by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Working devotedly on behalf of veterans throughout the state of Minnesota, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon committees have performed many acts of service for veterans and their families.
Representatives from 15 cities, two counties and two companies gathered at Camp Ripley Wednesday to be formally recognized as Yellow Ribbon Networks.
“There are more than 200 networks across Minnesota … providing an invaluable service in our communities,” said Brigadier General Neal Loidolt.
He described many ways volunteers have given of themselves and their time and other resources to make life easier for military families during and after deployments. Some of these include doing lawn care, giving child care, providing meals, giving rides and sending care packages.
“You are committed to meet the needs of our job-seeking veterans,” Loidolt said. “You are developing school support groups. You are all models of how to unite to synchronize these groups.”
Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner-Solon presented formal proclamations to two cities, two counties and two companies. Thirteen of the 15 cities recognized are included in Morrison County: Little Falls, Motley, Royalton, Swanville, Sobieski, Harding, Buckman, Upsala, Randall, Pierz, Bowlus, Elmdale and Lastrup. The county is home to more than 26,000 veterans.
Prettner-Solon described the initiative as a statewide collaborative effort to provide for the more than 400,000 Minnesota veterans.
“They deserve to find peace, health and security in their old age; to find some sense of normalcy here at home,” she said. “These networks go a long way … to support them.”
A videotaped message from Senator Al Franken was played during the ceremony.
On behalf of the more than 1,000 full-time soldiers who work at Camp Ripley, as well as the 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers who come through the base each week, Camp Ripley Commander Col. Scott St. Sauver expressed his appreciation that the ceremony was held at Camp Ripley.
During the time of the ceremony, Cong. Rick Nolan spoke for one minute on the floor of the Minnesota State House in St. Paul.
“Yellow Ribbon is a truly remarkable program that eases the transition of our soldiers to civilians by providing job training, counseling and all kinds of support for service members, veterans and military families,” he said.
Yellow Ribbon Networks find very real and practical ways to help military families. They don’t just say thank you — they help break the isolation service members may experience, said Prettner-Solon.
Emcee Kris VonBerge, retired National Guard member and director of the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau, commended all Yellow Ribbon Networks for uniting to honor and embrace service members.
The Morrison County Yellow Ribbon Network’s steering committee includes: Kevin Brown, Rich Collins, Paul Froncak, Tom Girtz, Duane Johnson, Tami Klucas, Dan Noss, Sandy Noss, Mike Olson, Frank Rebnord, Denise Schweisthal, Renee Tabatt, Tim Tabatt, Kristina VonBerge and Greg Zylka.
An informal presentation was made following the ceremony to two former members of the Morrison County Network: Jodi Weaver and 1LT Blake St. Sauver.
“We appreciate their very valuable contribution,” said Collins.
“Eighteen months of hard work went into our action plan,” Collins said. “As citizens of Morrison County, we make a commitment to help all veterans and deployed soldiers and their families, working with the Family Assistance Center at Camp Ripley.”
“As a soldier deploys, his or her question is, ‘Who will take care of my family when I’m gone?’” he said. “Camp Ripley and the Guard make a tremendous financial impact on Morrison County and it’s time to give back to those who have done so much for us and our country.”