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Mayo Clinic designated a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Company

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U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato speaks Friday during a ceremony for Mayo Clinic's designation as a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Company. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, right, and retired Col. Walt Franz, left, also spoke during the event. Mayo Clinic took over a year to earn the designation. It was required to implement an Action Plan that included programs for hiring and retaining veterans.
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A crowd of more than 200 local veterans, doctors, Boy Scouts and Rochester residents gathered Friday in the shadow of the Mayo building for the ceremony recognizing Mayo Clinic's designation as a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Company.

Speakers at the Annenberg Park event included U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, representatives for U.S. Sens.Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and numerous high-ranking military officials.

The designation took Mayo Clinic a year to achieve because of requirements that it develop and implement an action plan aimed at increasing its involvement with veterans. Additionally, it had to receive approval from a state review board after beginning the plan.

Mayo Clinic is the 46th company in Minnesota to earn the distinction. It is the first large health-care employer in Minnesota to receive it and the first Rochester-based company to receive it.

"It's a big deal because this is a hard commitment of a large employer," for hiring and helping veterans, Walz said.

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During the event, Mayo CEO Dr. John Noseworthy recounted Mayo Clinic's history of serving U.S. soldiers and veterans from Dr. William Worrall Mayo's work in the Civil War to current efforts to improve care for veterans.

"Mayo's relationship with the military will always be an expression of Mayo's primary value: The needs of the patient always comes first," Noseworthy said.

Smith, the chair of the Destination Medical Center Corp. board, said Minnesota's strong history of military service was shared by Mayo Clinic throughout its history.

"Mayo has done so much to address the health of our veterans and armed services," Smith said. "This (designation) is something I'm so proud to be here to help you recognize. This is not a new thing today with Mayo. It's something you have been working on."

She said Minnesota has made great strides with employing veterans, noting the state's unemployment rate for veterans had dropped to just less than 5 percent. She attributed the gains in part to the work of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon companies.

Retired Col. Walt Franz, who served in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Command and practices family medicine at Mayo Clinic, introduced Walz at the event. He praised Walz's role in securing the Clay Hunt SAV Act, which was a package of veteran suicide prevention legislation.

"I truly sit in the shadow of the greatest medical institution in the world," Walz said. "The best way we honor (veterans) is in what we do to conduct this nation. ...This generation is watching how we act."

Walz said helping veterans find employment and better health care does not mean they are victims nor is it charity. He said it's a way of showing respect to those who served the U.S.

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The action plan required to become a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Company obligates companies to build relationships with local military leaders, create a method for determining which company employees have military connections, conduct public displays of support for veterans and establish a long-term policy to hire and retain veterans.

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