Behind the fanfare and flags of the Freedom Salute Campaign that honors citizen soliders, there's someone else in the limelight.
"It's tough being a soldier, but it's tougher loving a soldier," said Lt. Matthew Alken, from the podium of the celebratory event honoring soldiers and their families in Brooklyn Park. The celebration on Sunday also honored Brooklyn Park for becoming a Yellow Ribbon Community.
"Brooklyn Park has a long standing history of supporting our nation's military," said Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Richard Nash.
The designation comes after a year-long effort of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon committee members and volunteers. The commitee had to complete a 16 step process of coordinating and connecting area agencies and organizations to support the families of deployed service members.
"We wanted to connect service members and families so they had the support they needed before, during, and after deployment," said Amy Hanson, chairwoman of the steering committee. "It's really fanstastic. We brought together everyone in our community from police officers to faith based communities plus medical and mental health providers."
The range of programs and assistance the committee organized is vast and varied. When Tracey Jensen's husband deployed, she depended on the organization for referrals for yard work as well as help getting school supplies for her children.
"It was very helpful for me. I didn't realize how hard it would be once Rick left," said Jensen. "I was able to find someone to do my yard and to help with landscaping. It took a big, huge weight off my shoulders for sure."
The City of Brooklyn Park received a plaque as well as a flag that flew in combat over Afghanistan. The city also received accolades from military brass and elected officials.
"Brooklyn Park is showing you aren't just a community, you are a family," said Representative Erik Paulsen, R-Minnesota.
"It's not just about Veterans Day or Memorial Day; it's about every day," said Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota.
Service members like Scott Hanson, husband of committee member Amy Hanson, say he's proud his city is behind him.
"It's easier to be on deployment when you know your family is being take care of," said SSGT Hanson, who serves with the Minnesota Air National Guard. "The home front is half the battle."
Shannon Slatton, reporting
October 1, 2012