FAIRMONT - Christmas came a little early for the Red Bull unit, with the Martin County Beyond The Yellow Ribbon Military Family Christmas Banquet this weekend at the Armory.
The National Guard unit had drill weekend, so with the soldiers all together, it was a good time to invite the families, serve up a meal, and have a good time, according to Tam Plumhoff, chairman of Martin County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon. There were games to play, goodies for the kids, and a Howitzer tank served as a makeshift jungle gym for the young ones. Topping it off was a visit from Santa.
Any military personnel from any branch, whether active or retired, was welcome.
Ryden Begley, 8 months, walks with help from his dad, Spc. Mitchell Begley, of Spirit Lake, Iowa, on Saturday at the Martin County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Military Family Christmas Banquet.
Although Steve Mau retired from the Red Bulls after 21 years, he came back for the Christmas banquet.
"All my old buddies, a lot of good old friends here," said Mau, who's from Windom and brought his wife, Melissa, and infant son, Nicholas. Mau was presented a meritorious service medal.
"We talk about old times, our last deployment and how everything's going," Mau said. "Catch up, just see the faces, reminisce a little bit."
Another of the soldiers was Spc. Carson Ricard, a 2012 graduate of Fairmont, who invited his mom, Jody Ricard; and sister-in-law, Megan Ricard and her kids. His brother, Cameron, a sergeant, was on drill duty at Camp Ripley.
"It's a Christmas party, always a good time of the year to have our families here," said Ricard. "I thought it'd be nice to have them come out and show them a different side of the Army."
Several tables were full of toys and school supplies, all donated by Dollar Tree customers in about a six-week period, Plumhoff said. Attendees could play bingo, decorate cookies or make marshmallow snowmen.
The meal was served by Martin County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon leadership and volunteers as a way to do something nice for the soldiers.
"We prepared food for 300, and we are full to capacity," Plumhoff said.
The state provided food for the soldiers on drill duty, but not the family members.
"MCBTYR is paying for their portion of the meal, so they don't have to pay for it," Plumhoff said, noting the cost was about $1,000, which came from donations.
If anyone would like to donate, contact Plumhoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail a check to:
P.O. Box 652
Fairmont, MN 56031