Farmington could be state's first Yellow Ribbon city
Farmington's Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are being called into service once again, but in a different kind of way.
Rather than going overseas to defend freedom, they are being asked to come forward to share the stories of their deployments and their homecomings, their triumphs and their struggles. Quite simply, they are being asked to share their experiences with their community and the state of Minnesota.
Farmington is on its way to possibly becoming the first Beyond the Yellow Ribbon City in Minnesota, part of the the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon and Warrior to Citizen campaigns that have been budding in the community over the past several months.
The goal of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is to provide training and understanding for residents -- particularly family members, employers and others close to men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan -- about the things today's combat veterans are experiencing. The program aims to educate those closest to returning veterans so they can help reintegrate military men and women into everyday life.
The Warrior to Citizen program, a branch of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, reaches out to military men and women, helping them become active in their community.
Farmington's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon and Warrior to Citizen campaigns are driven by two enthusiastic individuals, who understand the impact of war from different perspectives -- mother Annette Kuyper, whose son Jared has served overseas, and Minnesota National Guard CSM Scott Mills.
They head the group, which meets the second Tuesday of each month at Farmington City Hall. Their goal is to form a network of support in the Farmington community, and for the group to become a model for other cities.
Kuyper and Mills have been working with the University of Minnesota's Center for Democracy, which is developing a traveling display that will help to educate the public about the trials and tribulations of today's soldiers. The U of M is looking for military men and women in Farmington to participate in interviews for the Warrior to Citizen Oral History Project.
The hope, Kuyper says, is to get the perspective of as many local soldiers, from all military branches, as possible.
Pieces of the interviews will be used as audio for the traveling display, which is expected to be completed in the coming months. There is a good chance, she said, that Farmington could be one of the first stops for it.
"This is a piece of oral history. It will be huge for us to be a part of this," she said.
Interviews will be held Saturday, Nov. 22, beginning at 10 a.m. Military men and women who would be interested in sharing their experiences can call Kuyper at 651-460-2248 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yellow Ribbon City
Kuyper and Mills are hard at work, finishing an action plan that will promote both the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon and the Warrior to Citizen programs in Farmington. The programs will do activities like having a tea party for mothers and grandmothers of soldiers, setting up training sessions for teachers so they understand some of the issues children of military parents are facing and establishing a mentorship program where veterans of past wars and conflicts will be able to work with younger vets.
"This is not about war," Mills said. "This is not about supporting war. This is supporting our community and its members who have been affected by war."
The goal, Kuyper said, is for Farmington to earn status as a Yellow Ribbon City. That award could come as early as December.