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Co. Board observes a moment of silence for fallen soldier

WILLMAR -- After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the meeting Tuesday, members of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners fell silent.

At the request of board Chairman Richard Falk, the commissioners held a moment of silence in honor of a New London man, Pfc. Ryane Clark, 22, who was killed while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

The 2007 New London-Spicer graduate was killed Monday in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Shekhabad, Afghanistan.

News of the soldier's death punctuated it-ems on the commissio-ners' agenda that included sc-heduled up-dates on two veterans' issues.

"Sadly, the loss of a Kandiyohi County man who has given his life in the military" makes the veterans issues "more compelling," said County Attorney Boyd Beccue.

Beccue provided an update to the board about Hennepin County's veterans treatment court, and efforts to implement a similar system here.

Veterans who have seen and experienced the horrors of war may return home with post-traumatic stress disorder, said Trisha Appeldorn, the Kandiyohi County Veterans Service Officer. Sometimes those returning soldiers get into trouble with the law because they haven't received adequate psychological treatment.

The pilot project in Hennepin County considers treatment as an alternative to jail time during sentencing for some offenses when a soldier's post-traumatic stress disorder may be linked to the crime.

A group of regional judges, county attorneys and veterans service officers met Sept. 27 in Glenwood to discuss implementing the system in greater Minnesota.

An e-mail from Judge Jon Stafsholt that Appeldorn received Monday said it had been determined that a full veterans treatment court would not be established. Instead, Stafsholt, who was appointed as the lead judge on the issue for the Eighth Judicial District, said a "rural model" of the court will be established to "deal with veterans issues in a meaningful way."

Stafsholt said he expects the number of veteran cases in court to increase "because of the repeated tours of duties and stress."

Beccue said that from July to August of this year, there have been 15 veterans identified in the courts in the 13-county district, with three in Kandiyohi County.

Some veterans are not aware they may be eligible for additional assistance, do not tell the court they are veterans and are therefore "under-counted," he said.

With the assistance of Appeldorn, Beccue said his office is trying to help identify veterans so that the courts have the "full information."

Even though a formal veterans court system will not be in place, Beccue said efforts can be made to make sure that treatment is an option to incarceration. Depending on the severity of the crime, intervention and treatment may not be applicable, he said.

The rural model being considered could include mentors to work with veterans, training for police, prosecutors and defense attorneys and coordination with Veterans Affairs.

Appeldorn on Tuesday also gave the County Board a brief update on the 11 area World War II veterans who traveled to Washington, D.C., this weekend to participate in a tour of memorials there with more than 100 other World War II veterans. She also reported that Willmar is now designated a Yellow Ribbon city that provides resources and support for members of the armed forces and their families.


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750