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Welcoming more communities into the yellow ribbon network

Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General, speaks Friday during the Yellow Ribbon recognition program at Evangelical Free Church in Willmar. The program honored Renville County, Lac qui Parle County, Appleton, Sauk Centre and the Morris area for their extra efforts to support military service members and their families.

WILLMAR — Five new west central communities were added to the Yellow Ribbon network during a formal ceremony Friday afternoon in Willmar, building on the state’s commitment to support its military members and their families.

“You have achieved the highest standards,” said Major General Richard Nash, from the Minnesota National Guard. “Thank you for your passion in supporting the family members of our military service members.”

The communities of Lac qui Parle County, Renville County, Appleton, Sauk Centre and the Morris area, which includes the cities of Morris, Cyrus, Chokio, Donnelly, Alberta and Hancock received the special proclamation that puts them in a network that includes more than 200 other Minnesota communities.

The leadership of “patriotic Minnesotans like you” has had a “positive impact on military families,” said Nash.

Willmar was selected to host the event because its “Homefront Connection” organization earned the town its Yellow Ribbon status in 2010.

Active military, veterans, community leaders and local Gold Star Families whose military family member was killed in action, attended the event.

Communities in the network develop sustainable plans of support that involve public and private sector volunteers.

Activities include such things as helping families with yard work while their service member spouse is deployed; tutoring children of military members; encouraging employers to provide jobs for returning service members; organizing send-offs and welcome-home celebrations for military members; organizing Veterans Day programs at schools; and providing reintegration services.

These are also the people that offer community support when their “fallen heroes are brought back home,” said Nash.

“We appreciate your visible signs of support on these emotional days,” he said.

“You are modeling behavior of how communities unite and synchronize to support service members, all veterans and their families,” said Nash. “I sincerely appreciate all you do.”

The proclamation of the Yellow Ribbon communities fell on the same day that the country remembered the fallen heroes in the bombing of Pearl Harbor 71 years ago.

Back then “almost every single person was pulled into that giant global struggle,” said Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who also spoke at the event.

Recognizing Yellow Ribbon communities is an opportunity to honor all military for their service and sacrifice and to “restate our dedication to never forget,” he said.

It’s also “a chance to rekindle our dedication to support and to serve. And it’s a chance to hear again how important people helping each other has been in the lives of those veterans and others who are there through those 71 years.”

Like churches that are there “for the best days of our lives and the hardest, most grief-stricken days of our lives,” Ritchie said Yellow Ribbon networks “help each other to celebrate” when service members come home and are there to provide support during difficult days.

“Thank you for taking on that task,” he said

Ritchie said as the country remembers Pearl Harbor 71 years ago, people will also remember today’s military and their Yellow Ribbon communities “71 years from now or 171 years from now.”

Ritchie said, “I’m telling you, we will never forget those who’ve sacrificed, those we’ve lost. We will never forget.”

Carolyn Lange

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

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