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What it means to be Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Community!

My family has been touched by The Yellow Ribbon Community. My Uncle Jeff just retired from the Air Force, but before doing so, he was deployed twice. Each time he had to leave his wife and three children. It was not an easy choice for him, but he knew when he signed up that he would need to protect and serve our country in many ways and this was just another one of those ways. It was hard for him to be gone, to fight for America, to fight for our way of life, he went each time and luckily for us, he came back safe and sound both times.

However, it was those that he left behind that needed the shoulder to cry on, the hand to hold, the child to play with and a friend to talk to who would understand this difficult situation. It was not like he could jump in his car and come home for a few hours. He was needed elsewhere, but The Yellow Ribbon Community, they are the ones who took a giant step forward and helped my aunt and cousins when they needed it the most.

Who among us has not needed to have someone to talk to in the middle of the night and tell us it would be all right? What child wouldn’t want to continue to live a carefree childhood without worrying if Daddy would be coming home? My cousins relied on my Aunt Wendy for their daily activities, for the normal little things that we all take for granted ... getting driven to school, grocery shopping, going out to eat, playing with friends, having a sleep over ... it was her job to keep life “normal” ... and she succeeded, but it was not without some wonderful “behind the scenes” help! She had the help of her community and the other Air Force wives were there to lend a hand, but for the most part, she was a single parent for a year. Twelve long months. It may not seem like a long time, but let me tell you, it can feel like a lifetime when a loved one is gone. It was not an easy thing for her to do and she did not want to complain to my uncle but she needed help. That is when she found her little slice of heaven, The Yellow Ribbon Community.

From potluck dinners to movie nights, from reading stories in the library to planning a picnic, from swimming parties and painting toenails — big or small this program stepped up, stepped in and stepped forward. Bringing strength to a mom when she needed it, fun to a family who didn’t think they could have any and laughter when a loved one was fighting a war so many thousands of miles away. It was an emotional roller coaster that my extended family was on, and for a long time, there didn’t seem to be a way to stop the ride until the Yellow Ribbon Community stepped in!

America is a force to be reckoned with, but the YRC has made us stronger like the mighty redwood and flexible like the willow. We band together when needed, pick up the pieces when we have to, YRC is the one constant of togetherness. Near or far, we are never alone. There is always a friendly face, a helping hand, a gentle smile, a big hug when needed, and a special message for each of us. We do not need to cry in the dark or try to be brave; instead we gather ourselves up and share our doubts, our hopes, our fears and our dreams with each other. We carry on each day, hoping and praying that our military men and women will be safe and sound and home soon. And while they may be fighting wars across the world, we are fighting our own and winning with the help of The Yellow Ribbon Community!

(Kylie Hurlbert is a Nisswa Elementary School fourth-grader.)