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Yellow Ribbon event special for reservist, son

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- A Father’s Day Weekend trip to Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program training here was bittersweet for a Florida reservist and his child.

“This might be our last trip together,” said Master Sgt. Juan Guerra of the journey he made with son Joel, the youngest of four children he has with wife, Marisela. “I might not have him as a single child for much longer. He’s going to go out in the world and have his own life soon.”

Guerra, an F-16 Fighting Falcon quality assurance inspector for the 482nd Fighter Wing at Homestead Air Reserve Base near Miami, recently returned from overseas duty, qualifying him to attend Yellow Ribbon, which promotes the well-being of reservists and their loved ones by connecting them with resources before and after deployments.

Participants of the Texas event were able to choose from a variety of breakout sessions including financial management, fitness and parenting. With just a few years of service left, Guerra said he mostly chose finance sessions to see if he could learn new ways to manage his retirement funds.

Yellow Ribbon began in 2008 following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist reservists and National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles. Each year, the Air Force Reserve program trains 7,000 reservists and those closest to them in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more.

Guerra, a 36-year veteran of military service, was an active-duty Marine for 10 years starting in 1977. He joined the Army National Guard in 1991 for a year before deciding the Air Force Reserve was the best place to be.

“When I was in the Marines, all I ever heard about the Air Force was how everything was better – its facilities, accommodations, programs, everything,” Guerra said.

Joel was born after his father joined the Air Force and has seen his father deploy twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

“I remember, even when I was little, being really sad when he left,” he said. “I’m very close with my Dad.”

The teen attended a previous Yellow Ribbon event in Orlando and liked it. This time around he said he especially enjoyed the teen activities and being around others like him.

“I wanted to be here,” Joel said. “He didn’t make me come. It’s been great to meet others and learn how they feel about their parents’ deployments.”

Joel said he learned this through his favorite activity of the weekend, an exercise called Meet Your Neighbor.

Guerra said his family has so many relatives and activities going on at home that they rarely spend time with other military families.

Joel is considering joining the Air Force after graduating from high school next year and may apply to attend the Air Force Academy. He enjoyed seeing basic military training recruits during his visit to San Antonio, where enlisted Air Force boot camp is conducted. He is also thinking of pursuing a special operations career in the Marine Corps.

“I’d like him to join the Air Force, but I want him to be able to make that choice for himself,” Guerra said. “Whatever he decides, I just want him to have a good career.”