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Minnesota National Guard
Community planning honors for departing troops

May 28 ceremony at fairgrounds for National Guard

By Judy Lawhon

Imagine this One hundred and thirty members of Pine City National Guard unit known as the Bulldogs on stage along with many other dignitaries The Pine County Fair grandstand full of family, friends and supporters from the community, all of them waving American flags, professional photos for each Service member and their families, food, transportation, childcare, information tables the list is long

All of this takes place on Saturday, May 28 and the logistics of making all of this happen is a daunting task That’s why the Pine City Yellow Ribbon Committee is hard at work these days While the group’s purpose is to “meet the needs of service members and military families by having the support of their friends, neighbors and the Pine City Community to face life’s daily challenges,” at this time they are deeply involved in planning a deployment ceremony for the members of the Pine City National Guard Unit: Troop B, 1st Squadron 94th Calvary Known as the Bulldogs, this group is deploying for approximately one year to Kuwait to support Operation New Dawn

The Pine City Yellow Ribbon Committee began in January 2010 Chairperson Jessica Paulson became involved with the group because her brother is presently deployed to Iraq “It just struck me how important it is to be helping the families at home,” she said “When my brother left on his first deployment, my sister-in-law had a baby I know now how difficult that must have been I took it upon myself to be everybody’s sister I’ve found out now that it’s much bigger than that”

Paulson credits Pine City Mayor Jane Robbins as being the driving force that kept this group going and helped get it started American Legion Auxiliary member Jan Apitz first heard about the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon organization and brought it to the attention of the Pine City community

The Pine City Yellow Ribbon Committee will come under the umbrella of the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Organization, a group that, according to its website, is “synchronizing sustainable community support networks to provide resources and support to Service members and their families”

The Pine City group is in the process of developing their action plan Once this is done, the governor will approve them as a full-fledged part of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon

A diverse group of organizations are coming together to make this happen A recent planning meeting was attended by representatives from a variety of community organizations including the American Legion, VFW, Pine Technical Student Senate, Blue Star Moms, the city of Pine City, National Guard, Blue Star Mothers and others

The details are many Picture A Hero, an organization that offers complimentary individual and family portraits to Soldiers and their families prior to deployment, will be available before and after the ceremony to take photos

Childcare will be available for family members both during the ceremony and at the armory Food will be provided for the families that day; small American flags will be provided to those attending the ceremony; ushers will help with the crowd, information tables will be set up, Guardian bears (stuffed bears) will be available to Service members’ children, a color guard will participate and the list goes on There’s also lunch to be served to the Soldiers during their training before deployment on May 26 and 27

Vice chair Cindy Foster joined Pine City Yellow Ribbon soon after she retired from a 32-year career working for the military as a civilian “I understand the protocol to becoming a Yellow Ribbon Committee Jessica and I work hard together,” she said

Foster said that Beyond the Yellow Ribbon held a required training session last May Once the training was completed, “then the thing just took off One of the biggest challenges we need to do now is publicize, get our name out there”

The group is compiling a list of Service members and their families in the area Due to data privacy, the service branches cannot give out personal information about Service members, so the Service members themselves must contact the organization To learn more about Pine City Yellow Ribbon or to provide the names of military members in the deployment cycle, e-mail Paulson at yellowribbonpc@yahoocom or go on Facebook at Pine City Yellow Ribbon Community Information about Minnesota’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign is at wwwBeyondTheYellowRibbonorg

“I want [families] to know we are here if they need lawn care, house check, snow shoveling, anything at all,” said Paulson

In addition to helping with the deployment ceremony, Pine Tech Student Senate recently sponsored a Troop Drive They shipped 71 boxes to Service members and have since collected another 20 boxes Student Senate Vice President James Hinrichs said the drive will continue in the fall “We personally love doing this and hold the veterans in high regard,” said Hinrichs

He stressed that even if people don’t agree with what is going on in the world, “you just have to agree to support our troops”

Hinrichs is impressed by the way the different community organizations and individuals have come together with Pine City Yellow Ribbon “Let’s work together; it only makes sense,” he said

The public is encouraged to support the troops by attending the farewell ceremony at 1 pm on Saturday, May 28 at the Pine County Fairgrounds in Pine City

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