| 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.
Camp Ripley strikes first before wildfire season
Posted: 2017-03-24 10:19 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Every spring Camp Ripley begins its annual controlled burn program to help reduce the risk of wildfire during training.
"Usually the burns are completed every spring before the summer annual training season begins," said Tim Notch, training area coordinator on Camp Ripley. "However, the warmer weather conditions provide a nice opportunity for preventative burns earlier this season."
As in years past Camp Ripley will conduct controlled burns on approximately 13,000 acres of the 53,000-acre military reservation. The burns are done in coordination with the staffs of the Camp Ripley Department of Public Works and the Camp Ripley Environmental Department along with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Minnesota Guardsman earns recognition through Leads 2 Enlistment program
Posted: 2017-03-23 09:46 AM
DULUTH, Minn. - Pfc. Trevor Nelson received the Minnesota Distinguished Recruiting Ribbon and a Minnesota Recruiting and Retention Battalion medallion for excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Serbus, March 18, 2017, at the Duluth Armory. Nelson earned these awards as part of the online referral system, Leads 2 Enlistment for referring four friends who have joined the Minnesota National Guard.
"I talked to some buddies in my school about the Guard. They liked the benefits, so I put their info in the app and let my recruiter take over." said Nelson. "I thought it would be fun to serve with friends and help them figure out their path in life."
Nelson is currently a senior at Cloquet Senior High School and assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program in Duluth. He attended basic training at Fort Benning in the summer of 2016 with follow-on training in the summer of 2017 to become an infantryman.
Litchfield and Local Veteran Honor Gen. John Vessey at Armory Open House
Posted: 2017-03-10 08:50 AM
LITCHFIELD, Minn. -Bruce Cottington, a Navy veteran of WWII and Korea, donated a bronze bust of Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr. to the Litchfield National Guard unit during the armory's public open house event March 4. Cottington, a Litchfield resident, commands the Minnesota Chapter of the Veterans of Underage Military Service. VUMS members enlisted in the military prior to the minimum age requirement in order to serve their country during WWII. Cottington received the bust from Vessey, a fellow VUMS member. Both enlisted in the military at the age of 16.
The highlight of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion open house was the unveiling of the sculpture. The unit was very supportive when Cottington proposed donating the sculpture. The Litchfield community has always been very supportive of the National Guard over the years, so the open house was a chance to say 'thanks' to their neighbors. "This was a great opportunity to honor Bruce and to honor Gen. Vessey," said B Co., 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion Commander, Capt. Seth Goreham. Bravo Company also has a tight relationship with the local American Legion and VFW. Many Litchfield citizens are former members of Bravo Company, or the unit's predecessors A Co, 682nd Engineer Battalion, and the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company.
Camp Ripley welcomes new command sergeant major
Posted: 2017-03-08 03:29 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The garrison command team of Camp Ripley, family, friends and colleagues from the Minnesota National Guard attended a Change of Responsibility ceremony between Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Worden and Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Erickson, March 5, 2017, at Camp Ripley.
The ceremony was an official "passing of the sword" from one senior noncommissioned officer to the next and assumption of the duties and responsibilities that go along with the position of Garrison Command Sergeant Major.
As with many military ceremonies those in attendance welcomed Erickson as a new member of the team and bid farewell, recognized and thanked Worden for his service.