In January of 2011 sixty community leaders from Red Lodge attended a presentation by the US National Guard. By the end of the presentation, four of them had already decided to put a plan into action and make Red Lodge Montana’s first Yellow Ribbon Community. The original steering committee consisted of John Toler, Glory Mahan, Hank Tuell, and Warene Wall. Since that time, the group has grown to include a much larger area, and been renamed the Carbon and Stillwater counties Yellow Ribbon Community. The current steering committee members are Warene Wall, Glory Mahan, Steven Vale, and one other member will be joining soon.
We’ve all seen the yellow ribbons on bumpers all over the place, but what does “yellow ribbon community” mean? The steering committee oversees smaller working groups consisting of: medical, lodging and merchants, youth and education, public safety and judicial, faith-based, finance, and employment. These groups work to provide emergency and short-term assistance to past and present service members and their families. This assistance may come in the form of helping to pay rent or utilities, vehicle repairs, putting minutes on a cell phone, temporary housing, job referrals, help with prescription drug costs, and a number of other things. “If a veteran is not in the VA system, we can help them do that,” says steering committee member Warene Wall. “Many older veterans – WWII and such – never got into that system because they didn’t need assistance when they first got back. Now that they’re older they may need a bit more help.”
Montana currently houses 100,000 veterans, with another 8,126 expected to return home to Montana in the next few years. Some of the younger returning veterans may need assistance with financial planning for a new family, as well as job referrals, searching for a new home, or simply getting reintegrated into their community. Yellow Ribbon works as an umbrella for a lot of different veteran service organizations. Their goal is to network with as many others as possible to provide whatever services might be necessary. They work with many organizations to provide a referral to get the best help possible for every situation.
Yellow Ribbon works closely with the Elks Lodge, providing meals for veterans and their families, PTSD counseling twice per month, employment workshops, scholarships, and the mobile Vet Center. The mobile vet center has counselors who are able to help with all sorts of paperwork, referrals, and telemedicine to make medical treatment and receiving prescriptions easier.
Through their faith-based working group, the Wade Christiansen Veterans’ Education Fund was created, and they expect to award their first $500 scholarship this fall. The scholarship will always be awarded to the family member of a Carbon County veteran, or a young veteran from the area, who is need of a bit of financial help. This scholarship is not one that involves a long application process or an essay to write – they see a need and meet it whenever possible.
The Yellow Ribbon Communities Ice Cream Social generates over $5,000 each year, and all proceeds go directly to helping veterans and their families. It is held on the last Saturday of June each year.
- PTSD Counseling – 2nd and 4th Friday of each month at 4pm in the Veterans’ Center at the Beartooth Elks Lodge – Call Edward at 657-6071.
- September 26 – Veterans’ dinner at the Beartooth Elks Lodge at 6pm. Families welcome.
- September 27 & 28 – 2 day veterans’ employment workshop. Food, lodging, and materials at no cost to attendees. Call Warene at 425-3429.