History
Minnesota National Guard
Group working to make Washington County first Yellow Ribbon county

March 11, 2009

Everyone wants to know how the Soldier is doing.

No one asks how the Soldier's family is doing.

That is the message that military personnel took to a group gathered at Oak-Land Junior High School in Lake Elmo Monday night. The listeners were there to form coalitions and support systems to keep families of Soldiers deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan from feeling alone, isolated and bereft in a sea of child care, household chores and daily demands.

The meeting was called by a number of Washington County leaders after meeting Lt. Col. Barbra O'Reilly and Col. Kevin Gerdes at a Washington County Board of Commissioners meeting at which the board commended the send-off of the 34th Infantry Division, Army National Guard Division Headquarters in Rosemount, known as the Red Bulls.

When people at the county meeting asked, what can we do, they were directed to the city of Farmington, which has become a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon community. Residents there formed themselves into a number of groups to provide services and support to deployed families.

Farmington followed a template to become a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon community, following research by the Warrior to Citizen campaign developed at the University of Minnesota. Should Washington County become a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon county, filling the template offered by the organization, it would be one of the first counties to do so.

What it is like

At the opening of the gathering Monday evening, military families explained why the need exists.

O'Reilly described her own deployment to Afghanistan, during which she left two young daughters at home with her husband.

She described the experience as being in a canoe, one that keeps its balance as the family paddles across a serene lake. But when the word comes that the Soldier will be deploying, "It upset my canoe,"� she said.

"You're waiting for the inevitable day when you have to go,"� she said, and the water gets rougher as the day comes closer. "As I left, I slipped into a world of the execution mode, but my husband and daughters were still in the canoe,"� O'Reilly said.

What's more, he was not unlike most military families, who are reluctant to ask for help.

"He's at the end of the lake, and there's a portage,"� she said. It's time to ask for help from friends, neighbors and the rest of the community, but that is a tough task for most military families.

Left behind

Micki Gerdes, wife of Col. Kevin Gerdes, told her story from the perspective of the family left behind.

Everyone wants to know how the deployed spouse is doing, what they can do for the Soldiers fighting "over there."�

No one asks what they can do for the family.

"I raised my right hand and took an oath to go wherever this country would send me,"� Kevin Gerdes said. "Micki and my boys did not. They were drafted."�

Micki Gerdes talked of being isolated and lonely, of needing household help that was not coming. Co-workers were either indifferent or against the war, and said so. Her sons didn't want anyone to know that their father was deployed and they were "different."� Teachers were both sympathetic and indifferent, she said.

No one is looking for sympathy, Kevin Gerdes said, and no one needs to say "I'm sorry"� about a deployment. But support and understanding would be helpful.

"�Fort Minnesota'

With regular army, those deployed will train and prepare at a fort, and their families will be living among one another and support one another. But what is needed is "Fort Minnesota,"� as there is no single military installation in the state, O'Reilly said.

And that is the point of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, to gather the support for military families into a concerted effort.

After the formal presentation, those attending broke into groups to talk about what segments of the community can do to help. Elected officials from the community listened to Annette Kuyper of Farmington, who discussed the process that her community underwent to become a designated Beyond the Yellow Ribbon community.

Other groups were educators, social service network providers, veterans groups, clergy and others. In the group connected to the clergy, the question came up, "how to find the families?"�

Because of privacy issues, there are not lists of the deployed that are released. Community members simply have to ask, pay attention, and refer friends and neighbors. Kuyper added that once residents in her community became aware of the programs, efforts "bubbled up"� to locate those who need help.

Going forward

The purpose of the meeting was to generate interest in the community and that was accomplished, said Sen. Kathy Saltzman, one of the organizers,

The next step is to make sure that everyone left the meeting with a task and contact information on how to get that task completed. The groups should meet every week for the next five weeks, to help find the people within the community who can be of help.

Saltzman emphasized that the movement is not to create new organizations or programs, but simply to mobilize current programs, as well as offering support for the families of the deployed.

The group created an e-mail address yellowribbonnetwork@comcast.net to provide a common point of discussion for the group.

Yvonne Klinnert "� Lake Elmo Leader

Read more at the Lake Elmo Leader
Go to the Minnesota National Guard's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon page for more information about the Minnesota National Guard's award-winning Servicemember reintegration program.



Articles archive

In The News archive

Media Advisory archive

Latest News

Minnesota brothers reunite in Kuwait

Posted: 2014-09-16  12:00 AM
Minnesota National Guard CAMP BUERHING, Kuwait- "I didn't know if our paths would cross," said Sgt. 1st Class Lowell Laudert as he sat with his brother, Spc. Cameron Laudert.

The brothers, both from Monticello, Minn., are deployed together in support of Operation Enduring Freedom-Kuwait. They serve in separate units and components of the U.S. Army.



Minnesota National Guard substance abuse team offers new, interactive training for units

Posted: 2014-09-15  01:53 PM
Minnesota National Guard Hastings, Minn.- Substance abuse prevention in the Minnesota National Guard is taking a new approach with the help of a specially-trained team focused on education. Company C, 834th Aviation Support Battalion in Hastings got to experience the full extent of the new training during a recent drill weekend.

With about 23 Soldiers ranging in rank from private to captain, the class started out as most do. Todd Lofquist, the prevention coordinator assigned to the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, was joined by the two other prevention coordinators for the state, Warren Anthony and Kirsten Johnson. With a combined total of 60 years of military experience, they presented the training with a fresh but familiar approach.



Minnesota National Guard's 114th Transportation Company returns to Minnesota

Posted: 2014-09-12  02:33 PM
Minnesota National Guard FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 12

ST. PAUL, Minn. -More than 140 soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard's Chisholm-based 114th Transportation Company are scheduled to return Tuesday to Minnesota after a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.

"The bus is scheduled to arrive after 6 a.m. and we are excited to see our families," said Army Capt. Ryan R. Koester, 114th Transportation Company Commander.



Article archive
 
top