By Maj. Carlos CuebasSeptember 6, 2013
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -Many kids, whose parents serve in the US Army Reserve, often may feel that they do not have other children who understand their experiences as military dependents. Because of the geographic distribution of many Reserve families, it is frequently difficult for them to access the various support services that are normally available at active duty installations. This reality is increasingly present in the island of Puerto Rico, where the travel time between the units across the island and the only US Army installation in the US territory is considerable.
With this situation in mind, the Army Reserve conducted a Youth, Leadership, Education and Development (YLEAD) Summit at the Sheraton Hotel in San Juan, Aug. 30- Sept. 2, with the participation of over 50 Army Reserve children from throughout the island. This is the second year the event is conducted in the Caribbean island.
Designed as a way to empower the children of Army Reserve Soldiers, YLEAD seeks to educate youth participants about the Army Reserve culture and to provide them with an understanding of the deployment and reintegration process from the family perspective. The summit also serves as a forum for the children to ask questions to military leaders about their concerns.
"The members of the US Army Reserve in Puerto Rico are very important and relevant for every mission. Everything we can do to provide information and services to the military families in Puerto Rico is a priority. Through the YLEAD, we want to provide you with the tools to understand and effectively face your parents' absence," said Brig. Gen. Fernando Fernandez, senior US Army Reserve officer in the Caribbean during his opening remarks at the YLEAD.
This year's summit offered various educational workshops to the youth such as leadership, decision making, family values and stress management, among others.
"These workshops have been very beneficial because they make you wise, helping us better understand the reasons for our parent's mobilization," said Fabio Aponte, 17, son of Capt. Julio Aponte Commander of the 941st Quartermaster Company, US Army Reserve-Puerto Rico.
"The mobilization of my father was very difficult for me because I did not understand it at the time. The mobilization of one of your parents is very difficult for us military children, regardless of the age. You are constantly worried about your loved one until you know he is safely back home," added Aponte.
Events like the YLEAD help develop resilience and readiness in the thousands of US Army Reserve Families in Puerto Rico, by building confident, self-reliant dependents with the capacity to endure mobilizations and deployments.
Approximately 5,000 soldiers from the largest federal US Army command in the Caribbean have deployed since 2001. US Army Reserve Families from Puerto Rico have been supporting the Nation's needs for 90 years, since 1922.