A life of service, and a devotion to family.

That is how those who knew Charlie Nord — from his friends in Perham and Vergas to colleagues in the Minnesota National Guard — choose to remember him.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles Paul Nord, 30, was one of three soldiers killed in a Minnesota National Guard helicopter crash shortly after takeoff south of St. Cloud on Dec. 5. Also killed in the accident were Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr. and Sgt. Kort M. Plantenberg, both 28.

Nord is survived by his wife, Kaley Nord, 2-year-old daughter, Lydia, and their expected child.

Jill Hoffman, a friend of Nord's wife, said that when the couple got married she knew Kaley had found her prince. Nord was loyal and hard-working, Hoffman said; his family came first, and he was proud to serve his country.

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Nord graduated from Perham High School in 2007, where he ran on the cross-country team and was part of the first team from Perham to go to the state championship. Jeff Morris, a Perham High School math teacher and cross-country coach, said it wasn’t just about winning to Nord: “He made it more about the journey.”

Nord was born June 6, 1989, in Breckenridge, Minn., according to a biography issued by the Minnesota National Guard. He enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard on Aug. 24, 2007, as an M1 armor crewman. He graduated in 2011 from Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead with a degree in construction electricity, according to his 2012 newspaper engagement announcement.

His biography states that in 2016, he became a Warrant Officer as a UH-60 Black Hawk aeromedical evacuation pilot. This past May, he returned from a nine-month deployment with the Minnesota National Guard’s Company C, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion to Kuwait. While there, the unit provided aerial medical evacuation in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve.

“By all accounts, Mr. Nord took exceptional pride in serving the people of our state and nation, and his loss is a tragic reminder of the risks our men and women of the armed forces take every day to protect us, whether it’s overseas or right here at home,” State Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said in a statement released Saturday morning. “Our hearts and prayers are with Mr. Nord and his two fellow guardsmen who also perished in Thursday’s crash, and with the friends and families of all three soldiers during this time of mourning.”

The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter lost contact with the Guard shortly after its 2 p.m. takeoff from the Army Aviation Support Facility at the St. Cloud airport. It crashed southwest of the city, near Marty, Minn., approximately 15 minutes later, according to the Stearns County Sheriff's Office.

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“It is hard enough to lose an old veteran, but to lose such a young and honored veteran is even harder,” said Mike Dombeck, commander at the In There Own Words (ITOW) Veterans Museum in Perham. “The veterans down at the ITOW are very proud of what (Nord) stood for. Their thoughts and prayers are with his family in this hard time.”

The Minnesota National Guard has not experienced a helicopter crash in the state since March 13, 1993, when two UH-1 Huey helicopters collided at Camp Ripley. Five of seven soldiers were killed in that accident.

The last Minnesota National Guard member to be killed in action was SPC George Cauley, from Walker, who died in 2009 in Bagram, Afghanistan, from injuries suffered from an Improvised Explosive Device attack.

The area mourns, and responds

Few people were out on the street in Vergas on Saturday afternoon — a cold, overcast winter day.

The flag over the Vergas Event Center hung at half-mast at the request of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who ordered flags lowered in the state after the tragedy. A sadness hung over the town, and few were ready to talk about Nord and his life.

It is expected that the community and the state will come together for Nord’s funeral at Perham High School on Monday, Dec. 16. Visitation will be Sunday and Monday, followed by the funeral at 11 a.m., at the school.

“I would expect a very large military presence” at the funeral, said Mitch Anderson, superintendent of the Perham-Dent Public School District.

Tuesday afternoon, Anderson announced that school would be canceled Monday for all pre-K to 12th grade students to accommodate the funeral at the high school.

The district is asking all students to wear red, white and blue to school Thursday, Dec. 12, in honor of Nord and his service that he provided for us all.

Perham Health, where Kaley Nord is a medical lab technician, is helping to collect funds for the family beginning this week, Thursday, Dec. 12. Ornaments will be available in the Perham Health Unique Boutique, for a free-will suggested offering of $5.

Meanwhile, Nord’s sister-in-law, Tiffany Nord, has started a GoFundMe page to benefit his wife and children. The page had already raised more than $16,000 just 15 hours after it was created.

Moments of silence were observed at Sunday’s Minnesota Vikings game at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and Monday evening at the start of the Perham City Council meeting.

Gov. Walz, himself a veteran of the Army National Guard, issued a statement Saturday morning:

"On behalf of all Minnesotans, Gwen and I offer our deepest sympathies to the families of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles Nord, Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Rogers, and Sergeant Kort Plantenberg. They paid the ultimate price in their service to Minnesota and to the United States of America. Words will never ease the pain of this tragic loss and the state of Minnesota is forever in the debt of these warriors."

Forum News Service contributed to this report.

Fundraisers for the family

  • Beginning Thursday, Dec. 12, ornaments will be available in the Perham Health Unique Boutique, for a free-will suggested offering of $5 for the family. Those who would like 25 or more ornaments should contact Pat Ferguson at 218-347-1312 or patricia.ferguson@perhamhealth.org.

  • A GoFundMe account has been created by Charles Nord’s sister-in-law, to benefit the family.