Finance & Enjoyment Blog

Yellow Ribbons Sessions

My son recently deployed to Afghanistan with the Army. He is a senior drill sergeant. Their unit's mission originally was to train the Afghan soldiers. I say originally because things are changing rapidly with our country's mission there, and I'm not sure anyone (most importantly our nation's leaders!) really knows what to expect next.

Last December we were invited to attend sessions called "Yellow Ribbon" by the Army. They were held at a nice hotel in a suburb of Dallas. The sessions were designed for soldiers and their families to provide information about what to expect upon deployment. It was a day of short sessions covering multiple topics, including how to communicate with home, how to handle medical insurance issues, what to do if there is an emergency situation at home the soldier needs to know about, what to expect the soldier's frame of mind might be like when he returns home, financial issues, etc. Skype works in Afghanistan, but it is not nearly as consistent and reliable as we expect here in the States. They provided tips on how to make sure insurance will cover medical issues that may not appear until months or years after the soldier returns and some good information about psychological issues.

There were a number of logistical problems with travel, lodging and the agenda of the sessions. That was expected with and Army-run event. But I was pleasantly surprised at the overall results, and at the wealth of information they provided. This was directed just as much at the families as at the soldiers, and was quite effective.

The Army has been developing these programs over the last several years. In the Viet Nam era and on into Desert Storm and beyond, a soldier got his orders and was told where to show up to catch his plane. That was the extent of the communications, and of course cell phones and Skype didn't exist. Mail was unreliable at best, so the soldiers and their families went for long periods of time not knowing what was happening on the other side of the big pond. I applaud the Army for these efforts! You've come a long way, baby!

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