Yellow Ribbon strengthens Air Force Reserve families

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Theanne Herrmann
A Columbus, Ohio, family used an Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event here Sept. 22-24 as the official kick-off to prepare for their second deployment.

Reserve Citizen Airman Tech. Sgt. Zachary Loechler and his wife, Abigail, participated in their second event to connect with resources designed specifically to help them throughout the deployment cycle.

“One of the biggest benefits of attending a Yellow Ribbon event is for the Airmen’s families to learn more about the Air Force Reserve and the benefits they are entitled to receive,” said Mary Hill, the program’s manager.

During the three-day event, attendees were able to visit with service providers such as Tricare, Department of Veteran Affairs, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Judge Advocate General, Military OneSource, Key Spouse and many more.

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 family members in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more.

Department of Veteran Affairs representative Wilfredo Melendez, said he is honored to provide information to service members who are either returning home or deploying.

“This is a great opportunity to explain their benefits in case they missed it while going through the demobilization process,” said Melendez.

One of the many benefits Loechler and returning combat veterans will receive from the VA is five years of free medical care, he added.

Since Zachary and Abigail are familiar with Yellow Ribbon, they pinpointed the service providers they wanted to visit at this event.

“We know which areas we want to focus on to maximize our time here, such as marital counseling from Military OneSource, ESGR for assistance with employers and the JAG,” said Loechler, a member of the 87th Aerial Port Squadron from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The Loechlers are parents to a 6-year-old and 2-year-old twins and plan on taking advantage of the benefits available to help them cope with their father’s absence.

Military OneSource distributes free videos and books which showcases Elmo and Big Bird to help preschool-aged military children understand aspects of military life, such as the deployment of a parent, moving to a new home and the injury or even death of a parent.

“I also plan on signing up for the free membership at the YMCA through Military OneSource,” Abigail said.

In addition to the information fair, Yellow Ribbon hosted breakout sessions with experts briefing on various topics including finance, parenting, fitness, relationships and conflict, writing effective resumes and more.

Attendees also learn from other participants like the Loechlers who are experienced in the deployment process.

“I’ve been able to talk with young Airmen or first-time deployers about what to expect, tricks to make life easier,” said Zachary. “My wife has also connected with other Airmen families by sharing relationship and child-rearing tips. Yellow Ribbon fosters these conversations that benefit all of us.”

Families helping each other is exactly what Hill wants to see at a Yellow Ribbon event.

“We hope to inspire camaraderie among the families here so they don’t feel alone,” said Hill. “We want everyone to feel like they are a part of the Air Force Reserve family.”