War on Terrorism

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Yellow Ribbon event provides rest, eases redeployment

By Master Sgt. Donna T. Jeffries
514th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

(5/3/10) - Rest and relaxation mixed with reintegration seminars and veteran resources, coupled with plenty of chocolate was the theme for the 60-day Yellow Ribbon Event April 16 to 18 at Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pa. Yellow Ribbon coordinators from the 514th Air Mobility Wing planned this event for more than 60 military members who recently returned from deployment.

The Reserve and Guard members from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Maryland Air National Guard, Charleston Air Force Base and New Castle Delaware, took advantage of this opportunity to spend quality time with their families while simultaneously getting information to smooth their transition back into civilian life.

The Secretary of Defense initiated the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program in 2008. Its mission is to provide National Guard and Reserve members and their families with information, services, referral and proactive outreach programs through all phases of the deployment, according to the Department of Defense Yellow Ribbon website. Events are held nationwide.

"As both a commander and deployed member I thought this event was worthwhile," said Maj. Joseph Dell'Arciprete, the commander of the 88th Aerial Port Squadron. "It was good that family members could come to keep them informed."

The program prepares Airmen and guardsmen for mobilization, sustains families during mobilization and reintegrates military members with their families, communities and employers upon redeployment. Events are mandated for 30, 60, and 90-day post-deployment.

The event held in Hershey included briefings on current benefits and resources available to help overcome the challenges of reintegration. Workshops were held on family communication and reunion, marriage/spouse reunion, singles and reintegration and teen stress. Military Family Life consultants were on hand to conduct the seminars and give offline counseling.

Representatives from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Veterans Administration, American Red Cross, Tricare, Military One-Source, DeVry University, Keller Graduate Schools and Everest University Online, finance and personnel were also on hand to share resources.

"It's easy for active-duty members when they return to the base from a deployment; they have these resources right there for them," said a volunteer at the event.

"It was important to have counselors on hand to talk about post deployment issues and help individuals dealing with reintegration issues or post traumatic stress," said Master Sgt. Alexander Lepore, the event coordinator. "These events aid in identifying these issue immediately and people can take advantage of the resources available to them."

Volunteers for the Corporate Kids Events, Inc. and Operation Military Kids provided daycare for the children while their parents attended breakout sessions.

"Whether it was sitting together in a briefing or enjoying the local attractions, the families really seemed to enjoy just spending time with one another," Sergeant Lepore said.

"This is the best event by far with helping the military member and their family adjusting to life (post-deployment)," an attendee wrote on an event survey.

"I'm grateful my sister was here," said Carolyn Faison, a flight nurse with the 514th Aerospace Evacuation Squadron recently returned from her fourth deployment. "Now I can talk to someone who kinda understands what I've gone through."

"This program was extremely useful and beneficial to both the members and family," Maj. Bonnie Bosler said. "I feel this is an important aspect of the post deployment experience.

After the seminars concluded, members were free to explore Hershey and share bonding experiences with their families.

I heard about the Yellow Ribbon Program from someone in my unit who participated in another event, said Matthew Flanagan, of the 315th Mission Support Group at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. The sergeant is back from a six-month deployment to Kirkuk, Iraq.

"I came looking for an opportunity to get away and spend time with my family stress free," he said. "This is a cool place for kids and adults."

For more information about Yellow Ribbon and to find a re-integration event near you, visit http://www.yellowribbon.mil/.

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