News: Navy Region Northwest Reserve Component Command hosts a Returning Warrior Workshop in Seattle
SEATTLE – Navy Region Northwest Reserve Component Command (NAVREG NW RCC) hosted more than 80 sailors, soldiers, and their guests during a Returning Warrior Workshop in downtown Seattle, Nov. 22-24.
The RWW is a part of the Department of Defense Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program and was designed to accelerate the reintegration of post-deployment service members with their families and communities by sharing their experiences with and listening to one another over the course of a weekend.
“I think the RWW is a great way for our returning warriors to connect with their emotions, as well as the emotions and feelings of their guest, who is usually their spouse,” said Lauren Favara, NAVREG NW RCC’s Yellow Ribbon Program coordinator. “This being my first deployment [as the spouse of a deployed sailor], I can tell you that I’m connecting with many of the things being talked about here today.”
The workshop kicked off with comments from Chip Lutz, a retired Navy lieutenant commander and current educator and trainer.
“This weekend is really about three things: taking a minute and reflecting on what is going on in our lives, reaching out to the people across the table and sharing our stories, and lastly to get the resources that you need,” said Lutz.
The bulk of the workshop took place on Saturday and included classes on several different topics, such as “Couples Reconnecting,” “Why I Want to Go Back” and “Returning to Children” that participants could pick and choose from, enabling the service members to essentially create their own personalized RWW that catered to their specific needs.
“We took the Getting Your Finances Back on Track class,” said Construction Electrician 1st Class Bill Smothermon, who attended the event with his wife Kathy Smothermon. “We were able to engage with the facilitator on some great information he provided.”
The workshop owes much of its success to the guest each participant is encouraged to bring, typically a family member or loved one. These “hometown” warriors are integral to the process of healing the military heroes and more often than not have just as much to learn at the event as the participant.
“[The RWW] has been really good,” said Kathy Smothermon. “Bill has been on three deployments since the war started and this is the first event like this we’ve been to. I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of nice people and even learned things from those people.”
Retired Navy Captain Jane Bingham further emphasized the vital role that families play while loved ones are on deployment during a group session called “Military Families … Our New Heroes.”
"Thank you families. Thank you so much. Without you, we couldn't do the job half as well as we do. You stood watch, families. You were there for us. You had our backs. You are amazing. Don't forget you are always in our hearts, no matter what," said Bingham.
The RWW participants and their guests were formally celebrated Saturday night during the “Banquet of Honor” where they were each presented with certificates of appreciation for their service both at home and overseas by the facilitators that led discussions at their table. Rear Adm. Russell S. Penniman, Navy Reserve deputy commander and chief of staff for U.S. Pacific Fleet, was the Chief Guest Speaker at the banquet and gave the attending warriors three official orders.
“One, on a routine basis, turn to your spouse or significant other and thank them for their support, service and sacrifice while you were deployed,” said Penniman. “Two, if you brought baggage home with you, start the discussion now. You have some amazing resources right here at this event, use them. And three, be proactive about taking care of your shipmates; go back to your units and see if there are others who could attend and get something out of [the RWW].”
When asked what he would say to a service member who is hesitant to attend an RWW, Bill Smothermon said, “It’s worth your time to attend, especially if there’s a chance you or a loved one could gain something from the experience.”
“It’s only three days,” said Smothermon. “You haven’t wasted anything. You get to stay in a beautiful hotel, you have people that treat you like a king or queen, and you deserve that, at least, for the deployment you went on.”
For more information on the Department of Defense Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program and future RWWs in your area, visit www.yellowribbon.mil.