Ribbons to serve as a reminder
As Paul and Tammy Wood attach a yellow ribbon to a special wall on Saturday, they will be thinking about their son who's serving his country half way around the world.
The Wood family is one of many with a loved one deployed with New Richmond's National Guard unit (Company B, 1-128th Infantry) in Iraq. The soldiers expect to be overseas for another 10 months or so.
Many of the soldiers' families will gather at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 16, to erect a wall of remembrance in New Richmond's Glover Park (next to the library).
The wall is similar to one established when Company B was deployed overseas for the first time in 2004-05. A ribbon with the name of each deployed soldier will be added to the wall, with the idea that the ribbons will be removed when all of the local soldiers return home from duty.
Brian Wood, a 2005 graduate of New Richmond High School, will be one of those honored on the special wall. It's the first time he's been deployed overseas during his three years of military service.
The ribbon project is being coordinated by the Company B Family Readiness Group (FRG), which provides support to spouses, parents and loved ones left behind during the deployment.
The group has a long list of activities planned to help and thank families for their sacrifice to the nation.
Paul Wood said the FRG is a great support system for families.
Since joining, he's gotten involved in planning several events. He's also had a chance to talk to others who are feeling the same sense of loss due to a loved one being in harm's way.
"It's been very helpful," he said.
Tammy Wood agreed.
"We're able to talk about how we feel," she said. "It gives you a different perspective on things. You know there are other people feeling the same things as you."
Even with the support, Tammy admits to feeling anxious about her son's well being. She's also quick to add that she's very proud of the job he's doing in Iraq.
"I try not to dwell on what he's doing over there," she said. "I'm just looking forward to the day he comes home and we can take the ribbon down off the wall."
Brian's sister, Nicole Wood, said she has benefitted from the FRG organization as well.
"We're quite close as siblings," she said. "So it's been hard to have Brian gone. You have this kind of empty feeling, because he's not here."
By being involved in the family group, Nicole said she's able to help her stop worrying about her brother.
"It keeps me distracted," she said. "And it helps that I can talk to other people about how I'm feeling."
Nicole and a friend will be part of Saturday's yellow ribbon ceremony. They will sing three songs, "God Bless America," "The Star Spangled Banner" and "The Great Defenders" for the assembled crowd.
"I'm really looking forward to it," she said.
"I'm sure it will all be overwhelming," added Tammy about Saturday's ceremony.
The public is invited to attend the event to support the families of deployed soldiers and to remember Company B as they serve in Iraq.
Among the Family Readiness Group's future events:
In July, the FRG will hold a joint birthday parties for all the Company B soldiers' children and siblings ages 0-18 with birthdays in May through July.
The group will host a float in the New Richmond Fun Fest Parade.
The New Richmond American Legion Post is sponsoring Christmas in July, a fundraiser for the FRG, in mid-July. Various vendors will sell their products and donate a percentage of their proceeds to the FRG.
A family fun day will be held at Wild Mountain Water Park in Taylors Falls in August. The day will include a picnic lunch and snacks.
In September, the FRG will have a birthday party for all children/siblings with birthdays in August through October.
The FRG will have a Halloween Party and Haunted House at the New Richmond Armory in October.
In November, the FRG is planning the final kids' birthday party for children/siblings with birthdays from November through January.
Later in November, the group will be spending the day baking Christmas cookies to send to the soldiers. This will be at the New Richmond Armory.
A Christmas party in December will include snow tubing with Santa at Trollhaugen Ski Area in Dresser. After tubing the group will go to the Village Pizzeria in Dresser.
The future events are not open to the public.