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Minnesota National Guard
Mahtomedi's Yellow Ribbon Network expands efforts


Capt Tanya Klaiber with her husband, Paul, and children, Rowen and Greta, at Tanya's welcome home celebration - Submitted photo

MAHTOMEDI - As she drove home through Mahtomedi for the first time after a year-long deployment in Iraq, Capt Tanya Klaiber first thought the flashing lights that pulled up behind her meant she was about to get a speeding ticket

Soon she learned the two Washington County Sheriff squad cars and Mahtomedi fire truck were part of a surprise "welcome home" celebration for Klaiber last month She received a colorful escort to the Mahtomedi Education Center where friends, family and even total strangers were waiting with well wishes

The celebration was courtesy of Mahtomedi's Yellow Ribbon Network Led by Minnesota National Guard Col Kevin Gerdes, his wife, Mickey Gerdes, and Mahtomedi Community Education Manager Mary George, the group is seeking more volunteers to help honor deployed soldiers and aid their families

Kevin Gerdes, who also served in Iraq, is a leader in the statewide Yellow Ribbon initiative providing support services to military families before, during and after deployment

The Gerdeses and fellow members of St Andrew's Lutheran Church have helped several families over the last few years They're now working with community organizations and government to engage the community at large

They've created a Web page where community members can volunteer to help a family with household chores and maintenance, or to provide meals or child care Area businesses also are invited to provide free or discounted services

The group also plans to continue to organize welcome home celebrations for returning soldiers; the next person is expected to return later this month The leaders also are planning a military family appreciation night this spring All community members are invited to attend, even if they don't personally know the serviceman or woman

People who register on the Web page will be notified via e-mail of volunteer opportunities and celebrations

Klaiber said her family is grateful for the people who provided meals, mowed the lawn and shoveled snow while she was away and her husband was a single parent to their two daughters, ages 5 and 20 months Once she's resettled, she plans to volunteer her time to the initiative

"The community was very supportive," she said "We appreciated how much they did for us and we'd like to pass that along to other families"

A National Guard member since graduating from Forest Lake High School in 1991, this was Klaiber's third overseas deployment In 1997 she volunteered to serve 11 months in Heidelberg, Germany, performing computer-related functions in support of operations in Bosnia In 2003 and 2004 she served nearly 10 months in Bosnia as an air traffic services company commander

A member of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, she worked as an aviation operations officer during her most recent, and hopefully final, deployment in Basara, Iraq

Klaiber plans to retire in three years, with a total of 22 years of service

She also is grateful to have a job to come home to She works as a chemist at SurModics, which held her position during her deployments to Bosnia and Iraq She'll return to the job in a few weeks - after some time to rest and get reacquainted with her family

by Kristine Goodrich
Staff Writer

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 6:32 PM CST

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

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