Our Story

Veterans Day Feature – The Military can take you to some interesting places. Even just down the road.

Minneapolis, MN – 11/11/21

When Derek O’Connor was 17-year-old living in Preston, MN, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve. Thirty years later this experience is coming back around to Preston.

Starting at age 15, Derek made good use of his summers by working construction as a carpenter.  But the summer before his senior year at Preston Fountain High School, he took things to another level when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve and attended basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  The following summer, he attended Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland to train to be a diesel mechanic. While his intent was to be a mechanic, he returned to his first love of construction and closer to home to weekend warrior in Wabasha’s 544th Maintenance Facility for the next six years, one weekend a month.

My favorite part of the Military was basic training. I enjoyed the discipline and the physical parts, as well as the confidence courses,” said Derek.

Throughout the years, Derek has remained involved through his membership at Preston Services Club where he is a member and volunteer for the American Legion and served as assistant commander, commander, director of the board and gambling manager. In 2019, Derek found his Army background, his hometown and his construction career all come together when Preston was announced as the site of a new state Veterans Home. As part of the pursuit team for Knutson, he was in a unique position as a veteran and a community member.  The Knutson team was awarded the project and broke ground in Summer 2021 and will complete in 2023.

I’m excited to be part of a local facility that will serve our veterans and the community of Preston.  It will allow veterans to be closer to their families, as well as bring jobs to our community,” said Derek.

Knutson is also building the Minnesota Veterans Home in Montevideo which is also set to complete in 2022.

Knutson is proud to contribute to two great facilities that will benefit veterans across the state. We would like to recognize the Veterans that are part of Team Blue and beyond. Thank you for your service!


Team Blue Veterans:

  • Mike Passeretti – Army
  • Christian Frantum – Navy (Active)
  • Tim Kuechle – Army
  • Quentin Knaak – Army
  • Josh Federly – Marines & Army (Active)
  • Rod Vredenberg – Army
  • Gunnar Schutz – Navy
  • Quentin Johnson – Marine
  • Andy Wilson – Army
  • Derek O’Connor – Army
  • Travis Niehaus – Army
  • Donn Richardson – Army

Veterans Profiles
We reached out to some of our team blue veterans to learn more about their experience.