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Minnesota National Guard
Reintegration Takes a Huge Step

Minneapolis, Minn-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, in coordination with the Department of Veterans' Affairs, organized a summit of organizations to aide the reintegration of returning troops at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Sept 21, 2006

The summit was in preparation for the return of approximately 3,000 Minnesotan Service members this spring, but the effects of it will carry far into the future for veterans who return to Minnesota
"I really hope that the tone of this meeting today is not people like me standing up here, telling you what we've done," said Pawlenty "I hope the tone of the meeting is people like you telling us what more we can do and how we can take the systems that we do have and make them more modern; make them more effective"

The governor cited the mistreatment of Vietnam veterans when they returned from duty and asserted that he never wanted that to happen in our nation or our state again

Many organizations were summoned to the event, and many organizations volunteered their time Throughout the course of the day, 18 different organizations gave interactive presentations to address known issues that affect returning veterans

While much of the focus was aimed at helping returning veterans assert themselves in positive directions, such as attaining benefits, enrolling in higher education and teaming up with faith-based ministries, there was still serious attention paid to negative effects veterans face because of deployments Seminars and discussions were conducted about issues like traumatic brain injury, homelessness, addictive behaviors and post traumatic stress disorder

Speakers at each workshop gave a prepared presentation to uncover information that is already available, regarding each topic, but they also allotted nearly half of the time to discussion Audience members raised points of inquiry, concern and thoughtful ideas that will help each organization better address their area of expertise

Following the individual presentations, the assembled group gathered in a large meeting room to hear Minnesota Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito speak As a Vietnam veteran, Shellito has been a champion of the "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" reintegration program since the time when it was only an idea

"They won't care how much you know, until they know how much you care," said Shellito to the audience, in reference to the returning veterans "We have to teach people to shut up and listen"

With the culmination of the meeting, there was an across-the-board agreement that the events of that day were not, by any means, an ending point, but only a beginning The message of compassion from Shellito was also accompanied by a stern call to action

"(I hope) that you have been enlightened," said Shellito And that you are truly the disciple that goes out and says "˜We're going to make a difference And if you don't want to join me, then I'm going to make a difference'"

Story by: Spc Joe Roos

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