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Yellow Ribbon experience changes young minds

Photo of Caleb Linnane posing with his mother, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lindsey R. Barnes

Caleb Linnane poses with his mother, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lindsey R. Barnes, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 916th Air Refueling Wing Headquarters Chaplain Program Support, for a photo at a Yellow Ribbon event in Orlando, Florida. Linnane is scheduled to attend basic military training as Barnes is scheduled to deploy in early 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mary McKnight)

Family photo of Barnes family mentioned in article.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lindsey R. Barnes noncomissioned officer in charge of the 916th Air Refueling Wing Headquarters Chaplain Program Support, poses for a photo with her family at a Yellow Ribbon event in Orlando, Florida. Barnes attended the event as a pre-deployment opportunity for her and her family. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mary McKnight)

ORLANDO --

Tech. Sgt. Lindsey R. Barnes’ two children started texting her 30 minutes into a youth session at a 2016 Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program training event, asking her when it would be over.

“By the end of the weekend, when I had to leave earlier then the scheduled time, they were asking me to stay for at least one last activity,” said Barnes, NCO in charge of the 916th Air Refueling Wing Headquarters Chaplain Program Support at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

She remembered the family’s first Yellow Ribbon experience while attending another Dec. 20-22 with her children, Caleb and Alyssa Linnane, husband John Barnes and 850 others. Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their loved ones by connecting them with resources before and after deployments. Through it, the Air Force Reserve trains 7,000 reservists and those closest to them in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more each year.

Barnes, who is scheduled to deploy in early 2020, said her children were looking forward to this weekend’s event, though Caleb, now 19, attended adult sessions, making it a slightly different experience for him and his mother. Sessions are broken up into pre-deployment, first post-deployment, second post-deployment, a Couples’ Enrichment Program and youth activities broken down per age group.

“The youth sessions are cool and they have a lot of age-appropriate subjects to keep you from being bored, but you don’t get to pick what you’re learning,” Caleb Linnane said. “This year, in the adult sessions, I was able to pick the subjects I was interested in and wanted to learn about.”

Since attending his first Yellow Ribbon event, Linnane has graduated high school and enlisted in the Air Force. He is scheduled to leave for basic military training in early 2020.

“I have more of an understanding of what to expect when I get there -- especially when I (leave the military) -- in regards to things I can benefit from,” he said. “During the sessions, I listened to questions posed by military members and that insight gave me more of an idea of what to expect upon joining the military.”

Linnane said the events have a nice atmosphere.

“Everyone is really uplifting,” he said. “No one who works the Yellow Ribbon events ever seems like they don’t want to be here. They’re here, they’re working, and they have a really good attitude about it; it’s a really nice environment.”

Barnes, his mother, said Yellow Ribbon events “are awesome” and she hopes to participate in the program again upon returning from deployment.

“I am all for shedding light on (it),” she said. “It was awesome the last time we went and this time. We just had such a good time. To go from, ‘When can we leave?’ to ‘Can we stay for just one last activity?’ speaks volumes from a teenager.”

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.