By Sgt. 1st Class Darrin McDuffordDecember 9, 2014
TOLEDO, Ohio - It's been four months into a year-long deployment since their Soldiers departed to Afghanistan and Kuwait. Their mission will focus on vertical construction, where they'll improve and raise buildings in austere conditions. This separation often presents issues back home, requiring families to learn resiliency.
For that reason, the 416th Theater Engineer Command hosted a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program Phase 2 for more than 100 family members and friends to attend. Their Soldiers, deployed with the 304th Engineer Company, have been focused Soldier on long work days keeping them busy and distracted.
Their families, meanwhile, have been at home Soldier learning to make do without their support.
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program has been around to assist Soldiers and families during a deployment with information, resources and to mitigate stressors of an extended mobilization. Units have a family support group that works with the YRRP during the four deployment stages (pre-deployment, deployment, demobilization and post-deployment).
Tying together the information and resources is a skillful and time-consuming task. The family readiness coordinator is tasked with this demanding responsibility.
Family and friends of Pfc. Shaina Nelson, for one, have known about her deployment for about a year. That didn't make it any easier to depart.
Sandi Nelson, Shaina's mother, said, "Shaina likes to help. This is her first deployment and being in the Army meant deployment was a possibility. She enjoys new experiences and hands-on training."
This experience has demonstrated to her the need for these Yellow Ribbon events.
"I miss her. This is what she wants, and I support her," said Nelson. "This training gives me the knowledge to deal with the deployment."
Pfc. Nelson's friend, Britt Johnstone said, "It was rough for Shaina to leave behind her loved ones. Shaina wants to do good and get involved rather sit on the sidelines."
Johnstone said, "The Yellow Ribbon training was a useful tool to help know what she can do to help support Shaina. Sitting through this helps me prepare and be ready, too."
Emily White, of Berkey, Ohio, a graphic artist is the wife of 10-year Army veteran, Sgt. Chester White, a Soldier with the 304th Engineer Company, said, "I've learned from the Yellow Ribbon Program training to make lists that include emergency items and contacts for Family, plans for childcare and financial rules."
"This program has taught me about communication. Developing a support system is an underlying need," said White. "I am prepared."
Some families have issues they are dealing with. Sometimes it's not just getting finances and emergency contacts inline. Some have recently dealt with the death of someone.
"The most difficult part is not having my husband around," said Pam Gardner of Lima, Ohio, wife of company 1st Sgt. Timothy Gardner. "We lost our daughter in a traffic accident a few months before the deployment. That added to the stress. We had the family planning with our son-in-law and grandson to work out."
"Other aspects of deployment planning required getting wills, power of attorneys prepared, and home maintenance that I was aware of but did not know how to do. The difficult part was just missing him. I get through the best I can," said Gardner."
Capt. Charles R. Saloga, 416th Theater Engineer Command Yellow Ribbon Program coordinator, said, "The intent and purpose of the number 2 during deployment event focuses on preparing families dealing with separation during the deployment cycle."
"It gives family members the tools and resources to be successful. We pick subject matter experts who provide resources and emotional tools that will set them up for success," he added. "I wish the 304th the best and a safe return to their families."
There are many resources the Yellow Ribbon partners with to assist the families at home. These sources are Military OneSource, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Small Business Administration, Veterans Affairs and others. The collaboration provides information and interactive seminars and resources that are relevant to the Families and their Soldiers.
Learn more about the Yellow Ribbon Program and upcoming events by visiting www.yellowribbon.mil/.