MARSHALL - The leading officer of the Minnesota National Guard commended area residents for their efforts to support members of the military during a visit to Marshall on Wednesday. Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard, said while the needs of area servicepeople may change over time, groups like the Yellow Ribbon Network will continue to play an important role in Minnesota.
During a visit to the Marshall unit of the National Guard, Nash met with Guard members and representatives from the Marshall area Beyond the Yellow Ribbon group. Nash also toured US Bank and Southwest Minnesota State University. Both US Bank, a Yellow Ribbon Company, and SMSU have helped support veterans and members of the military in our region.
Members of the area Beyond the Yellow Ribbon steering committee gave an update on the group's activities.
"One of the things we're in the process of is reviewing our action plan," said Denise Schneekloth, chairwoman of the steering committee. The review process will help the group better meet the needs of military servicepeople and families, she said. The Marshall area group has also taken on a new name, Mustang Country Yellow Ribbon Communities, to reflect a wider focus, Schneekloth said.
Marshall was named a Yellow Ribbon Community in 2011. Schneekloth said since then, the area Beyond the Yellow Ribbon group has generated a good response from the community.
"The people, the businesses and the organizations in this area are just incredible," Schneekloth said. So far, they have been able to help organize networking and support events for members of the military, including the "For All Who Have Served" event that was in Marshall last summer. More than 300 people attended that event, said Jeff Gay.
Mustang Country Yellow Ribbon also has several projects it will continue working on, Schneekloth said. For example, she said, the group is working to compile information on area health care providers who partner with military health care programs like United Health Care.
"If a family is looking for a health care provider that will accept United Health Care coverage, we could tell them that," she said.
Other priorities include helping to connect military service members and their families with mental health resources and spiritual support. Rev. Bernie Wing said members of the Marshall area clergy are helping provide access to retreats and counseling events. Deb Herrman, registered nurse at Marshall Public Schools, said the district now has a resource curriculum in place to help children who may have family members in the military.
"How the community has come together for what you've done is commendable," Nash told Beyond the Yellow Ribbon committee members on Wednesday. "But I would ask that you look at it from a holistic level."
Nash said Beyond the Yellow Ribbon groups around the state will need to adapt to changing needs in the future.
Currently, he said, "There's a reduced footprint of deployments," down to about 230 Minnesota National Guard soldiers compared to more than 3,000 one year ago. But while the need to support deployed and reintegrating troops may lessen, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon communities around Minnesota now have a vital network of knowledge and resources that didn't exist before.
"That is a powerful organization for the state of Minnesota and elected officials to take care of our citizens, for anything," Nash said.