The hurt in Perham and Vergas and Frazee and Detroit Lakes and around the state is almost palpable.

All of our broken hearts go out to the family of Charlie Nord and his fellow soldiers.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles P. Nord, 30; Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr., 28, and Sgt. Kort M. Plantenberg, 28, were killed Thursday, Dec. 5, in a Minnesota National Guard helicopter crash shortly after takeoff near St. Cloud.

Nord, a 2007 graduate from Perham High School, is survived by his wife, Kaley Nord and 2-year-old daughter Lydia. The couple is expecting their second child.

That the accident occurred during this season of giving and family is almost unimaginable.

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There are no words for the grief being felt by the loved ones of Nord, Rogers and Plantenberg.

Even in a close-knit community such as Perham, words of comfort are hard to come by. Those of us on the outside are left wanting to help, but little we do can soothe this pain.

For those struggling to make sense of this tragedy, the ultimate sacrifice made by these three men is a reminder of the risk our soldiers take every day in defense of our nation and our way of life.

The three soldiers had just returned in May from a nine-month deployment in Kuwait, where their unit provided aerial medical evacuation for U.S. operations there, according to the Minnesota National Guard.

Months after coming back from that dangerous overseas assignment, it is a shock that their lives would end in Minnesota, just a couple hours' drives to any of their hometowns around the state, on what officials have called a "routine maintenance flight."

It's a sobering reminder to all of us the risks our servicemen and women take every day, no matter the work.

In the coming days, weeks and months there will be memorials and tributes. Memorial Day will expose the fresh hurt. Every year in December, the tragic events of that Dec. 5 afternoon will be marked by flags and prayers and statements. The names Nord, Rogers and Plantenberg will be remembered in the state every year, for the rest of our lives.

Though we cannot absorb the pain being felt over Nord's death, we can honor his service, and remember and pray for our soldiers and their families.

Today, our words are of thanks, for their sacrifice on our behalf.