ARLINGTON, Va --
In between bites of lunch at an Air Force Reserve conference here Saturday, teenager Anthony Jackson Jr. talked about how quiet his house was during his mother’s recent overseas military deployment.
“It’s missing something. You miss the person being there,” the 16-year-old said at a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program training event. “You have to do the stuff the person used to do, like more chores. You have to do extra.”
Anthony attended the program with his mother, Senior Master Sgt. Paula Jackson. The operations superintendent of the 700th Airlift Squadron at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, she recently returned from a four-month deployment to the 386th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron in Southwest Asia. Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their loved ones by connecting them with resources before and after deployments. Anthony attended breakout sessions with his mother instead of going to youth-oriented events with most of the other children.
“I like to bring him everywhere with me so he can learn and see the different things we do, and maybe one day he’ll want to do the same thing as his mom,” she said.
Anthony and his mother attended a Yellow Ribbon weekend prior to her deployment, too, and one connected to a previous deployment in which he participated in traditional youth training. He said the program provides good help for family members of someone being deployed.
“Coming to this can help take the stress off a person because they will have more information,” he said. “There is a lot of a good information to help the family for any kind of help they need. If I break my arm or something (when) she’s not here, I have the information from the briefings that tell you what to do and who to go to.”
He encourages teens who have the opportunity to attend a Yellow Ribbon event with their families to do so.
“They should go. If they’ve never been here, (it) has a lot of information, so they should go to one,” he said. “It helps to know what families go through.”
Most teens attending a Yellow Program don’t accompany their parents to the adult portion of training but instead participate in programs hosted by Youth Extension Service, which provides deployment-related activities for children 6 to 18 years old.
“The Y.E.S. gets the youth to use conflict management and work on team building skills to use in their home, school and socially,” said Samantha Poelstra, Y.E.S. team leader at last weekend’s Yellow Ribbon event.
Games and activities coax teens to open up about their family members pre- and post-deployments.
“We discuss different stressors, use open-ended questioning and they form networks, using things already present in their life to do better,” Poelstra said. “Family is most important.”
While the teens are with the Y.E.S. staff for the Yellow Ribbon weekend, they form a circle to discuss challenges they may share due to deployment of a loved one. Teen-to-teen advice is given for those who have family members deploying for the first time.
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.
(Senior Master Sgt. Jill LaVoie contributed to this report)