After a year of organizing, Anoka will be proclaimed a Yellow Ribbon community.
The official ceremony will take place at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Anoka County Fairgrounds amid the Holiday in Lights display running throughout the weekend.
But what is most important is the message it sends to the community’s veterans – past present and future.
“We want them to know, ‘we support you and we support your families’,” said Darryl “Butch” Hathaway, chairperson of Anoka’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Committee.
Hathaway said the support provided by Beyond the Yellow Ribbon looks to emulate the help available on an active duty base.
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 supporting service members and military families, according to beyondtheyellowribbon.org.
There are currently more than 80 cities in Minnesota that have joined the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Network.
Locally, it originally started as a five-city effort, also including Andover, Ramsey, Coon Rapids and Champlin.
But Hathaway said that level of coordination and volunteer commitment proved to be difficult, so the group focused specifically on the city of Anoka.
After the Anoka proclamation, the committee will sit down and decide what city to next focus its efforts on bringing into the network.
To become a Yellow Ribbon community, organizers must have volunteers to head up seven different subcommittees for support networks.
There are no limits on how the network can help service members or their families.
This year the Anoka committee is coordinating the adoption of a military family for Christmas.
Or it might be a need for help shoveling snow, raking the yard or fixing the furnace.
“We’re proud,” said Hathaway about veterans and military families. “We don’t want to ask for help. But sometimes you need it.”
He hopes that by one person having a positive experience with Anoka Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, they will spread the word.
The Yellow Ribbon support network is not confined to Anoka’s borders. Other Yellow Ribbon communities share resources and often help each other out. When a call for help comes in, Hathaway can send it out through the network to see who can meet the need.
Hathaway served on active duty with the U.S. Navy from 1985 through 1989 and then in 1991, he joined the U.S. Navy Reserves and retired in 2008.
Until Hathaway turned 15, his father was deployed with the U.S. Navy five times..
“We bounced around a lot,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be dependent on someone who is deployed.”
The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign also does something that didn’t happen when veterans returned from the Vietnam War.
“They were never given the respect, the parades the veterans from World War II got,” Hathaway said.
Yellow Ribbon communities show an obvious respect for the sacrifices veterans and their families have made.
“I’ve been all over the world. When you are at home and in your uniform, people want to shake your hand,” Hathaway said. “That needs to be sustained, it can’t just be during war time but it needs to be during peace time as well.”
Hathaway said its equally important to recognize and respect military families.
“Those families at home are serving, just like those overseas are,” he said.
The community is invited to join the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon network to celebrate Anoka’s proclamation at the fairgrounds Dec. 14. The celebration will take place in a heated tent and is being sponsored by Connexus Energy and the Anoka Lions Club.
For more information contact Hathaway at anokaareaBTYR@yahoo.com or visit the Anoka Beyond the Yellow Ribbon page on Facebook.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at firstname.lastname@example.org