Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
to veterans, families
by John Gessner
The youngest member of Burnsville’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign isn’t shy about her admiration for men and women in uniform.
“Whenever I see someone in the military, I thank them for their service,” said 14-year-old Joy Adams. “Lately I’ve been asking them, ‘Do you know what the Yellow Ribbon is?’ ”
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is a program spearheaded by the Minnesota National Guard to help service members, veterans and their families, especially those dealing with deployment or post-deployment reintegration.
Burnsville is about to be recognized as a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon city, and one of the campaign’s most energetic volunteers is a tech-savvy teen who dreams of being a cop.
Adams, the youngest of some 40 Burnsville volunteers, serves on three Beyond the Yellow Ribbon committees and is the site administrator for the Yellow Ribbon section of the Burnsville Commonplace website.
She will also run the Yellow Ribbon website (Burnsville.org/byr) hosted on the city website. An expanded version will soon go live.
Adams joined the cause last September after seeing a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon promotional video circulated by the city.
An uncle of hers, Jesse Hamel, is an Air Force major who recently returned from administrative duty in Iraq. Adams said she has other friends in the military, one of whom is deployed.
Adams said health restrictions will prevent her from joining the Marines, an idea she had kicked around, but she hopes to one day serve her community as a police officer.
“Being a cop is giving back to your community, and joining Yellow Ribbon is like giving back to the men and women who serve our country,” Adams said.
The adults working on the campaign (chaired by Mayor Elizabeth Kautz and School District 191 Superintendent Randy Clegg) were immediately impressed by the youngster, said Deputy City Manager Tom Hansen, a key organizer.
“She’s technically very savvy,” Hansen said. “She lugs this huge laptop around with her everywhere she goes.”
Adams, he noted, also volunteers for the Fire Department, helping inspections update its records.
“And, she is a delightful young lady just in general,” Hansen said.
Grown-up things don’t faze Adams, whose parents are John and Karen Adams of Burnsville.
“I don’t hang out with kids my age,” she said matter-of-factly. “I get along with adults better. I think being homeschooled has something to do with it.”
Adams has been part of the effort to make Burnsville a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon City – a certification that will be made official on March 30.
Burnsville and two other cities will be certified in a 3 p.m. ceremony at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 10658 210th St. W., Lakeville. Gov. Mark Dayton and Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Richard C. Nash will attend.
To gain certification, Burnsville’s eight Yellow Ribbon subcommittees were required to complete action plans showing ways different segments of the community can support veterans now and in the future.
“Obviously, the ones that are deployed are kind of the priority, but it’s all vets and their families,” said Hansen, who served 10 years of active Air Force duty and 15 with the Air Force Reserves.
The new website will serve as a “one-stop shop” for veterans services provided by state and county agencies, Hansen said.
It will give information on local veterans events and link volunteers with families of veterans needing help with chores such as lawn mowing and snow shoveling.
Area businesses that offer veterans discounts will be able to register on the site.
“Valley Natural (Foods) and Jo Jo’s Rise and Wine and a lot of stores in the Burnsville Center offer military discounts,” Adams said.
Through the website, the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign will be able to track the activities of its committees and their work in the community, Hansen said.
“Right now, it’s anecdotal,” he said. “We know, for instance, that the high school (Burnsville High), through Mr. (Dave) McDevitt’s community activities class, reached out and actually organized a homecoming halftime ceremony where they unfurled the flag and made collections for the Wounded Warrior campaign.”
Hansen said he plans to remain active in the Yellow Ribbon campaign even after retiring from the city at the end of May.
An effort to start a veterans reintegration network in Burnsville several years ago faltered – something Hansen doesn’t want repeated this time.
“We made an honest effort five years ago,” he said. “I’ll be honest, it failed, because there was no continuity assurance. This has the structure to ensure continuity.”
John Gessner is at firstname.lastname@example.org.