ECM Editorial Contributor
No matter what your position on the wars, we honor the warriors this Veterans Week. Gone are the days, thank goodness, when warriors who returned from the Vietnam War were greeted shamefully.
Now, communities across the state are organizing Beyond the Yellow Ribbon units, designed to organize their resources and to help military families in every way possible, particularly those recently deployed or returning from deployment. These families and those returning from deployment face challenges adjusting to civilian life and to their families.
The National Guard particularly is involving Yellow Ribbon units to help their members adjust to civilian life. One challenge for those who have organized Yellow Ribbon units is locating the families who need the help and are reluctant to ask for it. Due to privacy laws, their military units are not able to provide those names.
The hope of Yellow Ribbon units is that if organized, families will come forward. So, this is an appeal to military families to come forward if you need help and your Yellow Ribbon community will go out of its way to assist you. There also is a State Yellow Ribbon web site for guidance.
A Yellow Ribbon community has to develop a comprehensive strategic plan to be certified by the state. A steering committee writes the plan and follows it up after state certification. That plan has key areas of city leadership, veterans organizations, K-12 education and youth programs, public safety and judicial, business and employers, faith based, medical, social services and volunteer groups.
Yellow Ribbon organizers are finding that initially families are asking for little things: repairing, fixing plumbing and electrical problems, mowing lawns, painting houses, caring for children.
One example is a mother who needed help to move from her home in St. Cloud to her parents’ home in Brooklyn Park; 17 Yellow Ribbon members helped her.
Annette Kuyper, director of military outreach, says so many veterans feel alone and isolated and now Minnesota has Beyond the Yellow Ribbon networks to support them.
At first, the program began to help National Guard members and was expanded to include all members of the military and veterans.
Now when the warriors come home from the war, they are welcomed, not spat upon, in part because Yellow Ribbon communities have come together to help and to thank those who have sacrificed much for our country.
Don Heinzman is a columnist and editorial writer for ECM Publishers, Inc.