By Sgt. Brittany ZoldMarch 12, 2014
The challenges facing Army Reserve families during deployment and reintegration are vast and complex - especially for kids.
To combat these unique challenges, the 88th Regional Support Command Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program Team has incorporated training specifically developed to assist and empower military children through the deployment process.
Bryan Taylor, director of the 88th RSC Yellow Ribbon Program, said the 88th RSC children's program was born from seeing the need and a passion to fill it.
"The direction we were given was to provide on-site childcare and appropriate activities for children under 17, but we knew more could be done," said Taylor. "What we did was independently develop a second-to-none fully integrated children's program."
Rochelle Wheeler, director of the 88th RSC Family Programs and Services, helped develop the program and currently oversees it.
"We don't bring the children here just to have fun," said Wheeler. "We already address reintegration issues with the adult family members, but now as part of the 88th Family Programs - we address the same issues at the child level as well."
According to Yellow Ribbon Resources-Your Child and the Deployment Process pamphlet, children of soldiers will experience the same emotions and feelings as their soldiers: stress, guilt, difficulty communicating, anger and feeling lost or depressed.
The programs offered at Yellow Ribbon events are both structured and age related, said Wheeler.
"We consistently assess it, making children's activities not only accessible, but relevant to their life at that time," said Wheeler. "CYSS at USARC level is now looking at the types of scheduling and classes that we do and are looking at that as a model that perhaps all the RSCs should be doing."
Linda Talley, wife of Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, Chief of the Army Reserve, witnessed the training herself during a Yellow Ribbon event in Schaumburg, Ill., Nov. 2.
"Programs like these are essential for Army Reserve children," said Linda. "When you have kids that are all dispersed, they don't have the support system that exists at an active duty base."
Activities included group discussions with Military Family Life Consultants to talk about their feelings regarding the deployment and different ways they can or did deal with the experience.
While visiting with teens, Linda gave her own insight on everyday things that could be done to help deal with the emotions experienced during and after a deployment. She focused on staying positive and suggested keeping a journal to track daily emotions and feelings.
"For every negative thing written, at least two positives need to follow," said Linda. "It is all about perspective."
In a session named 'What Do You Want Your Parents to Know,' children were asked if there was anything about them, military or home life, they wanted their parents to know, but didn't feel comfortable saying.
Their responses were anonymously compiled and later read in one of the parent sessions.
"Your soldier changed, they are not the same person that left on deployment," said Linda. "You have changed as well and are not the same child they left behind, but this is a good thing."
In an exercise named 'Deployment Superheroes,' children between ages 8 and 12-years-old make a deployment shield unique to their deployment experience that illustrates why they are a 'deployment superhero.'
The program also included a networking exercise called 'Uniquely You,' which helps establish relationships between military kids who may have or will face the same deployment challenges and experiences.
Bringing Army Reserve Children to events like these also lets them find camaraderie which cannot be found in civilian communities, said Linda.
"They come to Yellow Ribbon events and kids find other kids like them that they can relate to-and that is important," said Linda.
Crowning the children's training is a special ceremony where they are recognized for their service and sacrifices by being individually presented a True Patriot Certificate.
"The look on the children's faces when they are called to the stage and presented their certificate is extraordinary - you would think they were just given the Medal of Honor," said Taylor.
The impact this has on the children is tremendous, said Taylor.
"Knowing your sacrifices are acknowledged and appreciated is great for anyone - and it's the absolute least we can do for any of our deployment heroes."