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Minnesota National Guard
Going beyond the yellow ribbon

Display of a yellow ribbon has been a symbol of an absent loved one for generations in the US

From soldiers serving overseas to others who are away from family, friends and the community as a whole, wrapping a yellow ribbon around an oak tree, mailbox or light pole was done in an effort to raise awareness of those who were absent

With a number of local National Guard members set to be away from home on a deployment, the yellow ribbon has been prevalent in the Redwood area

While certainly a worthwhile effort, there are those in the community who feel a sense of duty to go beyond the yellow ribbon to offer their support of those men and women who are serving their country, as well as the families they have left behind while deployed

That effort, known as the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign, would help to create an environment where people could offer their services to those who may need them and where those who need a little extra help can connect with those who are willing to provide it

The Redwood area is in the beginning steps of the development of becoming a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon community

According to Laura Olson of Redwood Falls, a steering committee has been established to help get the program up and running, and a community meeting has been scheduled

That informational meeting is being held July 27 at the Wabasso Public School starting at 7 pm
Anyone who is interested in becoming part of the network of resources as part of the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign is encouraged to attend this meeting

Olson said she is hoping people from all of the cities in the Redwood area buy into this program, because so many of them have members of the local Guard unit who have been deployed living in their communities

Soldiers, said Olson, are much more mobile, adding there are members of the National Guard Unit headquartered out of Redwood Falls who live as far away as the Twin Cities

"This is not just a Red-wood Falls unit," she said

Olson said the hope through the program is to gather the network of people who are willing to do the tasks one might need

As an example, someone may need a little help getting a stuck garage door to open, while someone else might just need a little time away from the kids

Perhaps, added Olson, local businesses may be willing to help with materials needed for projects by providing them at cost or by making donations

In addition to providing services, Olson said the group is hoping to raise funds that can either be donated or loaned to families in need

While family readiness groups are available and family assistance dollars can be obtained, some of those emergency funds are limited to one-time allocations

Funding through organizations can often take time to arrive, too, which does not help in those immediate need situations

Olson and Marty Caraway, another member of the steering committee, met with the Redwood County Board of Commis-sioners Tuesday during a work session, and the board committed $2,500 to a revolving fund to help get the program up and running

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon not only helps ease the stress of those without their loved ones, it also helps relieve that stress military personnel face while they are away from home

Having a loved one call a soldier who is thousands of miles away to talk about a broken water heater is an issue that can cause a soldier to lose focus, which can become dangerous in places like Afghanistan and Iraq

Having a go-to organization that can offer the help needed to relieve that stress allows soldiers to do their job because they know those at home are in good hands

Olson said families often do not ask for help, which is where neighbors and other loved ones can come in and request that help for them through the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program

"We need the people of the area to be our eyes," said Olson, adding she knows there are needs out there " it is just a matter of finding them

The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program is going to be under the umbrella of the Redwood Communities Foundation, which means donations made are tax deductible

Olson said the Redwood County board got the ball rolling by adopting a resolution of support for the program and by committing funds to getting it started

The committee is going to be approaching other communities in the area to get similar support

The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program also helps communities as they prepare for the soldiers when they return as they transition back to civilian life

Those who would like more information about Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, are encouraged to attend the meeting July 27 One can also contact Olson or Caraway

Other information can also be found at the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Web site at wwwbtyrorg

Story by Troy Krause
Editor, Redwood Gazette
14 July 2011

Redwood Falls Gazette

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