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City will be Minnesota's model

Details are still coming together, but one thing is certain - in September, Farmington is going to be the host community for a pretty big event.

On Wednesday, Sept. 22, mayors from around Minnesota will arrive in Farmington to participate in a daylong Beyond the Yellow Ribbon training session.

It's an event that is expected to positively affect many communities. In its early planning stages, the event is expected to bring representatives of at least 80 communities and corporations to Farmington.

Many of those who will attend are from cities and organizations that are earning Yellow Ribbon Community or Yellow Ribbon Company status, a recognition that comes only after a community or organization has completed an action plan that outlines how they can and will help military service members and their families.

Farmington was chosen as the host site because it was the first community in Minnesota to earn the Yellow Ribbon Community distinction, Warrior to Citizen director Annette Kuyper said.

"We really set the precedent for what other cities are doing right now," she said. "They're all following our lead."

Warrior to Citizen is an offshoot of the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program. Though originally BYR was established as a project of the Minnesota Army National Guard, it has now expanded to include all branches of the military. Kuyper also works with the state of Minnesota, expanding the BYR campaign to cities and counties in the state.

"That's one of the things we're working on - to debunk the myth that this is a National Guard program. It's a community program to help a community support its military families," Kuyper said.

The invited guest list is specific to those groups earning recognition as Yellow Ribbon communities or companies, but it also includes the mayors and armory representatives from cities that will be part of planned deployments later this year.

"This year, we are proactively reaching out to areas that are going to be specifically affected by deployments next spring. We want to bring down those city leaders and armory leaders to teach them about the Yellow Ribbon program," Kuyper said. "We're going to talk about communities. Not only about what (the Yellow Ribbon program) has done for their community, but how it supports military service members and their families."

As Kuyper well knows, establishing a community network takes time and determination. Reaching out to military service members and their families is a big task, and that's something Kuyper hopes visitors will understand after coming to Farmington.

"Even after three years in Farmington, we find new military families who haven't heard about us yet," she said.

Though many details -- like how many people will attend, where they'll all come from, and even where the event will be held -- are still being figured out, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is scheduled to address the group sometime in the afternoon.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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