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Yellow Ribbon 'ties' Reservists, families to support resources

DoD image (Courtesy image).

DoD image (Courtesy image).

MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. -- The next Air Force Reserve Regional Yellow Ribbon Training Event is scheduled Dec. 14-16 in Orlando, Fla.

This casual event is intended to set up an elegant and relaxing venue for the whole family, which includes fun-filled activities, referral information, education, vendor booths, and interactive breakout sessions that span the concerns and issues faced by Reservists and their loved ones before and after a deployment.

The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is a Department of Defense effort to promote the well-being of Reservists and National Guardsmen, and their families and communities, by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. Through Yellow Ribbon events, service members and loved ones connect with many resources such as TriCare and Military One Source before, during, and after deployments.

"To qualify for this program, you must have received a call to active duty for 90 days or more within a 12-month period that resulted in separation from your family during the tour," said Chief Master Sgt. Karilyn Graham, 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron first sergeant and 446th Airlift Wing Yellow Ribbon representative. "Reservists wishing to attend may bring their spouse and children, and single Airmen may bring parents, siblings, or their designated individual. Those attending will be placed on orders, so their hotel cost, travel and meals will be reimbursed at the government rate."

Yellow Ribbon has helped many Citizen Airmen and their families, like Joni Garrelts and her husband Tech. Sgt. John Garrelts, with the 86th Aerial Port Squadron, here.

"We found the events to be of great interest," said Joni, a stay-at-home mother from Springfield, Ore. "We attended two and learned from both events - something that will be of use to both of us and even to our children. We encourage all Reservists and their families to attend these events whenever they have the opportunity. The children are able to relate to others who are going through, or have gone through a deployment and share their experiences."

Garrelts said she would encourage everyone to attend a Yellow Ribbon event and ask questions about what to expect and where to turn for help while the military member is deployed.

"These events are not only informative and helpful, they are also fun - they offer the opportunity to get away from home for the weekend and connect with others who have experienced (or are about to experience) a deployment whether it's the first or just one of many," said Garrelts. "My husband and I came away from these events with plenty of information and knowledge that will aid us in post deployment benefits, going back to school, and connecting with other Reservists and family members to know that our experiences were not unique and others had some of the same experiences we had while he was deployed. We learned from the briefings and returned home with a small library of information."

Yellow Ribbon programs often include workshops for finance, communication and general legal advice as well as support from resources like the Red Cross, MetLife-Dental and educational benefits.

Reservists interested in attending the next Yellow Ribbon event should email the AFR Yellow Ribbon Program office at afrc.yellowribbon@us.af.mil or call 478) 327-1041 DSN: 497-1041.