By SPC Justin Snyder, 354th MPADAugust 3, 2009
GREENSBURG, Pa. (July 22, 2009)- In a small room at the Army Reserve Center here, four-year old Jordan Yurko sits in front of a laptop computer with a stuffed teddy bear on her lap. Using a Skype connection, she waves the bear and talks to a blurry face that is thousands of miles away.
That face is Jordan's father, Staff Sgt. George Yurko, a water purification specialist deployed to Balaad, Iraq since March as a member of the 14th Quartermaster Company here.
"Do you see my bear daddy'" asks Jordan Yurko.
"Yes, I have the same one here with me," replies Staff Sgt. Yurko, bringing a smile to his daughter's face. "Thank you for sending it. I love it."
The bears, along with many other supplies and toys, were donated to the 14th Quartermaster Co. Family Readiness Group by the Dollar Tree store through Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that partners with local volunteers, donors and businesses to connect troops and their families.
Operation Homefront was just one of the many organizations on hand as family members of the 19 deployed Army Reserve Soldiers from the 14th Quartermaster Co. gathered at their Army Reserve Center for a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration meeting July 18.
Other organizations had representatives attending as well, such as the Veterans Affairs Center, Tri-Care, The American Red Cross, and Military One Source. There was also a legal representative and a personal financial and life consultant on hand to inform family members of the benefits available to deployed and non-deployed Army Reservists and their families.
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is a seven phase event that was initiated by the Secretary of Defense in August of 2008 with the goal of preparing Soldiers and their families for mobilization, sustaining families during mobilization, and reintegrating the Soldiers with their families, communities, and employers upon redeployment.
Phase one and two are pre-deployment meetings that include both the Soldier and their families, while phases three and four take place during the deployment and are aimed at providing the families with information. The final three phases are post-deployment meetings for both the Soldier and family, except phase seven, which is for the Soldier only. The event here was a level three program.
Dorothy Benyacko Carbisiero works as the Unit Administrator for the 14th Quartermaster Co. and also serves as the leader of their Family Readiness Group. She, along with Clarence Washington, a contracted Family Programs Assistant to the unit, were instrumental in getting the organizations to attend.
She believes that program is good and that families have a lot to gain from attending.
"Being in charge of the Family Readiness Group, I talk with a lot of these organizations all the time," said Carbisiero, a native of New Stanton, Pa. "These organizations are all here to support the families and I encourage them to get as much information as they can."
The program lasted around three hours and concluded with a luncheon consisting of an abundant assortment of donated foods.
Kimberly Yurko, mother to Jordan and 7 week-old son Aidan, said she learned a lot of new things that will prove very resourceful while her husband is away. She added that the program is more than just getting information- it is a way for all of the families to bond.
"Aidan was born shortly after the unit left," said Yurko, adding that her husband did get to come home a few weeks after his son's birth. "So, things have been a little hectic over the past few months."
"But (the families) being here together makes things a little easier and we can all learn and bond as one. We are all here in similar circumstances where our family members are away for a long period of time. I'm very appreciative."
Staff Sgt. Yurko, through a Skype conversation, said that he is very thankful for the program and that knowing his family is being looked out for makes his deployment a little easier.
"These kinds of events are very nice for the families and all of us who are deployed," said Yurko, who works as a corrections officer at the Pine Grove Prison as a civilian. "Knowing they are getting some good information takes my mind off things at home and makes me feel a little better about being here," he said.
Bob McGowan serves as a volunteer for Operation Homefront, and organization that has been around for nine years. Because of events like the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program, families are only now finding out about the organization, he said.
"We kind of went unknown for a long time," said McGowan, who is based out of Philadelphia. "If these programs don't occur, maybe families never know what is out there for them."
"It's a great program that will prove useful for years to come where everyone can take something different from it. At the end of the day, all these organizations are here for the same reason and that is to help make the families and Soldiers lives a little easier. If we help only one person, I would say Yellow Ribbon is a success."