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Yellow Ribbon briefing – Not just for you, Airman

Yellow ribbon graphic.

Yellow ribbon graphic.

ROSECRANS, ST. JOSEPH, MO. -- Commentary

Ok, let's get this disclaimer out right away. Just because Family Readiness -- led by the immensely dedicated Ms. Jane Lackey -- is right here down the hall from my office in Public Affairs, doesn't mean I know all of the tremendous services and/or solutions they provide.

I used to be in uniform full-time (in the Air Force Reserve), but now I am a traditional Guardsman and I very much enjoy serving in a part-time capacity. And part of serving part-time is not always being intimately aware of everything that goes on here at the base. If it's not directly affecting me or I'm not writing about it, there isn't enough time in the weekend to learn about all the other stuff going on.

But in December, I deploy for six months to the good ole' "undisclosed forward operating location." I haven't had a Title 10 deployment in nearly 15 years. The world has changed a little since 1996. And man, so has the support available to families of deployed members - and the ease of how to find the answers.

I must admit, while sitting with my fiancé through a terrific Saturday morning jammed-packed with information, two things really hit home for me:

1 - "Getting this important family benefits information for deployment is much easier than it used to be," and,

2 - "Where are all the family members?"
We had nearly 200 airmen in that briefing, ALL of whom are deploying somewhere in the coming weeks and months. But I counted about a dozen family members among them.
Sorry, but that's the wrong answer, folks. If you feel like I'm calling out some of you, it's because I am.

I didn't know everything Family Readiness had available to us, but I DO know a lot about the kinds of frantic calls Lackey sometimes gets from family members of deployed airmen in need of help. It is a difficult and often helpless feeling having your loved one 7,000 miles from home when a family crisis arises.

And sometimes, the answers to the impending crisis were given months earlier in a Yellow Ribbon briefing. But the spouse left behind not only didn't make it to the briefing, he or she might not have even been told by their Airman spouse it was happening.

I know, I know. You think, "I've been deployed before. (He/She) doesn't need this information, I know it." Or, "This stuff is a waste of my time. Why would I waste (my spouse's) time, too?" Or, my favorite, "Whatever. I hope this gets over before lunch."
To which I say ... (BUZZER) "Thanks for playing. We have some nice parting gifts for you."

If that's your mentality, you and your family are missing out on a tremendous amount of things that are being done on your behalf, FOR YOU and your FAMILY.

Here's an incomplete list of some of the information we got at the briefing.

 New educational benefits, transferable to your spouse or kids
 VA Benefits and the VA Center
 Financial planning
 Legal
 MILITARY ONE SOURCE (I bet you've never been to their web site, militaryonesource.com ... amazing site)
 Family Readiness resources
 "Military Kids" outreach program for school kids with military parents
 Tutoring for kids of deployed military members
 Health Insurance (Tri-Care)
 Red Cross
 Numbers of real people to call in time of need, both from base resources and non-military entities

We need to change the culture, folks. We do a great job of taking care of our "family" here at Rosecrans. But sometimes I'm not sure our dependents know this - especially dependents of traditional airmen. And most of us are traditional.

So my pitch to you is this: Next time you're "in the bucket" and it's your time to deploy, you're going to be required to attend a Yellow Ribbon briefing. Do yourself a favor and invite your spouse, or whoever your power of attorney is going to be.

You could go to lunch together when you're done.