Reserve couple works hard to balance family, work

The Grosjean family of Oklahoma during the Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon training event May 16 in Orlando, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Sarracino)

The Grosjean family of Oklahoma during the Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon training event May 16 in Orlando, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Sarracino)

ORLANDO, Fla. --

When newly minted 2nd Lt. Chris Grosjean graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1995, Bill Clinton was in his first term as president, singer Montell Jordan's "This is How We Do It" was at the top of the music charts and gasoline sold for $1.14 a gallon.

Since then, many things have changed in this Airman's life, which brought him and his family to an Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program training weekend May 15-17 here as they prepare for his upcoming deployment. Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their loved ones by connecting them with resources before and after such duty.

Grosjean's story is like many who have lived the nomadic lifestyle of the military member. After flight school, he was assigned to Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, and McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, ultimately ending up at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma.

These assignments gave him the opportunity to experience life far away from his family and friends in his hometown, Albuquerque, New Mexico. While he loved his job as an instructor pilot at Vance, he knew in the back of his mind that there was something, or someone, who needed to be in his life.

 That something or someone is his wife of 12 years, Aleena Grosjean.

"We met in a bar," he said with a straight face. “Actually, it used to be a bar, but it was purchased by our church, Emmanuel Baptist, and turned into 'Grace Place' and used as a meeting place for Christian singles."

 Aleena said she believes that their first encounter was the result of divine intervention.

"We met on the day my father died. I always say that the day God took my dad, he brought me Chris."

Their family quickly grew with the addition of four sons in six years. With the arrival of Jeremiah in 2005, Tyler in 2006, Daniel in 2009 and Isaac in 2011, came a decision for Chris to leave active-duty service to be home on a more consistent basis. He joined the Air Force Reserve in December 2005 and is now a lieutenant colonel and KC-135 Stratotanker pilot assigned to the 18th Air Refueling Squadron, 931st Air Refueling Group, McConnell AFB, Kansas.

"After we started our family, I made the decision to leave active duty and dedicate myself to being with them," said Chris Grosjean.

He has also managed to squeeze in a hearty commitment to the Reserve, which has included extended duty in Southwest Asia, Guam and Hawaii. The trip to the Yellow Ribbon event occurred because he is about to deploy overseas again.

"It was a good opportunity for us to interact with families from other states who are going through the same thing," Aleena said.

"Just to be able to relate to other couples who are facing the same situations," added Chris.

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.

While the Grosjeans were busy throughout the weekend training, they offered particular praise for the "Communicating Through Four Lenses" seminar led by Lt. Col. Barbara Godsey, process manager for the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

"I thought a lot of what she said really resonated with us,” said Chris Grosjean. “ We're both interested in communicating as a couple, and understanding how your filters are different can really help relate to each other."

While this was their first Yellow Ribbon event, they said it won’t be their last.

"When I return (from this deployment), we are definitely coming back to Yellow Ribbon," Chris said.

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