star Medal,<br />

and a Silver Star Medal, but the only<br />

paperwork he has is for the Combat<br />

Medical Badge Medal.<br />

“When I came home from Vietnam, it<br />

took me 4 months to get my things …<br />

<strong>The</strong>y were going through and taking<br />

things out ... because they made<br />

references to where I was,” explained<br />

Gruchalla.<br />

Gruchalla reasons that the paperwork<br />

was confiscated because he carried<br />

out some of his work in Cambodia<br />

and Laos <strong>–</strong> a direct violation of<br />

international law.<br />

“We weren’t supposed to be there,”<br />

said Gruchalla.<br />

Per military rules, an individual is<br />

allowed to wear their medals if they<br />

have paperwork to verify earning<br />

them. As such, Gruchalla continues<br />

to be denied from wearing the<br />

medals. Initially frustrated, he has<br />

now reached a resolve of sorts.<br />

“It hurt at first, but it doesn’t matter<br />

now. My dad saw my medals and<br />

that’s all that counts,” said Gruchalla.


“<br />

It hurt at first, but it<br />

doesn’t matter now. My<br />

dad saw my medals and<br />

that’s all that counts.”<br />

<strong>–</strong> Mike Gruchalla<br />

Coming Home<br />

Despite diligently doing his job to help fellow soldiers,<br />

Specialist Spc. 4 Gruchalla’s homecoming was<br />

characterized by a negative public perception of<br />

Vietnam veterans.<br />

“... On the flight from Minneapolis to Fargo, the only<br />

seat that was available was first class. <strong>The</strong>re was a guy<br />

sitting in the window seat next to me. As soon as the<br />

plane took off, he went and sat with the stewardesses;<br />

he didn’t want to sit by a Vietnam vet. When we landed<br />

in Fargo, nobody got off the plane until I did. <strong>The</strong>y all<br />

waited at the back of the baggage claim area until I got<br />

my bag and walked out the door,” said Gruchalla.<br />

In the following weeks, Gruchalla determinedly<br />

attempted to register for college.<br />

“I dressed the part <strong>–</strong> bell-bottoms, shirt with puffy<br />

sleeves, the beads, the whole thing. But, I went up to<br />

the registrar's office and pretty much got chased off of<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 33


LOCAL HERO | MIKE GRUCHALLA<br />

Moorhead State. I had short hair,<br />

I was a Vietnam vet, I was a ‘baby<br />

killer’, said Gruchalla.<br />

“I went home. I spent four months<br />

in my folks’ basement growing out<br />

my hair. I didn’t go out for anything<br />

because I didn’t know if I would be<br />

accepted for having medium length<br />

hair,” said Gruchalla.<br />

A Continued Medical Career<br />

Eventually, Gruchalla acquired a<br />

job in the medical field, continuing<br />

to care for hurting people. For 10<br />

years, he worked at Dakota Hospital<br />

for orthopedic surgeons. <strong>The</strong>n,<br />

he spent the next 27 years at the<br />

Fargo VA Hospital working in the<br />

operating room.<br />

Gruchalla saw firsthand how much<br />

of what the medics learned in<br />

Vietnam was put into practice on<br />

American soil.<br />

“It was a slow process, but it went<br />

from ambulances basically being<br />

34 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com<br />

a meat wagon ... to someone riding<br />

in the ambulance able to initiate<br />

medical treatment. And, with that,<br />

the use of helicopters to transport<br />

because we found out in Vietnam<br />

that we only had basically an hour<br />

before things would permanently<br />

die,” said Gruchalla.<br />

“My Lives as a Medic”<br />

At the consistent urging of a VA doctor<br />

and Gruchalla’s now-wife, Gruchalla<br />

authored a book outlining the stories<br />

he carries from the Vietnam War. He<br />

was reluctant at first, in part due to<br />

his dyslexia which made the writing<br />

process challenging, though he’s glad<br />

now that he wrote it.<br />

“My Lives as a Medic: A Soldier’s<br />

Journal in Vietnam” provides a<br />

raw, honest memoir of Gruchalla’s<br />

experience in the Vietnam War.<br />

Giving Back Today<br />

Gruchalla wasn’t always involved - or<br />

invited - into veterans organizations.<br />

“When I first came home, the VFWs<br />

and the American Legions called me<br />

... they both told me they didn’t want<br />

me. ‘Vietnam was not a war ... we<br />

don’t want the Vietnam vets’,” said<br />

Gruchalla.<br />

Many years later, prompted by the<br />

positive change in the public’s view<br />

of Vietnam veterans, Gruchalla<br />

joined the VFW, AM Vets, Disabled<br />

American Veterans, and Vietnam<br />

Veterans of America.<br />

Gruchalla helps the Vietnam<br />

Veterans of America with their 5K<br />

and 10K races as a crossing guard<br />

and is involved with the Fargo<br />

Moorhead Vietnam Veterans Week<br />

in May.<br />

Furthermore, for the past four years,<br />

Gruchalla has volunteered with<br />

the Veterans Honor Flight of ND/<br />

MN, a nonprofit created solely to<br />

honor America’s veterans for their<br />

sacrifices. He assists in Honor Flight<br />

fundraising events and has been the<br />

cook for the past 2 years.


Helping with the Honor Flight is a rewarding<br />

experience for Gruchalla, and his favorite part is “just<br />

seeing the veterans as they see the memorials.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Good</strong> <strong>Life</strong><br />

“In spite of being diagnosed with cancer and having<br />

a stroke, I’ve had a good life. And, most people would<br />

say a good life ... with friends and family. ... I have<br />

associations and acquaintances because in Vietnam<br />

I learned that you don’t want to be friends with<br />

anybody because when friends die, it hurts. When we<br />

acquaintances die, it’s not as bad,” said Gruchalla.<br />

Undoubtedly, the Vietnam War played a large role in<br />

Gruchalla’s life although he’s not solely defined by his<br />

years serving. Rather, his life in whole is a greater<br />

representation of his values.<br />

When looking at Gruchalla’s experiences, it is evident<br />

that in enlisting to protect his brother, working as a<br />

Combat Medic, 37 years in the medical field, writing<br />

a book, and volunteering with veterans organizations,<br />

his primary focus has always been caring for others.<br />

“... I wouldn’t change a thing. It was meant to be. And,<br />

like I said, it’s been a good life,” said Gruchalla. •<br />

“<br />

... I wouldn’t change a thing.<br />

It was meant to be. And, like I<br />

said, it’s been a good life.”<br />

<strong>–</strong> Mike Gruchalla<br />

“My Lives a Medic: A Soldier’s Journal in Vietnam”<br />

can be purchased by emailing:<br />

pmatsonr@hotmail.com<br />

urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 35


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