Minnesota companies, organizations unite to support state’s military community

Minnesota companies, organizations unite to support state’s military community

Seventy-one Minnesota companies and organizations attended the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon fall conference Nov. 3, 2022, in Eagan to share best practices in supporting military veterans, service members, and their families.

“These companies or organizations have dedicated members who work to formalize best practices, resources, recognition, and support to ensure members of our military community continue to thrive,” said Heather Bergeron, director of the Minnesota National Guard’s family programs team. “The Minnesota National Guard is so grateful for the willingness and generosity of these networks.”

“As a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon organization, we are recognized as a group that is committed to making the lives of our service members and their families better,” said Joe Fowler, president of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council. “We owe our service members support when they need it, whether that’s through job placement, volunteering, or outreach.”

The conference’s theme was, ‘Uniting Communities.’ Through its community and corporate partnerships, the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, also known as BTYR, program’s network provides veterans, service members, and their families in all military branches a wide range of support, including deployment readiness, family assistance and resources, youth programs, educational and career opportunities, and more.

There are currently 86 Minnesota BTYR companies and organizations. Twice a year, in the fall and spring, Minnesota BTYR companies and organizations meet to connect and discuss ways to enhance their support of the state’s military community. They also take turns hosting the conference.

This conference was hosted by Thomson Reuters. The road into and winding through the company’s campus was lined with United States flags and trees were adorned with yellow ribbons. Andrew Kotila, Thomson Reuters senior counsel, and Paul Fischer, Thomson Reuters legal professional’s president welcomed guests.

Event speakers included Air Force Brig. Gen. Christopher Blomquist, Air Chief of Staff of the Minnesota National Guard, who read Governor Tim Walz’s proclamation recognizing November as ‘Month of the Military Family.’

Keynote speaker retired U.S. Navy Commander Chip Laingen talked about the origin of the yellow ribbon. His mother, Penelope, united the nation with yellow ribbons during the Iran hostage crisis that started Nov. 4, 1979. Her husband, Bruce, was one of the 52 Americans held captive for 444 days.

Other speakers included Army Col. Eduardo Suarez, director of strategic communications with the Minnesota National Guard; Taylor Kristoffe-Jones, BTYR corporate outreach coordinator; Yolanda Von Itter, Minnesota National Guard Soldier and Family Readiness specialist; Tim McElroy of the Minnesota Military Family Foundation; Elizabeth Nelson, vice president of diversity and inclusion at Thomson Reuters; Duane Pike of the Eagan BTYR Network; and Thom Thiets, director and president of Meals From The Heart.

A panel discussion about how their organizations support the military community was comprised of Barb Connolly, Hugo BTYR vice president; Joan Kacz, Hugo BTYR volunteer; Kacie Stanek; area supervisor Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; Maria Baer, diversity recruitment specialist at the Mayo Clinic; and Nathan Helder, manager at ALLETE Clean Energy.

Cristina Oxtra
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs