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Franken speech focuses on military families

Senator Al Franken, keynote speaker Saturday at the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Military Sisterhood Luncheon, converses with family members of those in the military, including Jennifer Winters, of Rochester.

Sen. Al Franken took time to huddle with reporters before his presentation at a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon luncheon. But his ears — and focus — kept being diverted to the conversations among the 50 or so women in the room.

In the past dozen years, hundreds of kids in the Rochester area have become what is known as "military kids." An entire generation of kids has grown into adults, too young to fully remember what happened to the country on Sept. 11, 2001.

It's proven difficult for parents in these families to connect with each other. Nobody actually knows how many members of the military there are in southeastern Minnesota because most who have been deployed in recent years, often multiple times, are members of Reserve units.

Another part of that disconnect is because there are no military bases in Minnesota, Franken later said during his keynote address on Saturday at the Canadian Honker Event Center at Ramada Inn. Beyond the Yellow Ribbon became a way for those who stay behind to find one another.

During his presentation, Franken acknowledged the experiences of those who stay at home and try to carry on while members of the military are on deployment.


"I want to thank all of you for your service, and for your sacrifice," Franken told about 50 women who attended. "Your sacrifices are not recognized often enough."

Franken explained that his experience entertaining with USO shows in places like Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan before he became a senator helped him understand the sacrifices members of the military and their loved ones make. That's something Franken said few Americans understand these days.

Three generations of Kasson's Buresh family described the impact of Master Sgt. Rob Buresh's service.

Annie and Alex Buresh, ages 11 and 9 told the audience about their grandparents taking care of them while their mother worked, and their dad was deployed.

It's hard saying goodbye to him when he gets deployed, they said, but they know he's doing good things for the country.

Grandmother Judy Kinsey said she and her husband make sure to stay closer to home when their son-in-law gets deployed because if they leave town at the same time it can add stress for their grandkids, who are already missing their dad.

The girls' mother, Julie Buresh, explained that their family experiences normal frustrations, and those frustrations get amplified by the stress of military service. But her daughters also help reassure her when she's having a rough day or is worried.

She showed a video of Master Sgt. Buresh returning from Afghanistan at a Twins game , surprising the girls.


It's still emotional for Master Sgt. Buresh and his family to watch, and behind him, tears filled the eyes of Nikki Gilman of Rochester.

"I know how they feel," she said, still reacting minutes later to watching the tape. "There's a lot of emotions."

She and her husband, Drew, both originally from Rochester, just returned from a lengthy stay on a military base in Japan with their two young sons Landen, 6, and Jamison, 2.

On the other side of the room,Jane Ferber said one of her sons was released from the Navy during the sequester — before he qualified for the GI Bill, eliminating his chance to qualify for federally funded education.

Of her other son, she said, "We think he's on his way to another deployment." The 2003 John Marshall High School graduate has made it clear, though, that she's not to share details about where his deployment might be, or when exactly it will happen.

That's part of military life, a juggling of what can, and cannot, be said by military personnel — and their families.

When Minnesotans need to find support with others in similar situations, it's difficult, Franken said, because there's no centralized system to make that possible.

"I want you to think of me as a partner of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon," he said.

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