Sunday, December 12, 2010

Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program: Parts 1 & 2

Being a loved one of someone in the military is incredibly difficult.  For active duty families, it involves frequent moves (sometimes internationally), military housing, multiple deployments, and a myriad of personal sacrifices.  Recently, I have been reading blogs of other military wives to try to get ideas for coping with the upcoming deployment.  While I can relate to them in some ways, it is still completely different to be the wife of a deploying reservist.  It poses its own specific challenges that do not exist in the active duty world.

We are used to the military being a part of our life, but we are are not used it being our life.

Our soldiers are nurses, doctors, lawyers, firefighters, teachers, store name it.  When not deployed, military obligations involve one weekend a month and two weeks a year of putting on the uniform and training.  Therefore, when our loved ones get activated for an upcoming deployment, we are not always mentally or psychologically prepared.  Its not something we are used to thinking about on a regular basis.

It is difficult because we do not have the same types of support systems as active duty families.  Some unique challenges that we face:
  • We don't live near other military families.  The families in my husband's unit are spread out over hundreds of miles.  We don't see each other on a regular basis and we don't all know each other well.    
  • We don't have access to the resources of living on or near a military base.  It can be difficult to find assistance with military legal, financial, and social issues.
  • Our soldiers have to leave behind civilian jobs and civilian obligations.  Employers may be less than understanding about this situation and it can sometimes be difficult to return to them.
  • We don't have other friends or family members who have been through this or who truly understand.
  • Our children may be the only ones in their school who have a parent overseas.  The child may struggle with this and the school may not have experience with helping.
For this reason, the Department of Defense has developed something called the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program to help soldiers and families of reservists through the deployment cycle.  It's a series of seven conferences where they provide information, services, referral, and outreach.

This past weekend, the Army gave us Part 1 & 2 (Alert Phase and Pre-Deployment).  We arrived at the hotel to a patriotic greeting:

After some socializing with the unit, we headed to bed to rest up for an entire day of information overload.  The next morning involved a buffet breakfast, singing of the national anthem, a greeting by one of the Army Generals, and then it was straight into the schedule.  Some of the things we heard about:

  • Military OneSource: A 24/7 phone number and website that can assist with virtually any issue that may arise, ranging from counseling to broken dishwashers to help finding a lawyer and so on.  They say that you can call them with literally any question you might have about anything.  I learned that I can even call Military OneSource and ask them how to cook a turkey.
  • ESGR (Employer Support): The short story is that it's illegal for your employer to give away your job while you are gone and if you have any problems, you call them and they help you.
  • Financial planning:  I was excited to find out that we can get free financial planning.  Given the astronomical quantity of student loans I have, I think we could use some help.
  • Health insurance: Self-explanatory
  • Child and Youth Services: We don't have kids, but if we did there would be many cool things for them including Army Reserve Camps, Army Reserve Leadership Conferences, tutoring, daycare, free YMCA memberships, and financial stipends for extracurricular activities.
  • Legal Issues: Power of Attorney, Wills, Trusts, etc...(Moral of the story, don't give Power of Attorney to someone you met two days ago at the casino - even if you think they are a really good person.)
  • OPSEC:  What you should and should not talk about publicly regarding deployment.  I'll post more on this another day.
Then we had a few more talks about "Pre-Deployment Battlemind Training for Spouses," "Emotional Cycles of Deployment," and a Family Readiness Group meeting.  During this time I focused on  chugging back the disgusting, bitter coffee as a source of distraction from the lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

After dinner, we ventured out on the town for drinks and had some unit/family bonding time.  This was a great opportunity for people to socialize with each other, exchange contact info, tell stories, laugh, and yes, of course, cry together.  The entire conference was really informative for me as I have never been through this before.  The other thing it did, for better or worse, was make the deployment something that I clearly can no longer pretend doesn't exist.

The next Yellow Ribbon Program (Phase 3) will be for families only and will occur approximately 1-2 months after the unit is overseas.  I hope I can sneak away from the hospital for it!


  1. Wow Ames, this is heavy stuff. It made me tear up reading your post. I am glad to know there are experienced people out there who can help you with all this. But let me know how I can help!! I can help with cooking a trukey.

  2. I was wanting to know if I could link to you on my blog under my reserve/guard bloggers. It is a new project I am working on because many of the spouses that read my blog are on that side of it and I know it is very different. I respect how you keep many things "unknown" and I am with you on that. While I am more open about past things you may notice that I do not have photos on my blog. I do not say my husband's name nor do I anything remotely connected to his current mission. I REALLY liked your post about OPSEC! I know you don't only blog about this but if I could instruct spouses that you have "military" and "deployment" labels I know they could really connect to you. If this is okay please check out the "different perspectives" part of my blog and send me an email! Thanks!


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