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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota National Guard leader explains help for military families

Minnesota National Guard leader explains help for military families

Her spouse was away on military duty, and she was home with the children It was a bad day that got worse when the washing machine broke and she couldn’t do a basic chore such as laundry

“I just can’t take it anymore,” Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito quoted the woman as saying

She was not unlike other Soldiers and their family members, Shellito said Monday at the first Warrior to Citizen Conference at St Cloud State University She needed a little help, not a handout, to get through the struggles that often result when family life is disrupted by military service

Central Minnesota has the structures in place to help in such cases, the adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard said at the conference, which focused on telling stakeholders about educational benefits, veterans benefits and support for family members of deployed service members And St Cloud was not a random choice for the first conference, as Shellito proclaimed nine St Cloud-area communities Yellow Ribbon communities and Central Minnesota the state’s first Yellow Ribbon region Shellito also honored Curt and Pam Karls, who sponsor the Old Glory Run 5K in Cold Spring that benefits the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans

The young mother Shellito talked about received help from the Minnesota Military Family Foundation and a repairman who said his business was having a sale on washers and dryers

“Within less than eight hours, she had a brand new washer and dryer,” Shellito said
That case shows how the foundation and community members can offer assistance to the families of men and women who are serving their country

Shellito went through a checklist of structures in place in Central Minnesota that make this area veteran-friendly

As many as 30 organizations and more than 300 community members, in 2007-2008, participated in some way in helping Soldiers and their families The area has organized welcome celebrations for returning Soldiers, has set up live video teleconferences with the Red Bull Soldiers who were serving overseas, has educated community members on how to help and has established social networking connections specific to helping Soldiers and their families

At St Cloud State, which earned Yellow Ribbon campus status, a veterans center has been established, as well as a veterans advisory board President Earl H Potter III, who retired from the Coast Guard as a captain, has made veterans issues a priority during his time as president He was in Atwood Ballroom on Monday to receive a certificate from Shellito noting St Cloud State’s designation as a Yellow Ribbon campus

Those who attended the conference had the chance to learn about initiatives aimed at helping Soldiers transition from service member to student, strategies to help keep more veterans enrolled once they become students, how to support children who have a family member deployed and how veterans can network to learn what’s available to them

Something as simple as offering help to fix a leaking window or watching a neighbor’s children so a parent can get some shopping done shows people understand and care about those who serve, Shellito said

“No handouts, no pity parties,” he said

And he cited the veterans center at St Cloud State as a place where Soldiers can go and talk to people “who get it”

Being around others who understand what it’s like to serve during a war makes centers such as that “a safe harbor in that port of confusion,” Shellito said

Because coming home can be a lonely experience for some Soldiers

“That’s the enemy,” he said, “coming home and being alone surrounded by people”

By David Unze • dunze@stcloudtimescom • September 28, 2010
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