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NEWS | July 31, 2018

88th RD Yellow Ribbon strengthens resiliency through reintegration

By Catherine Carroll

The 88th Readiness Division conducted a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event for more than 120 Soldiers and their family members, including more than 50 children, in Schaumburg, Illinois, July 20-22.

“I want to officially welcome you home and thank you for putting your life on the line for your country. The 88th is honored to be here to support you.” said Brig. Gen. Tony R. Wright, the 88th RD deputy commanding general, during his opening remarks to the attendees.

This post-deployment event was specifically designed for Soldiers returning from recent deployments and featured training sessions focused on strengthening resiliency and supporting family reintegration.

From education benefits to mental health resources, America’s Army Reserve Soldiers and their families were provided with services and support to help ensure they are fully equipped to deal with the stressors of returning home.

“Why are we here?” asked Sgt. 1st Class Jolaina Falkenstein, an Army Reserve Soldier with the 88th RD, addressing a roomful of Soldiers and their families.

In addition to being an Army Reserve Soldier, Falkenstein is also a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Responses from the audience ranged from, “We have orders,” to, “I am hoping to get more in-depth information and assistance than is available at home station.”

“The Army needs us to be a ready, lethal force,” Falkenstein answered. “As Reserve Soldiers, we wear multiple hats that require us to be ready on more than one level. We have to be ready not just as a Soldier, but as a civilian and a human as well. If we don’t take care of those other parts, the Soldier part isn’t going to be able to stand strong.

“That’s why you are here. So we can help you add tools to your tool belts,” Falkenstein explained. “We want you to be as successful as you can be and to complete your missions to the very best of your abilities. The Yellow Ribbon is here to give you and your families as many tools as it takes to support that success.”

Sylvia Lopez, 88th RD Yellow Ribbon program manager, used an analogy to help explain how Soldiers might not be the first to recognize when they need support.

“Who here has ever been pulled over because you didn’t know your taillight was out?” Lopez asked. “Getting pulled over brought something to your attention that you may not have noticed on your own. It can be that way after a deployment.

“You may be exhibiting behaviors you are unaware of. Your partner, your family member, your spouse, they may be the first to see it,” Lopez continued. “Sometimes it takes someone else to call that to your attention.”

Sergeant Tramaine Brant, an Army Reserve Soldier with the 169th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services, deployed as an animal care specialist working with military working dogs. She brought two close friends, Shardonay Davis and Hassan Jones, with her to the Yellow Ribbon event.

“It’s helpful because sometimes I don’t want to speak about things or I don’t get the help I’m supposed to,” Tramaine said. “If they know about the programs, they will force me to go get the help I need or raise my hand to get the assistance. Because I know I need it. It’s just hard to take that step.”

“I find the program very informative,” Davis explained, “A lot of things she might be going through, or about the Army world in general, I may not have known about. Just having those key points helps me know how I can support her.”

“It’s truly interesting to learn about the Army,” Jones added. “It’s all new to me. I didn’t know what to expect, so it’s good to be here.”

Many of the session topics revolved around communication and the importance of relationships and reestablishing connection.

“It can be challenging to reconnect after a deployment,” Falkenstein said during a training session on strengthening communication. “How do you talk about experiences that are radically different from anything those close to you have experienced and may be hard to explain or define? We are here to help you name the emotions and challenges you may be experiencing and open those lines of communication. It takes time to come back together.

“Relationships are integral for a Soldiers resiliency,” Falkenstein went on to explain. “That also means the wellbeing of family members, friendships, lifelong partners, battle buddies in that Soldier’s life are integral to maintaining readiness.”

“If my family isn’t healthy, if my family isn’t being taken care of, I’m not going to be focused on what I need to do as a Soldier. I’m going to be distracted. I won’t be fully present for my mission. It’s vital to support the families, not just the Soldiers.”

Army Reserve families often live in communities where less than one percent of the population are serving in the military. It can mean communities are further away from understanding what those families are going through.

“That isolates the service member. It isolates the families. It isolates the children. My kids are in schools that don’t understand military life,” Falkenstein shared. “Yellow Ribbon is the one place where families like mine can come together and connect with other family members, other friends, other children and they’re not alone. They’re not weird. Everyone gets it. Yellow Ribbon is so important for that connection.

“No matter how many deployments you have had, I encourage you to open up your minds to receive something from here,” Falkenstein added. “If not for you, for your fellow Soldiers, your battle buddy and those Soldiers you lead.”

“Keep in contact with each other,” Wright encouraged the attendees. “Help each other out. The Yellow Ribbon is here to give you the tools necessary to reintegrate back into your family and your community. You have provided a great service to the country and we want to say thank you.”

This event marked the final hosting of the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program’s Child and Youth Program which provided a unique opportunity for military children to address their distinct challenges and strengthen their resiliency through shared experience.

Many changes are underway for the YRRP and the 88th Readiness Division is working hard to ensure Soldiers and their families continue to receive the highest level of support services and resources to assist during all phases of the mobilization process!