| 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 email@example.com 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.
Norwegian Home Guard gets inter-agency training
Posted: 2015-02-25 03:15 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn.- Soldiers of the Norwegian Home Guard conducted inter-agency training with state and local law enforcement, Feb. 12-23, 2015, at Camp Ripley.
"The training conducted by the Norwegian Rapid Reaction Force, or RRF, is based on the National Guard's focus of inter-agency cooperation in time of need," said Lt. Col. Bryce Erickson of the Minnesota National Guard.
The training was organized as part of the American-Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange; which is in its 42nd consecutive year between the Minnesota National Guard and the Norwegian Home Guard.
Minnesota, Norwegian service members retrace a successful mission, remember the terrible cost
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SNAASA, Norway- Airmen and Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard participating in the 42nd American - Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange (NOREX) retraced the steps of U.S. and Norwegian special operators 70 years ago who, during the final months of World War II, waged a successful sabotage campaign against German forces occupying Norway.
The U.S. Service members, along with their Norwegian counterparts, completed a 12-mile trek on skis through mountainous terrain, as well as a reconnaissance of the Jorstad bridge and simulated demolition using signal flares. The field training exercise concluded, February 19, 2015, with a ceremony in honor of those who destroyed the bridge to stop the movement of German troops through Norway and a wreath-laying in memory of the 80 people who perished, January 13, 1945, when a train derailed into the icy water several hours after the demolition.
148th Fighter Wing 1st Sgt. Assists in Saving a Life
Posted: 2015-02-23 11:06 AM
DULUTH, Minn.- Whether he is performing his duties at the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn., or volunteering as the Fire Chief for the Rice Lake Volunteer Fire Department, Senior Master Sgt. Scott Twining epitomizes the Air Force core value of "service before self".
As a member of the volunteer fire department and a first responder, Twining and the rest of the Rice Lake Fire Department team are often the first emergency response personnel to get to a scene. Twining estimates that 80 percent of their calls are for medical emergencies.
On Jan. 7, 2015, Twining and other members of the fire department responded to a call for help at a local business establishment. Upon their arrival, a male in his mid-fifties was collapsing from a heart attack. After a quick medical assessment, Twining and other team members set up a defibrillator and began to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Sentry Savannah brings Minnesota brothers together
Posted: 2015-02-20 10:41 AM
SAVANNAH, Ga.- In the Guard, it is not unusual to have family members in the same unit. It is unusual, however, to have three brothers doing the same job for the same unit.
Staff Sgt. Michael Sirois, Senior Airman Patrick Sirois and Airman 1st Class Nicholas Sirois are F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chiefs with the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn. and are participating in the 2015 Sentry Savannah 15-1 training exercise taking place Feb. 7-20 in Savannah, Ga.
Nicholas just got back from Crew Chief Technical School in July 2014 and Sentry Savannah was the first deployment the brothers had an opportunity to go on together.