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Minnesota National Guard
Plymouth kick starts Yellow Ribbon effort

Plymouth police officer and US Marine Corps veteran Randall Richardson is spearheading an effort to support armed service families in Plymouth

Richardson and city officials are set to develop an action plan in order for Plymouth to become a Yellow Ribbon City The effort is a part of the Minnesota National Guard's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign, which supports troops and their families throughout the deployment cycle

A public kickoff meeting is set for Monday, May 24 in order to establish a city action plan, which must first be approved by the Minnesota National Guard, and then brought before Gov Tim Pawlenty for a final endorsement

"The whole premise behind the idea is that because there is no actual active duty base in Minnesota, there's a lot of resources that are kind of hard to come by [for veterans]," said Richardson

The meeting will allow community members to create an action plan to coordinate a sustainable network of resources for active and returning veterans

Although still early in the process, Richardson already has spoken with groups looking to volunteer

"I've gotten some representatives from faith groups, some youth groups, a lot of community volunteers," said Richardson, adding that he is hopeful more local businesses will join the campaign

"We want to make sure that these men and women, when they get back, are getting the support they need, that the community is around them," he said

Whether that means shoveling a walkway, mowing a lawn or making sure the plumbing works, a Yellow Ribbon city develops an infrastructure to assist with all family needs, according to Richardson

"This brings all the facets of a community together," he said

Richardson, who works with middle schools as a school resource officer, knows how deep the stresses can run for servicemen and women and their families

He recalled a sixth-grade student who had been displaying behavioral issues at school After talking with him, the student confided in Richardson about the stress surrounding his father's deployment for a third time to Afghanistan

"He started bawling in my office," said Richardson, noting the anxiety that exists for troops and their loved ones

Armed service veterans already are burdened by the stresses of active duty Complications at home are issues that service men and women can't always address, said Richardson

"From the response I've received from the military, that's a veteran's No 1 concern Not taking care of them while they're [in service], but taking care of their family while they're over there," said Richardson

Part of the issue is that veterans are often reluctant to seek out help

"They don't like asking for help, they're very proud," said Richardson "Anyone who serves in the military, their sense of pride is very high, so when they come to hard times, they'll try to work it the best they can By getting the action plan together [we're saying], 'Hey, the support is here if you need it or want it'"

The Yellow Ribbon City campaign is already supporting troops throughout parts of Minnesota Farmington, Hugo, Stillwater and Woodbury have already been approved as Yellow Ribbon cities

Richardson feels that Plymouth should be next and that the Yellow Ribbon campaign is a strong way to bring together the community to support local veterans

"The whole idea is, the help is there if they need it," he said

If you go

What: Yellow Ribbon kickoff event

When: 7-9:30 pm Monday, May 24

Where: Plymouth Creek Center, 14800 34th Ave N

More information: Go to www.beyondtheyellowribbon.org or call Officer Randall Richardson at 763-509-5160

By Jared Koll

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