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Minnesota National Guard
Backup for the troops: Stillwater, Washington County receive Yellow Ribbon status

Gazette photo by Peter Cox<br />From left: Gov Tim Pawlenty presents a certificate Tuesday to Stillwater Councilman Mike Polehna and Mayor Ken Harycki proclaiming Stillwater as a part of the stateÕs Yellow Ribbon Network as local soldier Chris Johnsen and Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito look on
Gazette photo by Peter Cox
From left: Gov Tim Pawlenty presents a certificate Tuesday to Stillwater Councilman Mike Polehna and Mayor Ken Harycki proclaiming Stillwater as a part of the state's Yellow Ribbon Network as local Soldier Chris Johnsen and Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito look on

When the Red Bulls start returning home from active duty later this month, Stillwater, Washington County, the Disabled Veterans Rest Camp and Cub Foods will be ready

The two governments and the Stillwater-based grocery chain were all proclaimed as part of the state's Yellow Ribbon Network on Tuesday afternoon The network is set up to help communities, companies and organizations welcome back troops after serving overseas

While several communities have been working on the designation for a long time, it was made official Tuesday at Century College when Gov Tim Pawlenty made proclamations for each community, company or organization involved

"If they are willing to put it all on the line for us, then we need to do everything we can to give back to them and support them in every possible way that we can," Pawlenty said "So each of us individually and all of collectively can do something"

The organizations had to go through a long application process

Becoming a Yellow Ribbon City involves a city showing the National Guard and state of Minnesota that a community or organization has the structures in place to support the families of the deployed and troops that are returning

In Stillwater, leaders had to develop and present a community action plan, which showed the state how each arm of the community would work together for the network's greater purpose

Tuesday, 12 organizations, including all the state's MnSCU schools, joined the network

Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard, said he's happy with how communities and organizations have stepped up

"I'm extremely pleased," he said "It's actually exceeded expectations how the communities have responded I'm amazed at the number of people that want to do something"

The state will soon be welcoming back 1,100 troops who had been deployed to Iraq a year ago

The National Guardsmen will go through a demobilization over the next few weeks, and will be processed through Fort Lewis, Wash, where they will fill out paperwork and be given access to and contacts for resources for coming back

"Our goal in that first few days is to say 'Here are the resources available, if you are running into issues, and, oh by the way, we told your spouse the same thing, and she may call us as well,'" Shellito said

Tuesday also included training sessions for all of the new Yellow Ribbon communities, businesses and organizations, with members sharing information, ideas and resources

Stillwater City Councilman Mike Polehna was very excited after the proclamation

"We've got the first part done," he said "Now, we need to keep going They get back and now they are going to need our support"

He's been organizing a pheasant hunt for the local Red Bulls when they return home The Stillwater City Council passed a resolution Tuesday night to put a banner downtown welcoming back the troops

Polehna said he's already gotten a strong response from Soldiers who've heard about the Yellow Ribbon Network designation

"We've been in contact with some troops and they are thanking us," he said "And I'm thinking, 'Man, you are over there sleeping in a foxhole and I'm sleeping in a warm bed here'"

While he said the goal is for the community to show appreciation, he's been humbled by the Soldiers' gratitude

"It's been really rewarding," Polehna said

Peter Cox covers crime and the cities of Stillwater and Bayport for the Gazette He can be reached at pcox@acnpaperscom or 651-796-1108
By Peter Cox - Stillwater Gazette
Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 8:34 PM CST

Article source: http://www.stillwatergazette.com

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