Connecting military families to their community
Volunteers in a local organization understand that the best support they can give deployed service members is to help their families back home.
Whether it's delivering meals, mowing lawns or painting a house, the goal of HomeFront Connection is to meet the needs of families, connect them to the community and its resources, and develop community awareness of the needs and sacrifices of area service members.
HomeFront Connection was started in 2008 by Kammy Nelson. She serves as coordinator of the organization's leadership team. Nelson said she started HomeFront Connection after realizing that the best way to support deployed service members was to support their families on the home front.
Her passion for the military began when her son, Jayme, joined the Minnesota National Guard. Nelson said her father served during the Korean War, but she really had no exposure to the military way of life before Jayme enlisted.
When her son deployed to Iraq in 2007-08 and left a wife and baby behind, Nelson said she experienced what families go through when their loved one heads overseas into harm's way.
Nelson thinks the organization has done an awesome job.
"It's been a great team. Everybody has been really connected. We have a woman on the team whose husband is deployed now. Most of our members are parents of military members. We are good support for each other and it's great to be a part of a group of people that share that passion,'' said Nelson.
Team member Trisha Appeldorn served six years in the Air Force. She is currently the Kandiyohi County veterans' service officer and works daily with veterans to get any type of assistance they need.
Appeldorn said HomeFront Connection has assisted with projects that she could not have completed on her own.
Team member Dick Reitsma served 27 years in the military. He was active in the National Guard 10 years ago. He said the soberness and patriotism that was shown and the support for the guard and military after the attacks on 9/11 was phenomenal.
"We as soldiers really felt that,'' said Reitsma. "I had a stepson who was deployed in 2008, so we do know what the feelings are when you have someone taken out of your household and sent where there's possible danger.''
Team members said Reitsma has a huge heart for veterans. He mows lawns for wives whose husbands are deployed and he was among the volunteers who painted a three-story house in southeast Willmar on June 18.
"I got associated with HomeFront Connection because it's in my heart to give back, and also the need is there,'' said Reitsma. "I know that these people really do appreciate the help that they do get from HomeFront Connection.''
Conrad Bostron, CEO and general manager of Central Lakes Co-op of Atwater, is president of HomeFront Connection. Bostron and his wife were raised by World War II veterans, and their families instilled a sense of pride in their country and support for the military. The Bostrons have a son who is an active duty Marine and has served in Iraq and the Pacific.
"One of our members has gone through a deployment and her husband and children were left at home. It can be pretty major when mom's gone. The majority of the members of our group have some permanent military ties as well,'' he said.
"Just like my family, our son's a full-time career Marine, and getting this whole perspective of the National Guard and citizen soldier is somewhat new to us, but it has given me a different perspective on the importance that the National Guard and reserve play in the overall military effort,'' said Bostron.
"We couldn't do what we're doing if we didn't have that resource. It's been an exciting couple of years and we anticipate that it will continue to be that,'' Bostron said.
More information about HomeFront Connection can be found at homefrontconnection.org.