by ADAM GRUENEWALD
It’s now official.
Norwood Young America was designated as a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Community at a ceremony on Sunday at Wilkommen Park Pavilion, the 200th such city in Minnesota to receive the honor.
For chairman David Smith and other volunteers of the BTYR Committee is was a testament to their efforts in providing assistance to service members and veterans in the City of Norwood Young America and also Hamburg, Cologne and Plato.
In his welcoming remarks, Smith praised Pastor Scott Gustafson who spoke at a Memorial Day ceremony four years ago.
“He planted a seed that would eventually grow into developing our NYA Beyond the Yellow Ribbon committee,” said Smith, adding the state’s program started at that time as well. “Over the years, we’ve had many great partnerships with our local community and our county organizations. We’ve also had some great partnerships with tour state program. All of that dedicated work has led you to the recognition we will receive today.”
In addition to members of the committee, the proclamation ceremony was attended by members of the Norwood American Legion Post 343 and Young America VFW Post 1783, as well as council members, Lt. Col. Stephen Schemenauer of the Minnesota Army National Guard and Annette Kuyper, director of Military Outreach for the director of military outreach for the Minnesota Army National Guard who also represented Gov. Mark Dayton.
A message was later received from Sen. Al Franken as well.
Mayor Tina Diedrick thanked members of the committee for their efforts on behalf of the City of Norwood Young America.
“Thank you to all the members of this wonderful program who have taken the time and done the hard work to support our service men and women and their families in our community,” she said. “It is an honor for our town to join the Yellow Ribbon Community network. Thank you for bringing our service members all the way home.”
Explaining the process behind achieving the designation, Kuyper said BTYR started in 2008 to have communities synchronize resources and services to service members and veterans.
“It’s more than just hanging flags outside of city hall and saying that you are a community that supports service members, veterans and their families,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to ensure that all efforts are synchronized in support of them.”
While recognizing some efforts were taking place, BYTR ensures coordination of faith-based organizations, school districts, city, law enforcement and other groups.
Just last week, Kuyper said the BTYR network gave support to someone in training within 7 minutes, helping his family with snow shoveling, meals and transportation.
“That’s the kind of thing we are seeing across the state in Yellow Ribbon networks,” she said.
While started primarily to assist with 2008 deployments, BTYR has expanded to assist veterans who are isolated or elderly and get them service.
The BTYR networks also shares best practices across the state, drawing national attention, recently at a meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama and her Joint Forces Team.
“What has happened here in Minnesota and what your community has done has created such a national model,” said Kuyper. “We bragged up what all our Minnesota communities were doing and talked about the wonderful synchronization.”
Kuyper also recognized The local annual BTYR banquet, most recently held in May at the pavilion, has also received attention as it is hugely successful in raising awareness of the group.
“We are definitely starting to see that other communities can do what you have done and what you’re doing and what we’re recognizing you for here today,” she said.
It was Lt. Col. Schemenauer though, who gave real value to the support, crediting the group for their commitment of support.
“It is through the leadership of patriotic Minnesotans like you the lives of our service members and families are impacted so positively,” he said.
He added he constantly receives feedback from families and service members who are grateful for the ongoing support in the form of lawn care, child care, meals, household chores and enhancing veterans initiatives, for example, in addition to health care, job support, military appreciation nights and send-off and return events.
“On behalf of the over 13,000 members of the Minnesota National Guard, thanks to everyone for your dedication to those who serve our nation,“ he said. “Thank you for your passion in supporting the military families of service members of this state. You are truly making a difference… May God bless you and may God continue to bless the United State of America. Thank you.”
The NYA Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Committee meets every second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the NYA City Hall conference rooms.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/NYABeyondtheYellowRibbon or http://nyabeyondtheyellowribbon.weebly.com.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]