Thursday, April 24, 2014 12:10 PM
Published on: Monday, July 15, 2013
By Tauren Dyson
When coming back from the battlefield, the transition for U.S. military members can be a difficult one.
Many experience mental, physical and financial obstacles as they struggle to regain a foothold in society. The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program assists National Guard and Reserve Service members in making that smooth transition.
“I see a lot of young soldiers come back from their deployments, and they have issues,” said Sgt. Richard Gentile, YRRP program coordinator. “It really helps snap them back.”
Established by Congress in 2008, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program was created to help service personnel “at key stages and throughout the deployment cycle.”
On Saturday, members of service personnel converged at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor to take advantage of the resources available at the three-day event.
More than a dozen online-colleges, employers and other organizations were on hand to offer support services to returning reservists.
The Yellow Ribbon Workshops were the cornerstone of the event, facilitating discussions and tackling health and social issues such as alcohol and substance abuse, suicide prevention and how to cope with stress.
“When you’re having stress and you need to work on communication, if you need to seek counseling, seek it,” said Garron Owens, 28, a 10-year veteran who returned to the United States from Afghanastan in January and attended a relationship workshop with his girlfriend Saturday. “There’s no shame in it, and a lot of people don’t think that.”
Other workshops addressed employment related topics such as resume writing, interviewing techniques and job search advice.
William Williams works as a national defense liaison recruiter for with the University of Phoenix and sees soldiers looking to improve their job prospects all the time.
“I’m very passionate about making sure that they take advantage of their education benefits,” Williams said. “Making sure that they can get into the jobs offered today and be competitive.”
Active-duty military members, veterans and military spouses represent approximately 29,000 students enrolled at the University of Phoenix, according to a 2008 study.
Some organizations came to the Gaylord to help make homecoming troops more marketable in the job force. Other vendors sought to inform reservists about some of the free goods and services available to them.
Like the USO, a group that offers, among many things, a lounge for troops returning home from battle. The lounges — located at Dulles, Regan National and Baltimore Washington International airports — are replete with stress relieving amenities such as massage and sleep chairs, cold beverages and other resources like computers.
“They made a lot of sacrifices, so they deserve the perks,” said Andrea Tassan, USO airport services specialist. “We are there to serve the military.”
Maj. Gen. Razz Waff is responsible for the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program and its more than 50,000 soldiers. Waff said he understands these men and women face challenges that range from combat-related trauma to unemployment-related stress.
“Upon return, they’ll see what the tools are available to them to help them reintegrate both professionally in their reserve unit, in their civilian employment, and at home,” Waff said.