MARSHALL - There's been a lot of progress for a local group dedicated to organizing resources for area military servicepeople. But the group plans to keep the network growing, Denise Schneekloth said this week.
Schneekloth and area community members were ready to give progress updates on the efforts of Marshall's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon group, and other local military resources, for a meeting with Maj. Gen. Richard Nash on Friday. Nash is the Minnesota adjutant general. The meeting had to be canceled because of weather conditions in eastern Minnesota, but Schneekloth said the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon group's mission is still ongoing.
"It's been going really well," said Schneekloth, a member of the Marshall Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Committee.
Marshall was officially named a Yellow Ribbon Community in September 2011. Receiving that designation means Marshall is committed to supporting soldiers, veterans and their families. Members of Marshall's committee work together with local residents, groups and businesses to make up a formal support network if someone needs help.
"We had kind of picked a few success stories to talk about (with Gen. Nash)," Schneekloth said. In the year since Marshall became a Yellow Ribbon Community, "We've helped families make connections with services or resources that would be useful to them," Schneekloth said. That has included offering assistance to families taking care of children while one or both of their parents are deployed overseas and being part of employment and support events for area vets and military families. Two such events, including job and benefits fairs, were in Marshall in April and July.
Schneekloth said the group has several goals to continue building up a support network in Marshall.
"We want to do more with our faith community," Schneekloth said, as well as with local healthcare providers. Those groups can help provide or connect members of the military with resources for emotional, spiritual and mental support. It would also be helpful to have a ready source of information on which health providers accept military insurance or benefits, and so on, she said.
"And we're always looking for people, organizations or groups who would like to be part of our committee," Schneekloth said.
Schneekloth said the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon group also hopes to expand its network, working with other area committees and local employers. For example, Schneekloth said, US Bank has become a Yellow Ribbon Company and has been active in efforts to help military servicepeople reintegrate and find employment.
Schneekloth said the group would also like to work more closely with Southwest Minnesota State University.
Justin Guggisberg, a representative of the Higher Education Veterans Program at SMSU's Veterans Resource Center, said while the university doesn't currently have a formal partnership with Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, teaming up could be a positive thing. The Yellow Ribbon group could provide additional resources to help SMSU students access military benefits and create more public awareness for the Veterans Resource Center.
"There's been a lot of support from the SMSU campus," in working together to help military servicepeople and veterans, Guggisberg said.
Schneekloth said it's not always easy to translate the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon project's impact into numbers of people served. At bigger area events, she said, "We don't always know how many people we've touched."
However, the need is certainly there.
"There are still people from our area who are deployed. We have active-duty servicepeople here too," she said.
And the number of people in need of support services will be high. More than 3,000 servicepeople statewide completed reintegration training this fall. Even after National Guard and military members return to civilian life, they can face challenges with their finances, employment or their physical and mental health, Schneekloth said.
While there's a lot the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon group would still like to do, Schneekloth said the Marshall area community is already making a good effort to support soldiers and their families. That will be a big help as the group's work moves ahead.
"We're excited about moving forward and doing some of these things," Schneekloth said.