For whom the bells toll
ROUND LAKE -- Church bells will ring in communities across southwest Minnesota Friday morning in the first of what will become a monthly reminder to area residents of the soldiers serving our country at home and abroad.
Organized by the Family Readiness Groups of the National Guard's 1-125th Field Artillery, the "Freedom Rings: A Tribute to our Troops," campaign will continue until the soldiers return home from their anticipated 18-month deployment. Participating churches will ring their bells a series of 11 times on the 11th hour of the 11th day of each month.
Lori Lanphere Kruger, coordinator of the Bravo Family Readiness Group, B Battery, from the Jackson/Fairmont unit of the 1-125th, said the idea for the campaign came from Austin, where the bells have been ringing for several months already. Soldiers in that area are expected home yet this year.
"We're trying to get the whole battalion area to do it," said Kruger, adding that each of the churches in Worthington, Jackson and Fairmont have already committed to the campaign.
Other participants include Round Lake, Fulda, Trimont, Sherburn and Welcome, while a campaign is still being organized to honor soldiers of the 1-125th batteries in Luverne/Pipestone, New Ulm, St. James, St. Peter and Anoka, Kruger said.
The 11th hour of the 11th day was selected for the bell ringing because of the significance of Veterans Day, which falls on the 11th day of the 11th month.
Kruger said it means a lot to the families here at home to know that others are thinking of the troops.
"We had the hype of the departure ceremonies and the parades, and now that the guys have left it's quieted down," she said. "But the families are here, and they have to go on without them. Everybody else goes on with their lives, and they may forget about the soldiers."
Having the bells toll one day a month in honor of the troops will create a significant measure of support, she added.
"It's so important for the families to know that that support is out there and I think it will help us to get through these 18 months," Kruger said.
While she resides in a rural area, Kruger said she plans to be in one of the communities Friday when the bells are being rung.
Each of the participating churches was asked to provide their own bell ringer for the campaign, and Kruger said she's been pleased with the response.
"If someone doesn't do anything other than, when they hear those bells, say a prayer for the soldiers ... it will be such a blessing for the families," she added. "This is a very simple way to do something (for the troops)."
If churches who haven't already been contacted would like to participate in the bell ringing campaign, they are invited to take part on Friday. Kruger said churches may also call her with their intent to participate.
In addition to ringing church bells on the 11th day of each month, area residents are urged to wear Support Our Troops T-shirts or patriotic clothing that day. As a fund raiser, members of the Jackson/Fairmont family readiness group are selling two different styles of T-shirts during the campaign.
Soldiers in the 1-125th are now stationed at Camp Shelby, Miss., where they are training up for eventual deployment to Iraq.
"All we've heard to this point is they'll be four to six months in the states and then off to Iraq," Kruger said.
The soldiers are expected to return home for a brief visit over the Christmas holiday, although they have been told they'll need to pay their own bus fare.
"We are searching for corporate sponsors to help bring the troops home," said Kruger, adding that any business or individual wanting to contribute to the fund may contact her at 945-8255.