By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellMay 18, 2009
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - A recent Army Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration workshop held here had a little extra tint of purple in the mix.
As Nearly 700 Soldiers and family members moved in and out of seminars and workshops, one Air Force family attending the event went virtually unnoticed as combat veterans gathered at a Florida resort to learn about tools available for families to succeed after a deployment overseas.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Paulette Pea said she didn't look at it as an Army, Air Force or Navy thing, because she was "Purple."
"Purple" refers to joint activities concerning two or more military services. Combining the colors of the dress uniforms of all branches would result in a purple uniform.
Pea recently spent her deployment supporting joint-service operations in Iraq, and said it was an Army non-commissioned officer, Staff Sgt. Ngyen Lu, who gave her the tip about the Army Reserve's Yellow Ribbon program.
"I'm glad he did, because this is a phenomenal program," she said about the 81st RSC event. "It was great weekend, because the information I got here, I would have never known about if it wasn't for Lu."
Pea said it also was good to be around Soldiers for the weekend and learn about their shared experiences and situations upon returning to their families and friends.
"We all have something in common here," she said. "We were apart from our family, children and friends, and the staff here gave us all the tools to help us become a stronger family."
While deployed, Pea lost six fellow unit members and said the mental health information provided during the workshop was extra valuable, not only for herself, but for her family as well.
"When I came back my son came and said it to me, 'Mom you are not the same as you were before you left,' I knew then, if my son could see it, I needed to change, because they are my heart and life," she said.
Paulette's husband, Air Force Master Sgt. Titus Pea, said the Yellow Ribbon program is something long-needed for all branches of the service -- no matter where their branch of service takes them.
"I'm just glad that a program like this is being put on for those who are redeploying and reuniting with their families -- especially, if it's just to help the family," he said.
The Pea family said the 81st RSC chaplain gave excellent advice, and they took full advantage of being next door to the tourist capital of the world.
The three-day Pea adventure included visiting nearby Downtown Disney and Disney Quest and hours of playing Guitar Hero with other military youth at the resort.
"You need to get back together and get in the mix of being a family," a chaplain told the group.
From skateboarding to creating virtual roller coasters, Samuel Pea, 13, said he has enjoyed the weekend with his brother, Justus, 12, and parents.
"I designed a virtual rollercoaster and almost got mom sick," Samuel said laughing about the 3D computer-simulated motion ride. "Now, I'm ready to go back and play some more Guitar Hero."
Samuel and Justus both said they look forward to their next adventure and hope their parents participate in another upcoming Yellow Ribbon workshop.
After all the seminars, networking with fellow veterans, and talking to chaplains and other experts were finished for the day, Paulette and Titus Pea said this weekend was about the entire family.
"This is all about spending time with our sons and learning to be a family again," she said while rubbing her son's head in a playful manner.
Titus Pea said what's important to remember is that there have been a lot of changes going on within different family members.
"For those who stayed behind and for those who deployed, our family learned we just need to gel together," he said.
Titus Pea said the military family bond is very important and both parents and children shouldn't go through the deployment cycle alone.
"There are others going through the exact same situations," Titus Pea said about families being separated during deployments.
He said Soldiers and others attending the workshop should not only take the information for them, but share their Yellow Ribbon experiences with others who have deployed overseas.
"We should be taking care of our own," he said about helping other service members. "There are going to be people out there who don't know about this program who really need the resources and information."
Paulette Pea said her family was in a unique situation because both she and Titus deployed at the same time.
"In our 15 years of marriage, this is the first time it has ever happened," she said looking at her husband Titus. "We did a lot of talking with our boys, but prayer got us through it."
Both parents said the most important thing they could do for their children is let them know what is going on and be honest about the situation.
"One thing I learned from this deployment is there has to be constant communication --not only with the children, but with the people taking care of the children," she said.
Both parents agreed the military child is the future of America, and that should be cherished. "They are our future," she said.
Paulette Pea said it doesn't matter what branch of service America's heroes call home-- it truly is one fight.
"But, it takes a team to win this fight, and if it wasn't for my Army NCO telling me about this program," she said. "I wouldn't have known about all the incredible resources available to my family."
Whether service members are providing convoy security or ensuring F-16s deliver powerful close-air-support to ground troops, everyone has a story, situation or experience to share.
The Pea family is one of those stories where a non-commissioned officer reached out and indirectly touched the lives of Paulette, Titus, Samuel and Justus.
Their weekend story is one moment that impacted lives, young and old.
"We always try to make a memorable moment for us as a family," Paulette Titus said. "This weekend will be one of those moments that we will never forget."