On Tuesday, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Denny Schulstad reminded an audience at the about the fear and uncertainty Minnesota faced when tragedy struck exactly 11 years ago.
People knew two planes had hit the Twin Towers. Was the IDS Center next? Was a small plane going to take off from Flying Cloud airport and spray chemical weapons across the metro? Were militants going to try to take over the airports?
“And just like magic, a bunch of uniforms showed up,” Schulstad concluded. “These were all members of your National Guard.”
Tuesday’s event wasn’t just about remembering 9-11; it marked the kick-off of the Southwest Twin Cities Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Coalition. Residents from Minnetonka, Edina, Excelsior, Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Wayzata aim to build an organization that will provide support to service members and their families—as well as veterans of all ages.
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon coalitions have formed across the state to bring together community resources for families of deployed service members. Supporters say the organizations are vital because, unlike active-duty service members, those in the National Guard and Reserves don’t have bases to provide support on the home front.
St. Cloud resident Rhiannon Knutson was eight-and-a-half months pregnant and had been married for two months when her husband was deployed in 2005 on what turned out to be a 22-month tour. She knew nothing about the military at the time.
On her husband’s second deployment, she had to move three times. St. Cloud and Brooklyn Park Yellow Ribbon organizers rounded up people to help her move.
“They’ve helped us do everything, and if it wasn’t for them, I would’ve had to do everything, hoping I could get enough people on my own,” Knutson told the audience in Hopkins.
Such support isn’t just nice to have. A study on soldiers from that 22-month deployment found that their top concern was who was taking care of their families. Those whose families were cared for proved more resilient over the long term, said Annette Kuyper, director of military outreach for the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs.
Now that residents from across the west metro have gotten together, they’ll begin working to certify the group as an official Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Coalition. At the meeting, potential volunteers split into groups to examine key subject areas. Over the next two to three months, those groups will investigate the resources available and bring their findings back to the steering committee, which will submit the information required for Beyond the Yellow Ribbon designation.
“We’re not asking for money from your communities. We’re asking you to coordinate and synchronize resources you already have,” Kuyper said. “Just think: All of us could affect the resiliency of a service member returning from a deployment.”