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Minnesota National Guard
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, beyond Minnesota

There's more reward than risk in the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program Act that Rep John Kline introduced in the US House on Tuesday But there is some risk

The reward: If it passes Congress, National Guard Soldiers returning from war zones will get the benefit of a smart, practical, on-point Minnesota effort to help them reintegrate in their communities The Minnesota National Guard leaders - among them Major Gen Larry Shellito and Chaplain (Maj) John Morris - who created the program here will see their tireless work on behalf of Soldiers, families and communities echo nationwide The investment will pay off for generations

Our current wars are different from others, in that they rely so heavily on National Guard and reserve Soldiers to supplement those who were on active duty Hundreds of thousands of National Guard Soldiers have been called to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan Many have had long and/or multiple deployments They have essentially left civilian life one day, deployed to war, and then returned to civilian life suddenly when their deployments are over Many are older and perhaps more thoroughly enmeshed in their civilian communities than Soldiers in earlier wars Because they return so abruptly to civilian life, Guard and reserve Soldiers don't have access to the same decompression apparatus that active-duty Soldiers have, nor the wider group of peers who understand their experience because they've lived it They go from dodging bullets and improvised explosive devices one week to waiting at red lights the next

For the overwhelming majority of American citizens who have no personal experience whatsoever with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this transition is difficult to even imagine Most Soldiers make the transition well - but that doesn't mean it's not difficult, nor that we shouldn't apply what we've learned about helping them through the transition It takes time, and community involvement

The program Kline's bill provides for is based on the successful "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" reintegration effort in Minnesota and draws from similar efforts elsewhere It would, among other things:

Establish an Office for Reintegration Programs at the National Guard Bureau that would coordinate with state Guard organizations to help Soldiers, their families and communities

Provide for a clearinghouse to collect, analyze and share lessons learned from around the country

Provide information and layers of support for Soldiers, their families and communities through the four phases of the deployment cycle: pre-deployment, deployment, demobilization, post-deployment All US House members from Minnesota have signed on as co-sponsors

Rep Keith Ellison, for example, said he was "very grateful to - and supportive of - our returning National Guard veterans We should support their return to our communities This bill brings yet another common-sense Minnesota solution to an American challenge"

We agree, and we're grateful to Kline for raising the profile - and deepening the support - of Minnesotans' effort to bring lessons learned and whole communities to bear on the successful reintegration of Soldiers We also believe it's important to account fully for the price of war, and this program helps

Which brings us to the risk we cited above Because so few Americans have personal connections to these wars, it's easy to imagine that dealing with their effects is somebody else's job Creation of a more formal, federally funded and organized reintegration program could create the illusion that government has all the bases covered

It doesn't

As Chaplain Morris reminds us often, it take whole communities - friends, families, congregations, employers, civic organizations and more - to get the job done right

Pioneer Press
May 1, 2005
Source: http://www.twincities.com

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Posted: 2017-12-13  10:11 AM
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