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Sleigh ride
Tech. Sgt. David Aucoin, a reservist with the 42nd Aerial Port Squadron at Westover Air Reserve Base, and Tammy Rosa prepare for a sleigh ride Dec. 11 during a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event at Stowe, Vt. The three-day event included lectures from motivational speakers and time to relax. Yellow Ribbon is part of a DoD-wide effort to help the 1.2 million National Guard and Reserve members and their families connect with the best resources available before, during, and after deployments. (US Air Force photo/Lt. Col. James Bishop)
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Yellow Ribbon creates weekend to remember

Posted 12/20/2010   Updated 12/21/2010 Email story   Print story


by Lt. Col. James Bishop
439th AW Public Affairs

12/20/2010 - STOWE, Vt. -- -- Snow fell on the village of Stowe, Vt., as 223 people from the 439th Airlift Wing wended up Route 108 toward the Yellow Ribbon Event at Stowe Mountain Lodge Dec. 10 -12.

Groomed ski trails led to the lodge at the base of the lift. A team of valets parked cars. Steam rose from people splashing in the heated outdoor pool. At the daycare, children decorated cookies while their parents listened to motivational speakers.

And it was all paid for.

Paid for, as in, the Air Force put each military member on orders, paid travel, room, and per diem. Each family member received invitational orders and was reimbursed for expenses.

The event was sponsored by the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, which was established by The National Defense Authorization Act of 2008. The program is part of a DoD-wide effort to help the 1.2 million National Guard and Reserve members and their families connect with the best resources available before, during, and after deployments.
In fiscal year 2010, the Air Force hosted 82 such events, with 8,100 attendees.
Who can go?

"If you were deployed away from home for 90 days or more, you and your family are eligible to attend a Yellow Ribbon event," said retired Col. Mary Hill, Chief of the Yellow Ribbon Program for the Air Force Reserve. Away from home could mean you were activated in place at Westover and you live outside the commuting area.
"Each wing makes the decision about who is eligible" within established guidelines, Colonel Hill said.

Keynote speaker for the weekend, author and counselor Kristy Tubbs, told the crowd that the biggest challenges people returning from deployments faced included depression, marriage and money.

She gave three time- and research-tested steps toward choosing to avert depression:
- Believe that you deserve to be happy.
- Behave like you already are happy. (Smiling when you are depressed actually increases your body's endorphin levels, Tubbs said.)
- Belong to a group.

Deployments add stress to a marriage.

Fifteen years ago, during an argument between one of his 27 deployments, Tubbs' husband told her, "I can't believe I married you." They could have let the marriage disintegrate and gotten divorced, she said. Instead, they went to counseling and worked hard at reunion.

"Spouses often come back from a deployment to a divorce," Tubbs said, but added that some simple relationship and money management tips can rescue a relationship.
She handed out her book, Love Notes from Home, which included tips for staying connected to each other. One example read, "Write an email that says simply, 'Had ____ for dinner tonight and thought of you. What did you have?'"

After the conference meetings, families had free time to ski, explore the area, go shopping, and even ride in a one-horse open sleigh.

On Sunday, Chaplain (Maj.) Ted Nicholson ran a seminar on "resiliency" - the ability to bounce back from a tough event.

"Whenever you experience a trauma," he said, "you're going to have stress." Learning some basic tools helps prevent the stress from turning into something worse.
De-stressing tools include controlling how you react to stress. "Recognize you're stressed and 'interrupt' the process" of emotional escalation, he said. "You can choose to calm down."

After a previous Yellow Ribbon Program held classes from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., Westover planners revised the schedule to allow for more family time. Classes ended at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

"We worked hard to strike a good balance between giving families the information they need and giving them time together to relax, talk, and enjoy the beautiful setting," said Tech. Sgt. Christine Hatfield, program coordinator for Westover.

The results of the weekend showed on attendees' faces and in their comments. Attendee Julia Huffman, wife of an activated reservist, wrote on Facebook, "staying at the Stowe Mountain Lodge. nicest place we've ever stayed. marble everything, kitchen, FIREPLACE!! outdoor heated pool (and there's snow here!) all thanks to the military and thanks to my amazing husband who serves our country! ... Plus got to have a nice talk w/ another military wife. I'll use all the talks I can get right now!"

Master Sgt. Scott Daigneault, Superintendent of Antiterrorism and Force Protection at Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command, former first sergeant, and veteran of two Iraq deployments and the first Gulf War, said, "In almost 30 years of service, this was the first time I felt appreciated for doing a deployment."

"Before I went to Yellow Ribbon," he said, "if you'd asked me whether I would go on another deployment, I'd have probably said no. After this, I'd consider volunteering again."
The next Yellow Ribbon event will be held Feb. 26-28 at Virginia Beach, Va.

All attendees will be authorized air travel along with all other reimbursable expenses. Contact Airman and Family Readiness for more information at (413) 557-3024.

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