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Warrior to Citizen: Training for the transition

Being injured is never fun for anyone. But imagine being injured while in combat. Imagine that injury being permanent.

And imagine, for a minute, how others would react. Pity? Empathy? Your friends want to reach out to help, but don't know how. Your spouse sits by your side, your children are confused. Everyone around means to do well, but somehow, they just don't understand how your life has changed.

These days, with all of the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, a physical injury isn't the only life-changing event soldiers and sailors have experienced. The mere fact they've been in combat means they look at things different when they come home.

With that comes a new term, not quite slang, but one that is being heard more and more in military circles. It's called the "new normal," and next week, two veterans will come to Farmington to talk about what it means.

A free community training session is planned for Tuesday. Two speakers will share stories and help those in attendance understand a little more about how veterans process their overseas experiences.

Army National Guard Col. Kevin Gerdes will talk about this new normal and what it means to the Minnesota troops as they are deployed, and when they come home. He'll comment on how the soldiers need help when they come home, what kind of help they need and how communities can give that kind of assistance.

Also speaking is Staff Sgt. John Kriesel, a wounded Iraq veteran, who lost both of his legs in when a bomb exploded near the Humvee he was riding in nearly three years ago.

"He's going to share his personal story about returning to Minnesota after his injury," said Warrior to Citizen organizer Annette Kuyper. "He's also going to share ideas on how communities can support all returning service members."

In Kriesel's case, his neighbors helped rebuild his home, making the necessary adjustments to make it handicapped accessible for him. At the same time, his friends, neighbors and community were there to lend a helping hand to his family.

Offered by Farmington's Warrior to Citizen Campaign and hosted by St. Michael's Church, the training session is free to anyone who is interested in attending. Kuyper says it will help Warrior to Citizen fulfill one of its key missions -- to educate the community about the needs of military personnel and their families, especially before, during and after deployment.

The event will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20 at St. Michael's Church in Farmington. Free babysitting is available. For more information, call Kuyper at 651-460-2248, or visit