A man who met his future wife in Minot 43 years ago and battled the flood of 1969 has returned to Minot to aid the community in this year's bout with the Souris River.
Manuel Madrid Jr. and his wife, JoAnn Madrid, have been married for more than 39 years and are now majors in the Salvation Army, working to assist flooding victims in the Minot area.
Manuel joined the Air Force in 1965 from San Francisco, he said Tuesday. After boot camp, he was sent off to Minot.
Dave Caldwell/MDN • Manuel, left, and JoAnn Madrid, both majors with the Salvation Army, stand in the chapel at the Salvation Army building Tuesday. The couple met in Minot more than 40 years ago, and Manuel volunteered in the battle against the 1969 flood.
"I had to look at a map to see if it was part of the Union," he chuckled. "And I couldn't believe the cold up here, being from California."
It was during his time stationed at Minot Air Force Base that he initially encountered the Salvation Army, he said, and soon thereafter he was spending time volunteering with the organization - putting him on a collision course with the 1969 flood.
"I remember they called it, 'The Mouse that Roared,'" he said. "I volunteered on my days off from the Air Force, driving the station wagon up and down the dikes, serving coffee, sandwiches and water."
Salvation Army needs volunteers
The Salvation Army needs numerous local volunteers in Minot.
"To have local volunteers, I think, means more than having a bunch of people from the outside," said Major JoAnn Madrid on Tuesday.
Just like he saw in the 1969 Flood, Major Manuel Madrid Jr. said many military members like himself volunteered their time, a trend he sees continuing now.
"But understand this is a much bigger flood that 1969," Manuel said. "Forty-one years is a long, long time to remember, but from what I'm understanding a lot more has happened this time."
The Salvation Army has served Minot since 1886 with its mission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and meet the human need in his name without discrimination.
Locally, those willing to donate to the Salvation Army can call 838-8925. Donation checks can be sent to the Salvation Army at 315 Western Ave., Minot, ND 58701.
For more information, call 800-SAL-ARMY (800-725-2769) or (www.thesalvationarmy.org).
- Dave Caldwell
But another key event in Manuel's life had taken place the year before when he met JoAnn, who was in the midst of the two-year Salvation Army officer training program at a college in Chicago.
"My summer training period was up here in Minot in the summer of 1968," JoAnn said. Fate had apparently accompanied her on the journey, because when she arrived at the Minot train station, Manuel was one of the people who had been sent to greet her.
"It was like a storybook," Manuel said. "I saw her getting off the train, and somehow there was an attraction there. The problem was, I hadn't been called into the ministry yet. I was going to make the Air Force a career."
At first, with JoAnn studying to join the Salvation Army ministry, Manuel said there was "a little bit of a problem there, internally and emotionally."
"But there was just some kind of attraction there that pulled us together," he said. "Then by the end of the summer, I got the call into the ministry. Well, that changed my whole career strategy.
"I'll tell you, it was scary though. I thought, 'What am I going to do in the ministry? I don't know anything about that.' But it worked out."
After Manuel finished up his Air Force enlistment, he attended the two-year training program.
In the meantime, JoAnn said she started her career as a single Salvation Army minister.
"We dated for 3 1/2 years before we got married," she said.
Following their marriage and Manuel's entrance into the ministry, appointments in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and most recently, Minnesota followed.
The couple will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in February 2012.
In the meantime, the couple has found themselves helping victims of fires, tornadoes and floods, including the St. Louis flood of 1993.
Manuel said he did prison ministry for a time, and together the couple served in Salvation Army drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.
Most recently, the couple operated a 64-bed emergency shelter in St. Cloud, Minn., which they enjoyed very much, they said.
"I was kind of hoping that our last appointment would be an easy one," Manuel said with a laugh. Once their mission in Minot is complete, they will have only three weeks left of active duty. But for a couple who has spent their whole lives in service to others, the idea of "retirement" isn't exactly interpreted as long days spent fishing or lounging on the couch.
"Once we get settled in our home (in Big Lake, Minn., about 30 miles west of Minneapolis), we'll have to do something," JoAnn said with a smile. "We'll find a volunteer opportunity with the Salvation Army. Down in the Twin Cities there are always lots of things that can be done."
So now the Madrids find themselves back in the place - in fact, the very same building - where it all began, spending 10-hour days battling a familiar adversary in the Mouse River.
"Here we are in Minot again, and here I am serving on flood duty again," Manuel said. "I started with flood duty, I'm ending with flood duty, and we're here together.
"It's like two stories in one, at the same time - a love story and a story of community service."