A ‘Yellow Ribbon’ chases away the bluesBy Cadet Amelia Thatcher and Pfc. Saul Rosa, 444th MPAD
It’s been several months since the New Jersey Embedded Training Team returned from Afghanistan, but the combat tour’s events are just starting to sink in.
In the relaxed, cushy surroundings of the Mt. Laurel Westin Hotel, ETT Soldiers received the second of three Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program post-deployment briefings and were encouraged to “get it all out.”
“It’s not a benefit,” said Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, The Adjutant General. “It’s an entitlement.”
According to trainer Sgt. 1st Class Robert Price, the transition from military to civilian life has improved “a hell of a lot” since his previous deployment to Iraq in 2003.
“It’s what I like to call the group hug thing,” he said, describing the former demobilization period. “There’s standard medical, dental, health stuff, and then one group discussion for like an hour, that’s it. Then it’s ‘Okay, you’re back home, go to drill.’”
But for Price, a 28-year veteran who served in Bosnia, Iraq, and now Afghanistan, this time is different.
The post-deployment period of the brand-new Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is crucial to Soldiers returning from a combat zone. Spread over several drill-like weekends post-deployment, Price’s training team is at a crossroads. Sixty days out from redeployment, their April briefings consisted mainly of issues in mental health, including anger management, substance abuse prevention, compulsive behaviors prevention and suicide prevention.
According to Yellow Ribbon Support Specialist Jack Stoffa, the 60-day period is especially vital to the Soldiers’ well-being and particularly to this group, which was responsible for training the Afghan army and police.
“Everything starts to hit right about now,” Stoffa said. “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder… these guys have seen stuff.”
Outreach Counselor Jose Burgos of the Ewing Vet Center works constantly to improve the mental health services available to veterans like Price.
An Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran himself, Burgos knows first-hand the importance of post-deployment counseling, months or even years after returning from war.
“I’m the poster boy for PTSD, and I’m not ashamed,” Burgos said. “It affects you and it affects your family.”
Across the hallway, soldiers of the 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion completed the first set of briefings, which focused on the programs available for returning Soldiers. This “thirty-day” group, having been home for a mere month after being at war, received more generalized briefings about family issues, education benefits, stress management, money management, chaplain support and problems at work.
“There is so much out there,” said Anna Richar, the joint family support consultant for Military OneSource. But a Soldier has to make the first phone call, she added.
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program consists of four phases: pre-deployment, deployment, demobilization, and post-deployment/reintegration. From the time Soldiers are first informed of an upcoming deployment until the day they get back, both they and their families are educated in all aspects of the support available. Services include Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve, Military OneSource, the National Guard’s Education Support Center, the N.J. State Family Programs Office and both state and federal Departments of Veterans Affairs.
|(c) 2009 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs|