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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Memorial Day: More than a Monday Holiday?

By Sara Croymans, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

For many, Memorial Day simply signifies the start of the summer season with a three-day weekend. But for many others, it is a time to pause and remember the service members who have served and died in our country’s Armed Forces.

What does our current military look like? According to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) 2014 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community Report, Minnesota is home to 466 Active Duty Service members and 18,852 Selected Reserve members (National Guard & Reserve). On a national level, there are 2.1 million Active Duty and Selected Reserve members. Just over half (55 percent) of Active Duty and 45 percent of Selected Reserve military members are married. Nationally, service members have 2.9 million family members, including spouses, children, and adult dependents.

This past year, the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development began providing leadership for the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Family Transitions efforts. MFLN connects military family service providers and Cooperative Extension educators working with military families to timely and clear research, and to one another. Our Family Transitions concentration area provides education and resources for professionals working with military families to build resilience and navigate life cycle transitions. Other concentration areas include Community Capacity Building, Family Development, Military Caregiving, Network Literacy, Nutrition and Wellness, and Personal Finance. Our team — Anita Hering, Ellie McCann, Karen Shirer, Mary Jo Katras, Vickie Lafollette (Department of Defense), Bob Bertsch (NDSU), and I — provides professional development through webinars and wrap around education related to the transitions topic.

I am passionate about providing support for military families because our family is a military family. My husband, David, served 22 ½ years as a Staff Sergeant in the South Dakota National Guard 740th Transportation Unit. He was deployed for 9 months for Operation Desert Storm (1990-91) and for 18 months during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-04). Two of our three children, Kristen and Jesse, are currently serving in the South Dakota National Guard, along with Kristen’s husband Jared. We have experienced firsthand the challenges and joys of serving our country.

This past December, Sgt. Kristen (Croymans) Eslick-Coats, Sara Croymans, Joey Croymans, Retired Staff Sgt. David Croymans, and Cadet Jesse Croymans attended the promotion ceremony of David's brother, Tom Croymans, to Brigadier General.

How about you? Are you aware of the military service members and families in your community? Are they participating in your programming? How could learning more about military families through MFLN strengthen your work? I encourage you to celebrate this Memorial Day by remembering those who have sacrificed their lives. Here are some options for you:

Service members and their families are known to be resilient, but face many unique challenges related to military life, deployments, and reintegration. As you kick off your summer, take time to remember the thousands of service members who are committed to serving this country, just as we are committed to serving Minnesota families.


  1. Great article Sara and thank you to your family for the years of service!

  2. Great article Sara!
    Thank you to you and your family for your dedication to our country.


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