Archived Story

Fergus Falls to become Yellow Ribbon City

Published 11:19am Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fergus Falls has always been supportive of its veterans, but now is the time to take the next step. That was the message of Sharon Casey at the Monday night meeting of the Fergus Falls city council, and the council responded to her challenge.

Casey has been the armed forces Family Readiness Group leader in Fergus Falls for the last six years. During her time in the position, she was exposed to the Yellow Ribbon Community program, and she approached the council on Monday to ask them to join the program. The council unanimously approved a resolution to do so.

The purpose of the program, she explained, “is to coordinate the resources available in our city that people would utilize if they have needs as a returning soldier or veteran.” In other words, the program sets up a formalized support network for veterans and active service members that spans across city services, educators, businesses, churches and more.

“It’s having kind of the official registry of services for veterans,” Casey explained. “We want it to be … a visible thing where communities are stepping forward and being designated (as veteran supporters).”

Casey gave some examples of what sorts of services veterans could have access to under the program. If a serviceman or woman’s child is experiencing deployment-related problems with school, the network can reach out to the school and child and provide specialized help. Other possibilities include creating apprentice programs for returning veterans or offering help to military families who need chores or work done.

“Right now there are five officially declared Yellow Ribbon communities,” Casey told the council. Twelve more, and now Fergus Falls, are in the process of completing the training and networking to become full participants in the program. In 2008, Farmington was the first city to receive the designation. The program was created by the Minnesota National Guard.

Casey believes that Fergus Falls is a perfect fit for the program because of its patriotism and the support it’s shown for the National Guard troops who were deployed to Iraq in 2005.

During (the troops’ deployment time), the community was amazing,” Casey said. Community members raised money, sent care packages and gave the troops a hero’s welcome when they returned in 2007. “We’ve always had an amazing amount of support and resources available (for them),” she added.

However, she explained, the people who have returned home, and those who may be deployed in the future, still have needs. “Since it’s been a few years since we’ve had returning vets … it’s not at the forefront,” she said. With the Yellow Ribbon Community program, Casey believes that residents will raise to the occasion again.

“I think we’ve already been there and been a community that supports veterans,” she said.

The program’s tentative start date is Wednesday, Nov. 11, when a community information session will be held over lunch. Casey said a location has not yet been decided on.

For more information, check out the program’s website at www.beyondtheyellowribbon.com.

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