Veterans across the Iron Range are being asked to "save the date" for Thursday, Oct. 29, for the annual stand-down that provides resources and information related to the military. But this year, due to the COVID pandemic, the stand-down called Experience 2020, so named for a combat unit’s time to rest and recover while at war, will be a virtual gathering, an online conference, for veterans, current service members, families, caregivers and supporters.
Marine Corps veteran Chris Magnusson, co-chair of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon-Hibbing/Chisholm and a sponsor of the event told the Mesabi Tribune that “while a virtual event is the next best thing, it is far from the best thing.” She continued, “This type of event requires high-speed internet access, computers or smartphones, and experience with those devices and virtual meeting software."
The group is now looking for sites that would be able to host small groups of veterans in a socially distancing environment to provide access to the virtual E2020 event. The event will include online workshops that will repeat throughout the day and will be recorded for those who cannot attend that day to watch later.
There will be multiple seminar topics to choose from over the course of the day, including benefits, health care, women veterans, transition issues, financial, housing, education, employment, entrepreneurship, apprenticeship and training, suicide prevention, addiction and recovery and domestic abuse.
In years past before the COVID pandemic, the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans in partnership with Minnesota Military Veterans Exchange, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and military organizations across Minnesota would sponsor stand-downs in the cities of Duluth, Grand Rapids, Hibbing, International Falls, Virginia and elsewhere in the state.
Chairman of the Hibbing/Chisholm Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Jeff Ronchetti told the Mesabi Tribune in an email he saw a "need in our area for a veteran-centered resource and referral group to assist area community members who were veterans, service members and their families in as many areas as we could."
In connection with this idea, the area chapter of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon was formed in 2011. The yellow ribbon has become a symbol of troops serving overseas and the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" is associated with the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.
"We connect people to help people," Ronchetti wrote in his email.
Anyone with a suggestion for a location is asked to contact Magnusson at 218-969-7137 or Magnussonc@yahoo.com.