When more than 500 Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers and their families gathered at a hotel in Anaheim, Calif., near Disneyland Nov. 16, 2019, many didn’t know what to expect. Some of them were steeling themselves and their loved ones for a year or more away from home. Others were coming back from extended tours overseas and just beginning the journey back to normal civilian life.
What did they find? A team from the 63rd Readiness Division and more than 40 community partners ready to give Citizen-Soldiers, their families and friends the tools they need to successfully deploy, complete the mission they set out to do, and reintegrate back into their civilian lives and careers.
“The benefits of this are definitely priceless for my spouse and my daughter,” said Army Reserve Sgt. Jared Babinski, a 12-year veteran from Saginaw, Michigan, deploying overseas this year with the 339h Movement Control Team stationed out of Fort Riley, Kansas. “The amount of time spent and the people here who are passionate about what they do to make sure that we’re not forgotten and we’re not just another number. Even with 500 of us here, it’s one-on-one. It’s great.”
Sgt. Charlene LucasEdwards, Yellow Ribbon noncommissioned officer with the 63rd RD, emphasized the varying needs of Soldiers preparing for mobilization or returning home post-mobilization. Many Reserve-component Soldiers live far from military posts and need a special event where they have access to the full range of support networks offered by the military to deploying service members.
“Before a mobilization, there’s many things you have to take care of,” LucasEdwards said. “You need to see a lawyer. You need to take care of your power of attorney. You want to make sure your finances are in order. You want to know what your Tricare insurance is going to cover. In pre-mobilization, you want to know when your insurance is going to start. In post-mobilization, you want to know when it’s going to end. There are many differences between pre-mob and post-mob.”
The Yellow Ribbon event included an explanation of United Through Reading, a program enabling service members to record themselves on video reading books for their children. United Through Reading provides an extensive library of books for service members to choose from at their deployed locations.
“I can read a book and stay connected with my daughter, whether it’s a seasonal book that I’m reading or just a nice child’s book,” Babinski said. “That’s something everyone should know about, whether they have a daughter or a son, and should take advantage of.”
Pet Partners, a nonprofit with over 13,000 registered teams serving veterans and other people around the country, sent a group of handlers and service dogs to the Yellow Ribbon event.
“Dogs were key to having us come home,” Babinski said. “It’s definitely a plus and a positive thing that the Army recognizes that they’re service members and family and need to be treated that way.”
Maj. Gen. Alberto Rosende, commanding general of the 63d RD, said the unit’s continuing commitment to the Yellow Ribbon program is part of the mission to support Soldiers and their readiness for any mission at home or abroad.
“Readiness starts at home, with the family,” Rosende said. “That is the bedrock of our ability to establish readiness. In supporting the Yellow Ribbon program, the 63d provides resources to the family members and Soldiers so they can leverage those resources so they can ensure the family is ready for the departure and the reintegration once the deployment is completed.”