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Having courage to care for one another is key to readiness

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mary McKnight
  • 916th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

In preparation to deploy and transition back home, Reserve Citizen Airmen and their loved ones attended a virtual Yellow Ribbon event, April 24-25.

The Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Program promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before, during and after deployments.

The event’s participants were provided presentations on an assortment of tools to help cope with mental, physical, spiritual and financial fitness.

One of the presentations focused on having the courage to care.

“Now if you saw someone fall on the ground, you wouldn’t just walk over them and act as though you didn’t see them fall,” said Lawana Morales, a nurse care facilitator with the Air Force Reserve Psychological Health Advocacy Program. “You wouldn’t walk over them thinking, ‘I hope they get it together.’ You would offer your assistance, ask if they were hurt or felt anything was injured.”

Morales said Airmen and their loved ones should use the same approach when they see someone who is mentally struggling or when they notice someone’s personality has changed.

“Saying something opens the door for someone to say, ‘Yes, I am having a hard time,’” she said.

Morales acknowledged that this is easier said than done and that’s why it takes courage to care.

“The thing is to hold ourselves accountable and check in with people,” she said.

Marcellous Cook, who is also a PHAP nurse care facilitator, said a great example of having the courage to care was provided by the event’s keynote speaker, retired Marine, Chad Robichaux.

Robichaux spoke about the post-traumatic stress he experienced upon returning home after multiple combat deployments and how he was saved when his family stepped in to help when they noticed suicidal warning signs.

“It was really unfortunate when he talked about being in the closet with the gun,” Cook said. “With his wife at the door making the simple statement, ‘Don’t you want to fight as hard for your family as you have worked for these other things?’”

Robichaux said that if it wasn’t for the intervention, he might not be here today.

“I think the biggest thing is resilience,” said Master Sgt. Xavier J. Bryant, the Yellow Ribbon Program’s representative at the 940th Air Refueling Wing at Beal Air Force Base, California. “Sometimes as military members we carry this hard exterior, meaning sometimes we cry behind our smiles, when we are going to work or even going home.”

Bryant said it’s important for Airmen and their families to use the many resources available to them such as: key spouses, chaplains, PHAP, Military One Source and many more as they transition to and from deployments.

While there are many professional resources available, sometimes it’s just as effective to reach out to a friend, said Tech Sgt. Orlando Ballestas, a cyber-operations specialist with the 512th Force Support Squadron at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

“At one point, I experienced high anxiety,” Ballestas said. “This one time I felt I couldn’t cope with it, so I reached out to two of my friends, and that’s how I worked through it. The incident occurred at night so it was easier for me to reach out to my friends than a doctor or something.”

Ballestas noticed something in himself, but he had the courage to care for himself and seek help.

“Hopefully people will treat themselves as good as they treat their cars,” said Cook. “I always use that analogy because people tend to take care of their cars, better than they do themselves. They take their cars to get tune-ups every five to ten thousand miles, get the tires rotated. Well what about us? Aren’t we important?”

Cook said that having the courage to care for oneself has the same theme as the old saying that you can’t take care of someone else if you don’t first take care of yourself.

Airmen and their families are encouraged to have quick access to the following resources: PHAP 866-417-0707; Military OneSource 800-342-9647; National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255. Also, they can always call a friend.