Chief's View: Notes from Yellow Ribbon

Chief Master Sgt. Cameron B. Kirksey, command chief master sergeant, Air Force Reserve Command

Chief Master Sgt. Cameron B. Kirksey, command chief master sergeant, Air Force Reserve Command

Citizen Airman/Aug. 2014 -- Like Lieutenant General Jackson, I, too, am frequently on the road, visiting units and attending various Pentagon meetings. Some of my most memorable travels have been to Yellow Ribbon events, where I get to spend time with you and your families. Here are a few notes from weekends spent with Citizen Airmen as they prepared for or returned from a deployment.

Family matters most. When I first walk into a Yellow Ribbon event, I take a minute to look around the room and see the dozens of units represented by hundreds of Citizen Airmen from across the country. Rarely do we have the opportunity to bring our Air Force Reserve family together like this. Even more rare is the opportunity to bring your family along. I initially wonder how many lives will be changed during the weekend's events. By the end of the weekend, I hope you and your family will better understand the meaning of reintegration and be better prepared for life pre- and post-deployment.

The parade of stars is a showcase of resources. After the leadership welcome, each event kicks off with a "parade of stars" where resource providers introduce themselves and briefly comment on the services they provide. Some examples being: job assistance from Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and Hero2Hired, entitlement assistance from TRICARE and Veterans Affairs, wellness assistance from the Psychological Health Advocacy Program, and spiritual assistance from the chaplains. There are too many to list, but trust me, the parade is long and provides a reminder of the various resources available to assist you and your family.

Breakouts are the heartbeat of a Yellow Ribbon event. Breakout sessions are "small group" forums lasting about an hour, which focus on information sharing, networking opportunities and informal support groups. Attendees also get tips on finances, fitness and resume writing. Tough issues are also discussed during breakout sessions, as emotions surrounding deployment can run the gamut. Feelings are shared and relationships examined. Frequently heard are stories of rekindled marriages. After a weekend's worth of breakouts, attendees walk away more informed and, hopefully, with a renewed perspective on life.

Similarities are greater than our differences. Every person's deployment experience is different, just like every attendee's Yellow Ribbon weekend is different. Although deploying is never easy and the personal sacrifices are many, my hope is that you remember our common bond and what unites us -- you are not alone! We all volunteered to serve as Citizen Airmen, to wear the cloth of our great nation, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

If you've been tapped for an upcoming deployment or just returned from one, I encourage you and your loved ones to attend the next Yellow Ribbon event. Your unit's Yellow Ribbon representative can provide you more specific information about dates and how to register. Together, with the support of your fellow Citizen Airmen, your Air Force Reserve leadership and programs like Yellow Ribbon, there are many saying, "I'm here for you!"