There are many factors that make Minnesota a great place to live: quality law enforcement, teachers, colleges and universities, health care organizations, parks, trails and the list goes on. The groups that we can never forget, and need to continue to support, are our service members, veterans and their families.
I recently met with representatives from the Minnesota Army National Guard, 3M Corporation, HealthEast Care System, Veterans Organizations, city, county and community organizers, members of the faith community and caring citizens to discuss how Maplewood and Ramsey County can help its service members and their families by becoming a “Yellow Ribbon Community”. A Yellow Ribbon Community unites all areas within a community to create a comprehensive network that connects and coordinates agencies, organizations, resources and employers for the purpose of proactively supporting service members and their families.
Our service members’ families need support in all three phases of deployment; while the service member is away, his or her return and the transition back into civilian life. By developing this network, we can unite our community to honor and embrace those affected by military deployments.
There are several steps to become a Yellow Ribbon City or County. We will be meeting again in April to discuss the next step in this process. For more information on how you or your city can get involved, visit: http://www.btyr.org/. I would like to make a special thanks to Maplewood Mayor Will Rossbach for his efforts in organizing these meetings.
In our last meeting we also heard from R. Tim McElroy (3M Corporate Marketing and Public Affairs) on a network created to support 3M employees and their families. The Military Support Network was created by Sandy Masterson, a 3M employee, to honor her son, Corporal Conor G. Masterson, who was killed in action in Afghanistan while participating in Operation Enduring Freedom. The Networks goals are to:
· Raise Awareness of those affiliated with 3M who have or are serving our country and extend support to them.
· Extend tools to 3M employees interested in volunteer opportunities supporting our service members.
· Offer assistance to families of deployed military members to relieve stress and concern.
· Educate 3M employees about the military community and those who serve in the Armed Forces.
· Support disabled veterans by participating in programs throughout the 3M employment process.
· Honor deceased military members and offer support to their families.
As a parent whose daughter served in Iraq, I know how much support from your community can help while a loved one is away. I appreciate everything the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program and 3M is doing to help those in need. We owe a great deal of gratitude to our service members and their families. We need to rally around them in any way we can.
If you would like to get involved with Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, there are many things you can do:
Thank a Family – A simple thank you goes a long way. When you see a military family out in your community thank them for supporting their service member. When service members are deployed the family at home has increased responsibilities, and never gets that pat on the back that they may well deserve.
Donate Time to help a Family – Help a nearby family mow their lawn, fix their car or paint their house. Visit the Military Family Care Initiative at www.BeyondTheYellowRibbon.org, and click on “The First Lady’s Military Care Initiative” to sign up you or your organization.
Bring about a Smile – Donate groceries for a meal, donate money towards “Hero Bears” for military children or any other act of kindness. You can show your support by contacting SGT Amy Smith at the Minnesota National Guard Family Programs Office.
It is wonderful to see the effort being made around the state and locally. The city of Oakdale is working to honor our veterans with a memorial and Washington County earned its Yellow Ribbon designation last year. Some schools even pitch in with letters and invite veterans to educate our students. Additionally, great work is being done by the VFW, Legion and axillaries throughout the area. As the DFL lead on the Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee, I am looking forward to meeting with all of these groups throughout the year to see how we can help our veterans.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions as needed. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your house or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.