by Jim Boyle
The Minnesota Army National Guard and the Elk River American Legion are partners in a world-record-setting venture.
The two have joined forces on the largest thank-you card. The hope is to get 257,000 signatures on this 16-by-48-foot monstrosity in time for the return of the 257th Military Police Co. out of Monticello.
The size of the card should get it in the Guinness Book of World Records, but that’s the least of the excitement surrounding the endeavor.
“My biggest pride and joy is keeping members of the 257th in the thoughts and prayers of people, reminding them there are still people overseas in a war,” said Master Sgt. Charlie Bebus of the Minnesota Army National Guard’s Elk River recruiting office.
After recent efforts at the Minnesota Vikings’ win over the Detroit Lions at Mall of America Field this past weekend and last night’s Friday night dinner at the Elk River American Legion, its estimated they have between 50,000 and 60,000 signatures so far.
There are between 135 and 140 men and women from the 257th Military Police Co. in Afghanistan right now who are due back this spring. A few of them are reportedly from Elk River. The hope is to present the thank-you card upon their return.
Mike Beyer, the commander of the Elk River American Legion, said it’s the Legion’s intent once this group has progressed in their reintegration to throw a party for them at the Legion.
“This is our way to give back,” Beyer said of the efforts to get signatures on the card and to host a welcome home party.
The American Legion is looking for businesses to host sections of the thank-you card (preferably where there’s lots of traffic) to get signatures on it. They also are looking for donations. Any money that clears expenses from the effort will go into the party at the Legion, Beyer said.
Businesses and organizations interested in hosting the card are asked to call Bebus or Staff Sgt. Liz Lindskoog at 651-315-5842 or 651-775-2009.
Beyer is in talks with Elk River Wal-Mart and other area locations to have it set up.
So far the card has been at the Minnesota State Fair, the Minnesota Lynx game, the Minnesota Timberwolves game and the Dome for the Nov. 11 Vikings game.
The effort was announced at the NFL game and displayed on the scoreboard for all screaming Vikings fans to see. It was part of an overall effort to recognize veterans on Veterans Day.
“It was an exciting day,” Beyer said.
The entire card was on display at the game. In addition to the Elk River American Legion and the Minnesota Army National Guard, there are a few other sponsors.
Brad Hopkins of Hopkins Illustrations did the design work. New Heights Building and Renovations built the card and helps set it up at various venues. And Sunshine Senior Living has been volunteering to help and is putting on an effort to send care packages to the 257th for Christmas.