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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@comcastnet 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.



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Willmar-based National Guardsmen to return home Saturday

Posted: 2016-08-25  03:26 PM
Minnesota National Guard FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 25, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn.-

More than 150 Soldiers from the Minnesota Army National Guard's 682nd Engineer Battalion will return to Willmar Saturday following a mobilization in support of Operation Spartan Shield.

"The Soldiers of Task Force Wild excelled in their mission, and were recognized across the theater for their hard work and dedication," said Lt. Col. Keith Ferdon, battalion commander. "I couldn't be prouder of how our Soldiers represented the State of Minnesota."

The mission of the Task Force was to provide horizontal and vertical engineer construction in support of coalition forces in the region. The Soldiers oversaw the planning and execution of 285 construction projects with an approximate total value of 20.2 million dollars in seven countries: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.



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Posted: 2016-08-19  01:53 PM
Minnesota National Guard FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn.- With the implementation of the "REAL ID Act" going into effect at Department of Defense installations nationwide, access will no longer be granted to Minnesotans carrying standard state-issued identification cards. Beginning this week, Minnesota residents will be required to have an approved escort or use alternative forms of identification to access the following installations:

- 133rd Airlift Wing, St. Paul
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General John W. Vessey, Jr. - The 10th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Posted: 2016-08-19  08:22 AM
Gen. John W. Vessey Jr. General John W. Vessey, Jr., a former member of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Red Bull Infantry Division and the 10th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away August 18, 2016, at the age of 94.

General John W. Vessey, Jr. was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 29 June 1922. He enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard in May 1939 while still in high school, becoming a member of Headquarters, 59th Field Artillery Brigade, 34th Infantry Division. He was only 16 and fibbed about his age to join. With other members of his unit he was called to active duty in February 1941. When war came, the 34th became the first American division sent to Europe, where it initially fought in North Africa and then in Italy. A natural leader, Vessey rose quickly in the enlisted ranks until 6 May 1944 when, pinned down on the Anzio Beachhead amidst high casualties, the 21-year old battery first sergeant was given a battlefield commission and sent forward to direct artillery fire.

Vessey decided to stay in the Army after war. During his first 30 years of military service, he spent most of his time in combat divisions. In addition to his World War II assignment with the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division in North Africa and Italy, Vessey served with the 4th Infantry Division and 3rd Armored Division in Germany, the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam and was commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Carson, Colorado.

He attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He also graduated from the University of Maryland. His love of flying prompted him to earn his wings, which he always wore proudly. When he graduated from the Army Helicopter School in 1970, he was 15 years older than the next oldest student.



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Posted: 2016-08-18  10:49 AM
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This event is one of two in the series of fun runs hosted by the Resilience, Risk Reduction & Suicide Prevention, or R3SP.

"Soldiers truly enjoyed this alternative training option. The smiles that were on the participants faces when they crossed the finish line showed they had fun," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeanette Chaffee of R3SP.



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