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Minnesota National Guard
Help on the home front

When Sgt Nathan Pauly, 27, was in Iraq, he worried about maintaining radar equipment so coalition forces would be warned about attacks

http://abcnewspaperscom/images/stories/2010/August/0806yellowribbon2_midjpgThe Pauly family of Ramsey Beyond the Yellow Ribbon helped Brandi and Nathan get through Nathan’s one-year deployment in Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard and has made them aware of available resources now that he is home Submitted photo
Now that he is home in Ramsey, his focus has shifted to paying the bills, spending time with his three-year-old son Grant and planning the honeymoon with his wife Brandi that they never were able to fit in

Making this drastic shift can be tough on some of the men and women who served in the military There has been a lot of publicity about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but there is much more to reintegration to society than knowing how to handle yourself when you have a flashback of a catastrophic moment

Coping with the mental stress of job hunting, improving financial planning, awareness of the services available to veterans and relationships are just as important to the Minnesota National Guard as PTSD in its Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program, which was founded in 2005 to serve all branches of the military

Every day is very structured for a military service member, so the abundance of day-to-day decisions to make at home can be very overwhelming, said Lt Col Barbara O’Reilly, chief of deployment cycle support for the Minnesota National Guard

Some people have short fuses, so they need to be address this and keep talking to their loved ones

For those who feel they need someone else to mediate, there are resources available that Beyond the Yellow Ribbon informs them about

“Our objective is for them to realize what some of the challenges are and when they might need support and what support is available,” O’Reilly said

Pauly fully embraces the training seminars offered by Beyond the Yellow Ribbon There is a lot of information to digest, but the Anoka County Veterans Service Office and the Family Assistance Center in Brooklyn Park are available to answer any questions

“The military has given every Soldier the opportunity to get help, seek help if they have any kind of issue,” Pauly said “They offer it at no cost to the Soldier

“As long as you admit and are forthright that you have an issue you have to take care of the military is 100 percent on your side and it will do everything in its power to help you out and that includes your family members”

From pre-deployment to post-deployment

This was Pauly’s first deployment and he served it with the Minnesota National Guard’s E Battery, 151st Field Artillery unit, which provided radar support for US forces in Iraq

Prior to and during deployment, the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program had already started informing the service members how to make life easier for themselves and their loved ones Keeping the lines of communication open was the number one message Pauly talked to his wife once a week over a phone

“The military stresses communication with your spouse, family and friends because it knows the lack of communication is what leads to the problems, nine times out of 10,” Pauly said

Information about her husband’s unit did not end when Brandi Pauly hung up the phone All the spouses received an e-mail newsletter every week that gave the basics of what the unit was doing These newsletters included group photos of the service members

Once a month, Brandi met with the other spouses at the Anoka Armory, Anoka American Legion or the Fridley American Legion to share what was on their minds They frequently meet for picnics and other social outings

Grant was too young to really socialize with his peers, but Brandi said the kids who are five years old or older went camping and did a lot of other activities together

Having this support group made it easier for Brandi to get through the year

“If I didn’t go to those, I don’t think I would have made it,” she said

Pauly and 86 other members of his unit were greeted by family and friends at a March 31 welcome home ceremony at the Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Ramsey

The unit members before the homecoming ceremony were already registered with the Veterans Administration entitlement program, received information on the employment transitions services and were connected with a service provider who would answer future questions

Thirty days later, the unit was invited to the St Paul River Centre for a 30-day reintegration program It felt like a reunion and a convention because Pauley was able to see all the people he spent the last year of his life with and there were a lot of packets of information to absorb

Certified public accountants were at the reintegration training to give service members tips on how to best manage their finances

Service partners listed all the benefits available to veterans For example, Pauly heard that if you are having problems making house payments there are programs that temporarily help veterans

Counselors were available to talk to couples or the service member Service members and their families were told to look out for certain behavior patterns that could signal they are dealing with combat stress

The reintegration training happens every month over the one-year period after they returned home Their local county’s veterans service office and family assistance centers can be called on at any time though to answer questions

Doug Bley, a member of the executive board of directors with the Minnesota Patriot Guard, has asked for feedback from veterans who went through Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program

He vividly recalled that one veteran who had served in an infantry unit at first thought the things he was hearing at the program was “crap” This veteran told Bley that his viewpoint changed when he started to experience things the instructors had talked about He knew he was not alone

“The National Guard here has done a nice job trying to take care of the Soldier and the family,” Bley said

Pauly credits the Vietnam War veterans for pushing for these improvements so that the veterans of today are not treated as poorly as they were

“Now more than ever it’s better than it possibly could have been,” Pauly said “Certainly the guys from Vietnam didn’t get this kind of treatment It almost makes you feel kind of guilty”

The support can go beyond the family, friends and military support groups, O’Reilly said The National Guard would like communities to ask themselves how can they help veterans Some communities like Spring Lake Park have made an application to become a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon community

Staying in the military

Pauly had wanted to enlist in the military ever since the War on Terror started after the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but he was a troubled teenager who had his own battles to fight in his mind He considered priesthood, but decided to join the Minnesota National Guard at the age of 23 in 2006

Even though the benefits are good, Pauly said joining the military was never about the money

“For me it was more about sense of duty, like it was an obligation to my nation to do it,” he said

Pauly is on the path to get a degree in secondary education Before he becomes a high school social studies teacher, he plans to stay in the military for another 20 years and hopes to become a commissioned officer or a warrant officer specializing in logistics

The opportunity to teach others and be a leader while continuing on the path of earning his teaching degree is why he is interested in staying in the military until he is in his mid-40s

by Eric Hagen
Staff writer
Eric Hagen is at erichagen@ecm-inccom

Wednesday, 04 August 2010

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