Walking Alongside our Service Members, Veterans and Their Families

by Anita Harris Hering

         The highest reward for a person’s work is not what they get for it,                             but what they become because of it. – John Ruskin

Ruskin’s quote could very well define my family of eight – three sisters, two brothers and my parents. Volunteerism within our church and the community never was something scheduled around our weekly duties and jobs, but rather our duties and jobs were scheduled around when we were to volunteer. Being actively engaged with the needs of our community always came first.

Our parents made volunteering a priority and helped us kids to understand the importance of volunteering in the community such as with The American Legion, VFW, Lions, making picnic tables for the community park, partnering with local churches on an Ecumenical summer kids program, bringing food to the local food shelf (even though we didn’t have much for ourselves), etc. I learned that being present to others in the community, was (and still is) what one does while here on earth. I learned the value of meeting people where they are in life and then moving forward together.

My volunteer experience as a child is what brought me to the place in my heart and influenced my current volunteerism efforts. I have been passionately active in our local nine city Central Minnesota Warrior to Citizen – Beyond the Yellow Ribbon (BTYR) program as early as 2005 when the seed was planted, when it was proclaimed a BTYR program in 2010 by then Minnesota Governor Pawlenty, and even now.

 

What is a Yellow Ribbon Community?

“A Yellow Ribbon Community unites all areas within a community to create a comprehensive network that connects and coordinates agencies, organizations, resources and employers for the purpose of proactively supporting Service members and military families”. 

Over the years, our BTYR team has been awarded with many awards (from military branches and units, corporate and private donations, gifts, and even the prestigious St. Cloud State University Husky Award from Student Life & Development and the campus Veteran Resource Center) for building community capacity and synchronizing community, county and company resources in support of Service members, veterans and military families. Our team has successfully collaborated with the local military Family Assistance Centers, nonprofit organizations, state and federal support partners, and the community as a whole to identify and address gaps in services to provide support to military connected residents. Which brings me to the greatest honor that I received in 2017.

In 2017 SFC Mark Wood surprised me with a plaque for our Central MN Warrior to Citizen – BTYR and for me personally. I was also presented an AMERICAN FLAG which B Co 2-211 GSAB flew over Afghanistan in Operation Resolute Support – Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

     (L to R) Mike Mills, SFC (retired), OIF III MNARNG, Anita Harris Hering,                    and SFC Mark Wood, MNARNG Readiness & Training Manager, B Co                      2-211th GSAB

 

While the Service members were working overseas, our BTYR team served as the local boots on the ground to provide support and services for the families and spouses. The wording on the plaque summarized our efforts.

 

Wording read during the presentation

I was honored and humbled to be recognized for my contributions to the BTYR efforts as together we support our Service members and families. I encourage everyone to engage in building his or her community’s capacity. In what small ways can you walk alongside Service members, families and Veterans in your community? How can you build community capacity and create or contribute to a rapid response team?

         I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still                                  I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will                                      not refuse to do something that I can do. – Helen Keller  

 

Anita Harris Hering joined the University of Minnesota Extension as an Extension educator in 2005. She has extensive experience with youth, adults, volunteers, educators, community partnerships, Service members, Veterans and their families.

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