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Minnesota National Guard
Brown County takes first step in becoming Yellow Ribbon County

Training held Saturday at the New Ulm Armory

Staff photo by Serra Muscatello
Saturday’s “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” training session began with a speaker presentation by SFC Jeff Ulmen, of Madelia, who recently returned with the 34th ID from Iraq He also shared some pictures of his experience

NEW ULM -Brown County took one of the first steps in becoming a "Yellow Ribbon County" during a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon kick-off event

About 60 people registered early Saturday morning and filled the New Ulm Armory to take part in a Yellow Ribbon training session that lasted until about noon

"It's good to see this level of support," said 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery CPT Michael Graves, of New Ulm

A National Guard Citizens Committee of Brown County has been instrumental in getting this effort underway, according to Jerome Bentz, who serves as the chair for the committee

"This is a project we wanted to do for the county," said Bentz, "I think it is a very worthwhile effort"

The Yellow Ribbon Community Campaign is an outreach designed to increase the awareness of challenges that Service members and their families face as a result of their military deployments

"We saw a need to do something for the families," said Bentz, "This is a family issue someone has to extend their hand and help these people because they won't ask for help You have to go to the family and ask what you can do to help them"

Increasing numbers of cities and counties are becoming designated as "Yellow Ribbon" because as Service members deploy from Minnesota's Reserve, there are components of their family members who are often left behind without support from their immediate community Many people feel that they are often alone, and it may be difficult for them to ask others within the community for help in their situation

"There are three main issues that Service members are faced with in returning home," said Lt. Col. Barb O'Reilly, chief for Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, in Cottage Grove, "The first is employment, the second is mental wellness and then, relationship issues"

According to information provided by Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, it is estimated that 20 to 30 percent of all Service members experience unemployment after a deployment

In a growing need to help Service members and their families, many communities now organizing to build something called "Fort Minnesota" - which will hopefully connect every community throughout Minnesota

"We're building communities that are aware of needs and support the military and families," said O'Reilly, "This is your community - you know what they need"

O'Reilly said that often a Service member will say, "Take care of my family"
"When the community supports a military family they are supporting their Service members," said O'Reilly, "My team does Yellow Ribbon training before, during and after deployment We support all service members, their families and veterans"

Brown County has plans to become the third county now in Minnesota to earn the designation of being a Yellow Ribbon County Brown County will follow after Washington and Isanti Counties after they had earned the designation

Four cities have officially been proclaimed "Yellow Ribbon" by Governor Pawlenty including: Farmington, Hugo, Stillwater and Woodbury Dozens of cities are also now working to earn this designation

"It's fun in some communities we meet in city hall," said O'Reilly, "We just find good people willing to come up and help us and support the service people"

Saturday's session began with a speaker presentation by SFC Jeff Ulmen, of Madelia, who recently returned with the 34th ID from Iraq He also showed pictures of his time overseas

Ulmen said when he arrived in Baghdad, they really depended on people sending them things they needed for life there

But by the time they had left, they were living with many of the "comforts of home" they were accustomed to having in their lives including a gym (for working out) and a nice USO (USO - meaning United Service Organization -which has a mission is to provide morale, welfare and recreational-type services to uniformed military personnel)

"We shouldn't have to struggle in transitioning (back home)," said Ulmen

After Ulmen's presentation, break-out sessions were held amongst the various sub-groups of people gathered for the event These sub-groups dialogued about how to make Brown County a Yellow Ribbon County They talked about coming up with an "action plan" of how members of the county can support Service members and their families

The various sub-groups included people focusing in the areas of: medical, veterans organizations, education, faith-based, businesses, and law enforcement

Paul Severson, who lives in Sleepy Eye, provided his assistance at Saturday's training He is a retired National Guardsman who has experienced two deployments during his life

While on his first deployment, his wife was left at home to take care of their five children

"I didn't know what all my wife was struggling with," said Severson, "My wife was helped by people in the community of Sleepy Eye How can I pay them back? In the same way, I can help another generation and pay it forward"

Severson also expressed concern about the veterans from previous wars

"Some of them may still be struggling with problems or issues and may be able to receive help," Severson said

"There has to be an action plan submitted to the folks training us today," said Severson, "We're shooting for July first to have everything wrapped up"

Severson will be putting together the written plan for the county as well as maintaining contact with the various sub-groups The governor will eventually need to approve the designation of "Yellow Ribbon County" for Brown County
For more information about this program please log on to beyondtheyellowribbonorg

By Serra Muscatello, Staff Writer
POSTED: March 21, 2010

Article source: http://www.nujournal.com/page/content.detail/id/512529.html

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