After running the program for nearly a decade, Dean Markuson is stepping down as the community coordinator of the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Hastings Community.

Markuson put 20 years into the Army, serving in Vietnam, two tours in Germany and a tour in South Korea.

After retiring in 1990, Markuson began serving veterans and service members in Hastings. With aid from county and state officials, and leaders in the Hastings community, a movement began to help those in the community who had put their lives on the line to serve the United States.

Hastings officially became a Yellow Ribbon City in 2010.

It is the mission of the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program to connect service members, veterans and their families to support, services and resources in communities around the state. In Hastings, the program has helped community service members in a number of ways throughout the years - from helping with housework or child care to organizing job fairs.

"It's time to turn the ropes over to a younger person," Markuson said of his coming retirement from the program. Markuson said he will stick around until a replacement has been found and until he has properly mentored the new coordinator.

The next steps to finding a replacement are up in the air, according to Lisa Thomas of Dakota County Veterans Services.

The county, United Way of Hastings and the Department of Military Affairs, along with Markuson, have been working together to brainstorm ways to find a new coordinator for the Hastings program.

Normally, in the event of a coordinator stepping down, another volunteer from the organization would step up and take over the position, Thomas said. In Hastings, however, Markuson is the sole leader with no regular group of volunteers.

"Dean is the only one that has been a one-man show. He gets a lot of support from the VFW and the Legion since he is a member of both, but he's really done it all on his own," Thomas said.

In most Yellow Ribbon communities, the program is led by a committee or board. This is the traditional model presented by Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, and is even included in the program's best practices.

Looking forward, Thomas said the ideal situation is to have a group of people step up to run the program in Hastings.

"We really want community people to step up. They don't need any special skills, they just need passion. We will support them," Thomas said. "There is a lot of great people here in Hastings that would support this person."