Our View: Support for when Johnny comes marching home
What sort of reception awaits members of the Minnesota National Guard immediately following their return from Iraq and Afghanistan? If a pilot program to acclimate Minnesota's citizen soldiers back to home life is made permanent, theirs should be...
What sort of reception awaits members of the Minnesota National Guard immediately following their return from Iraq and Afghanistan?
If a pilot program to acclimate Minnesota's citizen soldiers back to home life is made permanent, theirs should be a welcome that will put them on the road to well-adjusted lives -- as well as a "national model for saving lives and preserving families," as U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton put it.
Launched this year on a small scale and paid for out of the Minnesota National Guard's existing budget, the Guard's "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program" will be buoyed by $3 million in federal funding, Minnesota's outgoing Democratic senator said.
That's enough to offer the program's assistance -- counseling for soldiers and their families, anger management programs and treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder -- to a brigade of 2,600 Minnesota Guardsmen and women who'll be returning from war next year. It's also enough to "definitely keep [the program] going full throttle instead of limping along," as Dayton's Deputy Chief of Staff Chani Wiggins told the News Tribune editorial page yesterday.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Defense mandates a 90-day "hands off" policy for returning soldiers, according to Dayton's office. Beyond the Yellow Ribbon offers its services sooner, beginning within 30 and 60 days of return.
"There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that this works," Wiggins said. "The soldiers appreciate the assistance. Their families appreciate the assistance. Reaching out to them earlier helps them to better re-acclimate ... and helps their families to better re-acclimate."
Funding for the program is included in the Department of Defense's 2007 budget. The money will cover drill pay, counseling, and travel expenses for participating Guard members and families following their 18-month separations.
The program has been championed not only by Dayton, but also by the Minnesota adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito; Deputy State Chaplain, Maj. Gen. John Morris; Brig. Jon Trost, the assistant adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard; Sen. Norm Coleman and Rep. John Kline, both Republicans, outgoing Democratic Rep. Martin Sabo and others.
All of them deserve recognition and praise for recognizing that Minnesota's returning citizen-soldiers need assistance sooner rather than later.