JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii —
Between the months of February and June, nearly 70 Pacific Warriors attended Yellow Ribbon events across the country with their families, friends and supporters.
Yellow Ribbon is an events-based resiliency and support program designed to provide Reserve Citizen Airmen and their families with resiliency, morale and welfare resources to prepare for all stages of a deployment. Event programming includes sessions on relationship communication and enrichment; emotional intelligence; managing deployment expectations; finance-planning and legal resources; and how to get back into a routine after deployment.
“The goal of Yellow Ribbon is to provide our members and their families with wrap-around services, resources and information to help make their lives easier before, during and after a deployment,” said Senior Master Sgt. Tammy Castro, the 624 RSG Yellow Ribbon representative. “We want our Airmen and their families to know that we are their wingmen and we’ve got their backs. Yellow Ribbon participation is an ideal way to showcase all the support that’s available beyond their squadron, group or wing.”
One of the 624 RSG members who has recently taken advantage of the resources available via Yellow Ribbon is Tech. Sgt. John Leon Guerrero, who serves in the load planning section of the 44th Aerial Port Squadron.
Prior to deployment, Leon Guerrero, his wife, Marjorie, and their two children, 8-year-old Maddie Grace, and 3-year-old Johnny, attended a pre-deployment event in Chicago. They found it so useful that when Leon Guerrero returned from his five-month deployment to CENTCOM, they chose to participate in two post-deployment events in Bellevue, Washington.
“We chose to attend [Yellow Ribbon] Because it’s an opportunity to learn new things, discuss resiliency and make financial goals,” said Leon Guerrero, who has served as a Reserve Citizen Airman for nearly nine years and was recently to CENTCOM for five months. “Yellow Ribbon also provides a great opportunity for us to get away and take a mini-vacation from life and just enjoy each other as a family.”
One of the courses that Leon Guerrero found most useful and inspiring was led by Mr. Wyman Winbush who spoke about effective strategies and tactics for post-deployment reintegration. During the course, Winbush helped attendees understand that coming back from a deployment can be just as disruptive as leaving – and that “normal” often looks different upon returning home.
“Mr. Winbush said, ‘Neither success nor failure is permanent. Today’s status is just a point in time,” said Leon Guerrero.
Goal-setting, affirmations and how to pursue post-deployment opportunities is also something Leon Guerrero appreciated.
“Mr. Winbush said, ‘In this day in age, to remain ignorant is a choice.’ I took that to mean that you have the means necessary to figure out and learn anything you want in this life. If you choose not to know something, then that is on you!” said Leon Guerrero.
The events also provide opportunities for members’ families to connect with others like them, strengthening their networks of support while their Reserve Citizen Airmen are downrange. Marjorie Leon Guerrero, Tech. Sgt. Leon Guerrero’s wife, has supported her husband’s military and civilian careers since day 1.
“My husband works a lot with a crazy schedule with the fire department and being a Reservist, but I know he’s passionate about both and that’s why I support him,” she said. “He keeps us safe and, even though it can be a struggle, we spend as much time as we can with each other as a family. Yellow Ribbon has introduced me to other spouses who can assist with many of the struggles we all go through when our loved ones are.”
Similarly, the Leon Guerrero’s children benefit from the events.
“I think that it’s important for to their children because it introduces them to other children who go through the same things and experiences with parents bring parents,” said Tech. Sgt. Leon Guerrero. “It shows them that they’re not alone and that they can create relationships with other children to talk about it in the future.”
The Leon Guerrero family is just one family who has taken advantage of the Yellow Ribbon program so far this year. But they encourage everyone who is eligible to attend, attend. Castro agrees.
“Family members and Reserve Citizen Airmen’s support systems are strongly encouraged to attend if they are eligible,” Castro said. “Events are held across the US, and expenses are paid for by Yellow Ribbon, so it’s an incredible opportunity to learn, explore and connect or reconnect with your loved ones during the most stressful life events as a military member.”
Adds Leon Guerrero, “Resiliency is not done alone. When I returned home, I found that things were different, I was different. But I turned to my wife, my family, my friends and I used the resources available to me. Yellow Ribbon afforded me the opportunity to connect with my family on a new level moving forward.”
There are three more Yellow Ribbon events planned through the end of the fiscal year. Dates of upcoming Yellow Ribbon events include:
- July 29 – Aug. 1 in Anaheim, California
- Aug. 26 – 28 in Crystal City, Virginia
- Sept. 16 – 18 in Orlando, Florida
To be eligible to attend a Yellow Ribbon event, Reserve Citizen Airmen must have 90 days or more in a 24-month period; be deploying within 120 days of attending an event; or be within 365 days of the deployment order end date. Members interested in learning more about the program can find information from AFRC here.