Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Moore
99th Regional Support Command
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The Army Reserve’s 99th Regional Support Command hosted a Yellow Ribbon event at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center here May 3-4.
Soldiers spent three days with family members attending Yellow Ribbon events 4, 5 and 6.
The Yellow Ribbon Program is a Department of Defense-wide program that addresses service members’ and families’ concerns before, during and after deployments through a series of scheduled weekend events.
During Yellow Ribbon events 4, 5 and 6, soldiers and family members learned about veteran benefits, as well as employment opportunities available to them through potential employers representing state and federal government agencies as well as the private sector.
“We actually have a lot of community partners that are present to help the soldiers get back to normal life for the civilian world. The Hero to Hired van (H2H) and a lot of the community partners will actually upload their positions into that system and the soldiers can go into that mobile van and they can see what job opportunities are out there for them in all parts of the country. Soldiers have actually left here with job offers,” said April Millington, 99th RSC Yellow Ribbon program manager.
Along with potential employers, solders were able to speak with representatives from several educational institutions that voluntarily enter into an agreement with Veterans Administration to fund tuition expenses that exceed the amount a soldier pay if they are attending a private school or are attending a public school as a nonresident student.
TRICARE had specialists on hand and available for any soldier with any behavioral health issues. The chaplain and military family life consultants were also in attendance to pass out information about the resiliency programs they sponsor, such as Strong Bonds and marriage retreats for service members seeking family counseling.
Soldiers often return from deployment with large amounts of savings. For these soldiers, the investment firm of Merrill Lynch has prepared a briefing that will educate them on to how to choose investments that best suit their personal needs. Home refinance services were also available.
“They are very dedicated to providing a great service to the family and soldiers, and they are very appreciative that we have reached out to them because they want to be involved and give back to the soldiers and family members. We are here to assist you with the transition that you need from being on a deployment to back to a regular civilian life,” Millington said.
The Defense Department launched the Yellow Ribbon program in 2008 to ensure reserve-component service members have access to the information and resources they need to reintegrate with their families, their communities and their employers effectively. A need for a customized service became apparent as increased numbers of Guard and Reserve members were deployed overseas after 9/11.
Over the past decade, more than 787,000 reserve-component service members have been called to duty, and more than 100,000 are deployed or on active duty orders on any given day. But unlike their active-duty counterparts who return to the extensive support of an installation after deployment, Guard and Reserve members return to communities that may not understand the depth of their experience and to families that may be unfamiliar with military demands.
“We have an excellent turnout at our events. Our range is normally between 85 to 90 percent of our actual attendance. Soldiers or their units will go into the portals system and register at one of four locations we hold the events at currently. Our events close two months prior because soldiers or their unit administrators are signing as soon as the notice goes out,” Millington said.
Currently, the 99th RSC has event locations at National Harbor, the Poconos, Pa., Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Hershey, Pa. Plans are in the works to add Boston and northern New York to the list.
“We recently had an event, and one of the mothers stood up and she thanked us for what we do because it gave her an opportunity to reconnect with her son. Hearing things like that makes me know what we do is worthwhile at the end of the day,” Millington said.