Governor Mark Dayton was in town Thursday to declare Redwood Falls a Yellow Ribbon city for its support of veterans and their families.
When Laura Olson of Redwood Falls was visiting soldiers serving in Iraq several years ago, she witnessed a soldier on a telephone, having a frustrating time talking his wife through how to open a stuck automatic garage door. “Then I watched that soldier get ready to head out with a convoy,” Olson said. “How much could he concentrate on searching for (explosive devices) while he was worried about his garage door opener at home?” Olson added, “If I could have, I would have found someone who could open his wife’s garage door for him.” Olson had heard about an organization called Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, and decided to investigate. As it happens, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon got its start in Minnesota almost 10 years ago, and then-Senator Mark Dayton was one of its earliest sponsors. As a senator, Dayton visited Afghanistan and Iraq to get a feel for what the troops were dealing with. “I got a small taste of what soldiers dealt with every day,” Dayton said, noting one tour he took of an Afghanistan city street cratered from bomb explosions. Dayton told about how the truck he was riding in had to slow down to pass a stalled vehicle in the street surrounded by Afghan men. “We stared at them as we passed, and they stared at us. I thought, if this is an ambush, we don’t stand a chance,” Dayton said. Afterward he asked a soldier, “How do you tell the good guys from the bad guys?” The soldier said, “If he points his gun at you, he’s a bad guy.” Dayton said when he returned he heard about a new Minnesota-based program — Beyond the Yellow Ribbon — to help soldiers and their families, and was among the first members of Congress to vote funding for the new group. Olson, the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, said she grew up knowing he had a difficult transition back to civilian life. “We learned when we wanted to wake him up in the morning not to touch him,” she said. “We had to stand back in the doorway and call to him quietly. And he didn’t like crowded spaces. Whenever he entered a room, he always made sure to know where the exits were.” Part of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is helping deployed soldiers make a successful transition back to civilian life and work once they return to their homes in the States. The process started with developing a steering committee, area residents who spent almost a year and a half finding and organizing Redwood area resources that might be helpful for veterans and their families. Since Olson knew Dayton would be in the area on Thursday to speak at Farmfest, she invited him to be the one to proclaim the town’s new status as a Yellow Ribbon community. The ceremony was held in the Redwood Falls City Council chambers on Thursday morning, Aug. 7. Although the city council chambers were used for the ceremony, Redwood Falls City Administrator Keith Muetzel said the city isn’t directly involved in the organization, but is supportive of its efforts. “When your soldiers are deployed, Redwood Falls has really stepped up to help veterans, such as with your sending off and return ceremonies,” said Dayton. “It’s no surprise the citizens of this community set the bar high in their level of support for veterans.”