STILLWATER, Minn. - It's just three and a half-inches long; no larger than a business card. Small enough to fit in any wallet or pocketbook, but it conveys so much power and emotion, it's practically hard to describe. But, that's kind of the point.
When Richard Glasgow volunteered to videotape a program called "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon," at Stillwater Area High School, he had no idea what the touching stories would inspire him to do.
The August meeting at the high school was a planning session for groups that could be involved in a major reintegration project by the Minnesota National Guard.
Recognizing that in the past the Armed Forces may not have done as good a job as it could to help soldiers and their families get back to a "normal" life together within their community after serving in a war, the National Guard is part of a nationwide project to address just that.
Called "reintegration," the sessions will be given to soldiers and their families two days, 30 days, 60 days and 90 days after they return home.
Soldiers will be guided through the process to receive financial benefits due them, they can have group or individual chat sessions to talk about difficulties at home, work or school and families can get guidance on how to help their soldiers reintegrate. Even businesses and community services are involved in the process. Glasgow, who once served in the intelligence field as a member of the Air Force, now lives in Lakeland. He served near Tokyo during Vietnam and when he returned to Minnesota after his service he saw some of the negative responses soldiers received.
After hearing the story of just a few soldiers who have returned from Iraq during the August planning session meeting, Glasgow wanted to do something to try to help soldiers get back to being at home. He believed the overall sentiment toward soldiers - especially National Guard soldiers - had changed over the years and that, despite how anyone feels about the war, people are thankful for soldiers' sacrifices.
So Glasgow went home and sat down at his computer and drafted a simple business card. A large yellow ribbon on a background of an American flag.
The simple message: "Thank you for your service and dedication to our country" across the front. On the back, a short note that encompasses what so many of us have tried to find a way to say.
"Dear American Hero,"I am not certain as to how to express my gratitude for all you have done to secure my freedom. Please accept this simple card as a small token of my appreciation. "A grateful American citizen."
Glasgow then took the cards to Bayport Printing and talked to John Ziton who arranged to have a run of 10,000 printed at a reduced rate. "When I heard what this was and I saw the card, I told him we'd help by running his job with other customers' to save money," Ziton said. Ziton said he was touched by the card and felt it conveyed the feelings he, himself, had difficulty expressing.
"I have some in my wallet," he said. Although Ziton hasn't given one to a soldier yet, he said: "when the opportunity arises, I know it will be there."
Over the years Glasgow has become friends with a lot of people in the area, including retired Col. Buzz Kriesel.
Kriesel learned of the thank you cards from Glasgow and has even taken a few to hand out to soldiers.
He said the cards don't have anything to do with how anyone looks at the wars currently being fought.
"Really deep down in our hearts, we really all feel the same way: proud these soldiers are there to do the job they have to do." The small gesture that started as a way for one man to feel like he might make a difference for some of the 3,000 soldiers returning to the state over the course of the coming year has grown dramatically in the two weeks since it started.
Cards are being shipped to Texas. Some went to a Veterans Affairs hospital in Kansas City and still others should be headed to a lumber company in Michigan that heard about them.
Thousands more should be printed in coming weeks. But, don't expect to find the cards just sitting on a counter somewhere so passers-by can just grab one. That's not the point. "The point is that it goes from person to person," Glasgow said. "It's got that human touch that goes along with it."
Barbara Boelk is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Republished with permission of Lake Elmo Leader, Lake Elmo, MN