The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program was established under the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act . The program’s goal is to prepare service members and their families for deployment, sustain the family and service member through deployment and help reintegrate them back into their civilian communities when they return.
Because most civilian soldiers (NG/Reserve) return to their private lives after deployment, it’s essential that the soldiers have an opportunity to reconnect with their fellow comrades and families to talk out their experiences. The Yellow Ribbon program has a 30, 60 and 90 day connect point where soldiers and families are guided through dialogues, counseling sessions and also informational sessions on what to expect, how to handle PCS, and other issues that may come up after deployment.
Since its inception, the “face” of the program has not changed but the outreach is now geographically positioned and not “unit” focused. Due to the fact that soldiers are deploying outside of their regular training units, the program tries to keep the deployed soldiers together as much as possible but if geography prevents a soldier or family from attending, each state or region is prepared to engage that family closer to its home base.
My husband and I participated in our first Yellow Ribbon event last September. It was a weekend where the soldiers after 45 days of downtime were glad to see the people they served with and talk about their deployment, their dwell time and their futures. We were introduced to various vendors; the VA for starters, TriCare and HealthNet also attended to help families understand the TAP program and the benefits available to them now that the “active” period was over. Military Life Counselors were prepared to help couples find their way back or help children disengage from the uncertainty deployment caused for them. Military Chaplains were on hand to walk us through a “counseling” session. It was here that I saw how much couples had suffered. Omnubundsmen were available to educate and discuss USERRA which applies to National Guard and Reservists. There were also vendors available to discuss legal issues, the USO, VFW and American Legions.
The sessions also gave spouses an opportunity to meet the person or persons our soldier worked with over the 400 days. I also heard stories from the “at home” member who showed such courage and weathered life events alone such as laying a parent or child to rest, putting a parent into nursing care or handling the floods of their farmland. These women prevailed and together they brought their soldier home. As sad as it was to see the number of couples who didn’t survive deployment together, it was also humbling and encouraging to hear of the success stories. It was probably the most powerful take away from the weekend event for me. Other than the film on Post Combat Stress it was a necessary weekend.
Yellow Ribbon events are NOT mandatory but they’re highly recommended. For an event in your area please contact your Family Program coordinator or Family Readiness Coordinator for up to date information.