U.S. Army Soldiers traveled from different states nationwide, to attend the 81st Readiness Division Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event in Atlanta, March 25-26.
The event was part of a military program for Soldiers either preparing for deployment or to help reintegrate them into society as they come back from one. The one held this past weekend primarily focused on Army Reserve Soldiers who were about to leave for a mission, with most in attendance set to deploy for the very first time.
“When people talk about sacrifices that service members make, before I got into the military, I thought it was about what you do, but I realized it’s what you miss and what you’re away from,” said Cpl. Thomas Doles, a Civil Affairs Specialist for the 49th Civil Affairs Battalion. “Being away from family was my biggest concern before my first deployment.”
However, after attending the 81st Readiness Division Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program a lot of those concerns were put at ease.
“Yellow Ribbon alleviated a lot of my fears because you see there are people who will have your back while you’re gone, support your family, and that will give me peace of mind on our deployment,” said Doles.
The Yellow Ribbon Program helps Soldiers, especially those deploying for the first time, along with their family members, alleviate many concerns that might stem from a first deployment.
“The Yellow Ribbon Event is an opportunity for our soldiers and their family members to find out information about resources, services, and programs available to support them,” said Sherree Jones, the 81st Readiness Division Family Program Director. “Groups such as TRICARE, DEERS, and Military Benefits are here today to help Soldiers, especially before and during a deployment.”
“When we think about our Soldiers and their Families, many of them do not live on installations,” she added. “The Yellow Ribbon event gives an opportunity for somebody to tell them about the services available.”
The Atlanta event also marked the first in-person opportunity since the nationwide shutdown caused by the pandemic. While the 81st Readiness Division did offer online alternatives, holding another in-person event was important for the program organizers.
“Like much of life, Yellow Ribbon was interrupted by COVID. We did a lot of online and other different types of ways to get the Yellow Ribbon information across to Soldiers,” said Sgt. 1st Class Lisa Litchfield, assigned to the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command. “It’s much better to be in-person, where you meet the other Soldiers and families that are usually scattered in many different states.”
“Bringing the Soldiers and the family members together in one location makes it so that family members can meet each other, and they know that there’s someone else going through the same experience at the same time,” said Litchfield. “It gives you a group experience that you don’t get when you’re not together.”
At the end of the 81st Readiness Division Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event, Soldiers and their Families learned about tools and resources available before and after a deployment, which has helped alleviate any concerns or issues they might have had previously.
“I would just like to say the 81st Readiness Division did a great job,” said Doles. ”The staff here clearly cared and showed they were here because they care about service members, with most of them speaking from personal experience, having served themselves.”
“They just genuinely care about us, care about the mission,” he added. “I can’t say enough about how great it was that the Army and Yellow Ribbon Program invested resources into bringing us together, before a deployment like this.”