NEW ORLEANS – Approximately 600 soldiers and family members gathered in the Hyatt Regency for a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event Jan. 10-12.
Designed to promote and offer deployment related counseling and services, the three-day event was hosted by the 81st Regional Support Command from Fort Jackson, S.C., and brought together state and local community partners as well as subject matter experts in the subjects of resiliency, suicide prevention and substance abuse.
Also attending this event were congressional representatives and staff members from Louisiana and Mississippi, anxious to experience first hand the support offered to deploying and returning service members.
Congressman Steve Scalise, 1st Congressional District of Louisiana, was quick to point out that although partisan politics were often sharply divided, this was a unifying issue.
“When it comes to our nations military – support of what you’re doing for our country – that’s one area where we all come together,” said Scalise.
He also wanted to make clear that congress was committed to ensuring that Reserve and National Guard Soldiers receive a fuller system of support.
“Our Reservist and National Guard are getting deployed … we need to step up and that’s why Congress put in place this Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program,” Scalise explained.
Recognizing the needs of service members and their families during the deployment process, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program was established by congress in the National Defense Service Act of 2008. The YRRP addresses the unique challenges of National Guard and Reserve members, including geographic dispersion away from military support networks and lack of familiarity with resources when compared to their active counterparts. The program aims to properly prepare service members and their families with outreach, services and referrals throughout the mobilization process and beyond.
During the event, on-site childcare allowed parents to focus on their classes and the services offered them, while engaging their children in age-appropriate workshops hosted by Child Youth and School Services.
A highlight of the day for many children was a woodworking project courtesy of the local Home Depot.
“This one is going to be a present for my dad when he gets home,” said nine-year old Landen Hood, from Akron, Ohio, proudly displaying the small wooden toolbox he had just completed.
Other community partners present at this event included the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Military and Army One Source, Army Child, Youth and School Services, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ Vet Center, Military & Family Life Counseling, the Red Cross, Tricare, as well as a number of colleges and universities.
A main focus of these partners is ensuring soldiers and their families have not only an awareness of, but current access to the programs. These programs are designed to assist soldiers in all phases of their service, to include pre-deployment, mid-deployment and post-deployment services.
“Anything we can do to help, we stand ready to do that,” Scalise stated.