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Program aims to ease transition for veterans

Coming home from Iraq was quite an adjustment for Minnesota Army National Guard Command Sgt. Major Scott Mills.

After all, for months, when he told his soldiers to do something, the reply was "Yes, Sir," and the deed was done. But that didn't work so well with his 3-year-old daughter when he came home.

"When my 3-year-old told me, 'No, Daddy,' I almost had a melt down. I didn't know how to handle it," he confided to a roomful of colleagues, neighbors and strangers during a May 28 Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program at Meadowview Elementary School.

CSM Mills was one of several National Guard and veteran's service personnel to share their perspectives on how life changes for soldiers and sailors who have served in Iraq.

Coming home to Farmington was something Mills looked forward to for the months he was deployed. But life overseas is organized, disciplined. It was not so much when he came home. Even driving around the town he had lived in for years proved to be an adjustment.

"I can negotiate the roads anywhere in Baghdad, but I got lost just trying to get to Kwik Trip," he recalled.

But he is not alone. In Farmington, there are close to 150 men and women who are members of the National Guard, many of whom have spent time in combat. The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program was designed to give family members, community leaders, employers and other invited audience members an idea of how to help soldiers return to a "normal" life after coming home.

Annette Kuyper, mother of an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, also shared her story. She relived the feelings of dread and fear for her son, how the stress affected her marriage, and the nightmares she had while her son was deployed.

About 50 people were in attendance. Following an introduction, the audience was asked to participate in one of six breakout sessions. Topics included how schools can support military children, counseling for military families, supporting military families in the workplace, meeting spiritual needs of military personnel, and how combat veterans may react to law enforcement.