“What do you mean you are getting deployed?”
“I thought you only had to attend military training one drill weekend and two weeks in the summer?”
Anyone who is part of a National Guard or Reserve family in this day and age knows that these statements are a thing of the past. National Guard and Reserve units have been deploying on a regular basis throughout the past 10 years. For this reason, on January 28, 2008, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) was established by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and became Public Law 110-181. The program’s main mission is to provide information, services, referrals, and proactive outreach programs to Service Members and Families of the National Guard and Reserves throughout all phases of the deployment cycle. While the events are mandatory for service members, they are optional for families.
So, why should family members attend these events especially if this isn’t their servicemembers’ first deployment? Below are the top three reasons it’s worth attending a Yellow Ribbon event if you are a family member, to include. No matter how many times you have gone through a deployment, there’s always something to take away:
1. Get to know the deployment cycle.
As a National Guard or Reserve family, you may not feel like you are even part of the military. Your service member may have just joined the National Guard/Reserves or he/she may have already been in for some time. Knowing the deployment cycle can help you understand the possibilities of “what if.” Your service member is trained to be ready at a moments’ notice, especially for National Guardsman activated for local/state emergencies. Federal deployments are generally scheduled in advance but they too can occur without much warning. As the YRRP website states: “It’s not just about getting through deployment – it’s about reducing the stress of transitioning into and out of each deployment phase, supporting your reintegration, and meeting the unique challenges that National Guard Service Members and Families face by connecting you with your local support community.” By attending a Yellow Ribbon event in person, you will receive step-by-step information on the deployment cycle.
Yellow Ribbon events prior to your servicemember’s deployment are a great place to meet other military families! All National Guard units that deploy are mandated to have a Family Readiness Group (FRG), which is an official, command-sponsored organization of family members, volunteers, and service members who provide mutual support and assistance and a network of communications among the family members, the chain of command, and community resources. I recommend getting involved with your unit’s FRG, but if you are not geographically able to, at least make sure you are on their email distribution list or phone tree so you are getting all the command resources you need.
While at the YRRP event, seek out a few families that you might have something in common with (ie. kids the same age, living nearby, etc). Introduce yourself and exchange contact information. As National Guard/Reserve families, you might want to have someone that you can relate to during your deployment. Unlike living on, or near active duty posts, your neighbor probably isn’t familiar with the military. In fact, according to the 2017 Blue Star Families Annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 51% of respondents feel they don’t belong in their local civilian community. Connecting with others who share the same experiences can be super beneficial.
3. Resources, resources, resources!
Yellow Ribbon events provide a plethora of resources from federal, state, and local levels. They are all present for one purpose: you and your family. Take advantage of getting one-on-one contact with these resources without even picking up the phone. Generally, there will be TRICARE representatives to assist with benefits and questions, Military Family Life Consultants who provide all forms of counseling services (including youth counseling), and Veterans Affairs representatives to assist with benefits and enrollment. In addition, there may be MilitaryOneSource representatives, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) representatives, State Family Program services such as Family Assistance Centers/Specialists for contacts during the deployment and possibly even other resources such as Blue Star Families where you can register for our free membership network, pick up resources such as our link to EveryoneServesBook.com, and maybe even Blue Star Books where your dependents can pick out a new Disney book.
Looking for the next Yellow Ribbon Event near you! Check out this link.
By Christina Smith
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