Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaigns connect communities with families of fallen, wounded and disturbed vets

During this Memorial Day week, it’s well to dwell on what communities can do to help men and women returning from service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, 19,000 Minnesota National Guard men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The state has buried its dead soldiers, is treating its wounded and trying to help returning veterans get restarted in their communities.
No matter what your position on the wars, all Minnesotans should try to help families of the fallen, the wounded and those returning from horrific personal experiences.
There is a program taking root across Minnesota, called Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, which is trying to help communities connect with families of the fallen, the wounded and some disturbed returnees.
This comes at a time when 2,400 troops from Minnesota are being called to provide security in Kuwait, and to escort convoys in and out of Iraq.
The city of Farmington has a full-blown program, along with Lakeville and Spring Lake Park. Isanti and Washington counties are certified in the Yellow Ribbon movement.
The city of Rogers hopes to become a Yellow Ribbon city.
The challenge to Minnesota communities is to locate families of the dead, the wounded and the returnees to civilian life. Due to privacy issues, the names of National Guard men and women cannot be released and so it’s up to the communities to find them.
Blaine is organizing itself to be a Yellow Ribbon city. The city brought together business leaders, volunteer organizations, faith-based organizations, elected officials, residents, spouses and family members of those in the U.S. military.
The next step is to have a steering committee with representatives from the city leadership, business community, faith-based organizations, veterans organizations, social services/medical, public safety, judicial and education/youth.
This committee will coordinate agencies, organizations, resources and employers to meet the needs of service members and their families at the local level.
The next step will be to form an action plan to coordinate agencies, resources and employers to meet the needs of the service members and their families.
Families can get aid and counseling at family assistance centers located throughout the state, including ones in Little Falls and Rosemount. Such services include financial planning, health care access, community awareness, quality employment opportunities, family support and education.
At the congressional level, 2nd District Congessman John Kline says the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon reintegration program, available to units nationwide, will be fully funded in the national defense bill.
At this time as we remember our servicemen and -women, living and dead, community leaders should resolve to help our military men and women. The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program is a good place to start. The Web site is: beyond the yellow ribbon.org. — Don Heinzman, ECM Publishers

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