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Our View: Yellow Ribbon work isn't finished

Tuesday was a big day if you know a Red Bull. The fourth and final wave of returning National Guard soldiers belonging to Minnesota's 34th Infantry Division arrived home after a year-long deployment, most of it spent in southern Iraq.

Over the last month more than 1,200 Red Bulls, as their unit is historically known, returned to family and friends at their home armories in Stillwater, Rosemount and Inver Grove Heights. The returning soldiers were missing three of their comrades -- Carlos Wilcox, Daniel Drevnick and James Wertish were killed July 16, 2009 in an attack on their base in Basra, Iraq.

But despite the heartache that unit members will carry with them after the death of three of their brothers in arms, there was still reason for the Red Bulls to smile as they came back to homecoming ceremonies worthy of their service and job well done.

Although their year-long mission to assist Iraqi forces in improving their security for citizens in southern Iraq is now complete, ours isn't.

News reports in the last week have revealed that more than 2,500 Red Bulls are owed $10 million in overtime pay by the federal government for their deployment three years ago. Many of those soldiers served again in the unit's most recent deployment. On top of that startling news is word from Minnesota National Guard officials that up to a third of the returning Red Bulls will arrive home without a job waiting for them.

Those two facts alone are enough evidence to deduce that these returning soldiers and their families still need our support. A welcome home ceremony is a wonderful way to express gratitude.

But it means nothing if we as a community forget their sacrifice the next day, week or month.

The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon projects of Woodbury and Washington County have made some tremendous strides in the last year to develop a network of support for families of deployed soldiers.

However, as these soldiers and families try to regain that sense of "normal," we ask that those in the community who have not yet found a way to participate in the area Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign please do so.

These men and women who hail from Woodbury, Stillwater, Cottage Grove, Lakeland, Lake Elmo and many other communities all over the state took a year out of their lives to serve our country overseas. They put their civilian lives on hold to preserve our comfort, security and freedom.

At the very least, we ought to provide some additional resources to help them transition back to civilian life.

To find out more how you, your business or organization can help these returning soldiers, go to the "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" Web site at www.btyr.org.

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