by Jim Boyle
A fresh blanket of snow would be a welcome sight tomorrow for Butch and Darla Manke of Elk River.
But trace back two years ago, when Butch was deployed as a member of the Army National Guard and snow fell in waves on Christmas Day and in the days before and after Christmas.
Pretty as it may have been, that snow wasn’t such a welcome sight for Darla, who had been thrust into a quasi-form of single life like no other. These and other times throughout Butch’s deployment, Darla found herself on the phone and reaching out for help.
“You always hear about help being out there,” Darla told the Star News. “But it’s hard to find. And even once you do find it, it can still be hard to piece together.”
The formation of a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Committee in Elk River, however, has given her hope it will become easier for families in the Elk River area affected by a loved one’s deployment.
She already knows her husband will be deployed again, and she’s hoping this group can provide a better backdrop for her and other spouses like her who find themselves thrust into dual roles.
A committee to put together an arm of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon in Elk River formed earlier this year and the group will host a kickoff at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 7 at the Elk River American Legion.
It’s open to the public, including service members and their families as well as average citizens and representatives of business and community organizations who want to help servicemen and women return home to the communities.
Annette Kuyper, director of military outreach for the Minnesota National Guard, will present a PowerPoint and video presentation as well as answer questions about the program.
Several committees have been busy preparing a multi-faceted approach to determining and filling the needs of service members and their families — before, during and long after their deployments. Beyond the Yellow Ribbon responds to all branches of the military as well as reserves and guard members.
Manke is excited to learn more, and has even expressed a desire to help. The needs of those that Beyond the Yellow Ribbon will serve are wide and varied.
Manke said she remembers feeling overwhelmed at times, wishing there was a landing place for her and others in similar situations.
It wasn’t a constant weight on her shoulders, but it could be brought on by anything from a light bulb that goes out in a hard-to-reach spot to the time her car broke down when it was six degrees below zero. Snowfalls could do it, too.
The thought of retrieving Butch’s four-wheeler equipped with a plow on Christmas in 2009 was hard to get her mind wrapped around.
This independent woman who runs her own tax preparation and business services business felt the full weight of her husband’s absence on occasions like this and other times.
“We’re a team,” Darla Manke said. “But we fit into these roles and when that one person leaves, it leaves holes.”
That’s one of the areas for focus for the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon group. There are many others.
The public is encouraged to come and find out more about Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program on Jan. 7. There will be treats and refreshments. Elk River Mayor John Dietz, who has been a supporter of this movement and on the organizing committee, will speak.
by Jim Boyle