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Column: A little bit of everything

So there we were in the Boeckman Middle School auditorium last Wednesday afternoon, a little clique of photographers. Gov. Tim Pawlenty was on stage, congratulating 12 other communities for their achievements.

I was there in my blue American Legion Auxiliary vest and tie, representing one of our community's veteran's organizations. I was snapping pictures for the Independent, of course, but also for several other newspapers in our company. I was going with the whole two-for-one kind of thing.

Actually, I was going through some kind of mini identity crisis, I think, because I was also there as a member of Warrior to Citizen, and last but not least, as the niece of one of those folks who was receiving recognition for forming a Yellow Ribbon organization.

Yeah, I was confused, too. On the other hand, I was pretty proud, all the way around.

In that one afternoon, I tapped into a little bit of everything I am, as far as I can tell. As a professional, I had the camera in hand and was collecting news not only for the papers I've worked with for a decade, but also a handful of others. I was doing my reporter/photographer thing.

I was there doing my veterans-support thing. Between my involvement in Warrior to Citizen and being president of Farmington's American Legion Auxiliary, I've become pretty proud of our community and the things we've accomplished to help our active military and their families, as well as our veterans. I don't know where this fire came from exactly, but I know that it feels good to know that what we do in those organizations helps people I haven't even met.

And then I was a family member. My uncle Paul is one of the folks who worked to get Brown County its Yellow Ribbon status. He and my aunt came up, and brought along my cousin, who in turn brought up her new baby son I hadn't yet met. I'm not going to lie -- I was more than happy to cuddle him while his mama and grandma and grandpa enjoyed snacks at the reception that followed the ceremony.

It was a strange cascade of emotions. I had my no nonsense, reporter/photographer thing going on, but then again, I was representing my Unit, our Post and my community, and I flat-out teared up when my uncle shook the governor's hand.

It's stuff like this that makes me proud to be a part of this community. The Yellow Ribbon Summit really had very little to do with Farmington itself. We didn't even have our own Yellow Ribbon banner up at the event.

There were a few of our city officials on hand to help facilitate some of the discussions on how to become a Yellow Ribbon city. Really, though, the purpose of the day was to recognize the communities that had worked so hard to earn that status, too, and then to help teach others about the program.

Sure, Farmington was the state's first Yellow Ribbon City. We earned that distinction nearly two years ago. Our honor last week was that Farmington was chosen as the host site for such a prestigious event, and that there are other communities out there that are trying to copy what we did right here in this town.

That's what I mean. I'll gladly switch hats (or vests, as the case may be) when it comes to things like this. You have to be willing to when it comes to creating partnerships and building communities. I'm more than happy to be a part of that.

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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