| 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
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
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
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.
Minnesota National Guard Remembers the Holocaust with Jewish Community Relations Council
Posted: 2017-04-24 10:43 AM
Washington - Members of the Minnesota National Guard and the Air Force Reserve traveled to Washington D.C. with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (also known as the JCRC), to visit the Holocaust Museum, April 4, 2017, to honor the victims of the Holocaust. Also, traveling with this group were St. Paul and Minneapolis police officers along with students from various high schools around the state. For those in uniform that day, it was an opportunity to see, hear and experience the stories of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
Each Service member who attended was asked to bring back a summary of their experience in the form of a presentation, professional discussion or briefing to their respective unit in order to help other Guard members better understand and remember that horrible event, to honor the courage of the victims and survivors, and to remain vigilant as members of the U.S. military.
"The honor and privilege of accompanying members of the Minnesota National Guard to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. met so many goals," said Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the JCRC. "I wanted to reinforce the importance of the commitment of the U.S. military to democracy. After all, it was the Allies that defeated Nazi Germany and ultimately put an end to the Holocaust."
Learning to instruct professionalism and discipline
Posted: 2017-04-19 02:15 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - It was a challenging and rewarding two weeks for members attending the Army National Guard Funeral Honors Instructor Course, April 1-14, at Camp Ripley.
Soldiers of National Guard units from all over the United States took part in the course designed to educate team leaders in a variety of funeral honor detail tasks, traditions and responsibilities.
"It's a stressful course, but for our job, we have to be prepared to do our job under stress; and we all really benefitted from that," said Class Honor Grad, Sgt. Ryan Valline of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry.
Chaplains support Muslim Soldiers by finding common ground
Posted: 2017-04-18 01:42 PM
ROSEMOUNT, Minn. - The Soldiers of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division had a unique opportunity to speak with one of the U.S. Army's five Muslim chaplains April 7-10, 2017. U.S. Army Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Khallid Shabazz, I Corps deputy command chaplain, travelled from Fort Lewis, Washington, to Minnesota to provide professional development for the division chaplain section.
"Soldiers perform at a higher level when they are spiritually fit," said Minnesota National Guard Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Buddy Winn, the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division command chaplain. "And, it's our job as chaplains to make sure Soldiers have their spiritual needs met, regardless of faith. Having Chaplain Shabazz here as a Muslim Chaplain provides the diversity in religious background that we can't provide internally."
There are five major religions supported by the chaplaincy: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist, but over 200 religions are recognized. Chaplains can only perform services for their particular religion, but they can provide support for all Soldiers, regardless of their faith.
Howling with pride - Minnesota Service members honored by MN Timberwolves
Posted: 2017-04-14 04:25 PM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - For the third consecutive year, Minnesota service members were honored with on-court recognition and other VIP treatments as part of the Minnesota Timberwolves Heroes of the Pack Program.
"We are very appreciative for what the military does for us, and we wanted to give something back to honor the military," said Roger McCabe, who along with wife, Nancy, is a driving force behind the recognitions through the FastBreak Foundation and Roger & Nancy McCabe Foundation. "This is our way of doing it."
Having lived through the Vietnam War - and with Roger and Nancy both having parents who served - the two philanthropists decided a few years back to build upon existing recognition efforts already underway by the Timberwolves. And with that, recognitions that were typically happening at Target Center in November expanded to include Minnesota Service members from all branches at every home game - a total of 41 honorees per season.