by Jim Boyle
The first in a series of dinners planned for active military, reservists, National Guard members, veterans and their families was a success.
The event, held Feb. 11, attracted 70 people to Central Lutheran Church in Elk River. The next dinner will be held March 11 at Living Waters Church in Elk River. More will follow, especially if they go as well as the first one did.
“There was a great mix of veterans from World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan and some set to be deployed in about three weeks,” said Carol Greier. “It was a great group to connect and have them share a piece of themselves.”
Veterans and active military took time before dinner to introduce themselves and in many cases their families. Veterans expressed admiration for active duty soldiers. Active duty members of the military expressed thankfulness for Elk River’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.
Many of the active military are attached to the Anoka Armory, including one soldier who has yet to deploy but said one of the reasons he enlisted was the goodwill from groups like the Yellow Ribbon group.
He expressed a thankfulness for having people here locally poised to help the loved ones he leaves behind.
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon picked up a few more volunteers willing to share their gifts and talents. Servicemen were asked to fill out comment cards about the dinner and explain what services they might need help with.
Some suggested adding guest speakers to the dinners. Many simply asked the group to keep up their good work, Greier said.
“It was an awesome night,” she said. “I think people there were appreciative.”
Curtis Swanson, the commander of the Elk River-Rogers V.F.W. was definitely appreciative. He said the event was “fantastic.”
He said he is pleased with how many services Beyond the Yellow Ribbon can provide. He knows his aging V.F.W. membership can’t provide the same level of support.
“Beyond the Yellow Ribbon has accomplished a lot already,” Swanson said.
Mayor John Dietz initiated Elk River’s involvement in the Yellow Ribbon program at the suggestion of veteran Ralph Donais, who attended the dinner after attending a hearing at the state Capitol earlier in the day. (Click here to read story.)
Greier said with the success of the first dinner, the next one might look similar to the first but added that it will evolve to meet the needs of those the effort is trying to serve.