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(Official U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Rhodes)
MARCO ISLAND, Fla. -- As part of the Yellow Ribbon program, families have the chance to learn life skills such as how to deal with the everyday stresses that living brings. Here, families from across the Southeast gathered to learn these skills, in addition to finding out what kinds of benefits are available to reservists facing or returning from a deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Shawn Rhodes)
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Local Reservists Participate in Yellow Ribbon Program

Posted 8/22/2011   Updated 8/23/2011 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Shawn Rhodes
927th Air Refueling Wing

8/22/2011 - MARCO ISLAND, FLA. -- 
America asks a lot of its men and women in uniform. For many servicemembers, deploying means missing holidays, anniversaries and milestones. Tech. Sgt. John Stramiello's most trying moment came when he missed the first birthday of his son, Matthew. Although nothing can take the place of something so important, he is glad America is caring for his family today with the Yellow Ribbon Program.

The YRP was initiated by the Secretary of Defense and mandated by Congress in 2008 to provide information, services, referral and proactive outreach programs to Reservists and Guardsmen and their family members through all phases of deployment cycles. The program's goals are to prepare servicemembers and their families for mobilization, sustain families during mobilization, and reintegrate servicemembers with their families and communities upon return from deployments.

"The Yellow Ribbon Program gives us a nice weekend together as a family," said Stramiello. The Hudson, Fla. native is an electrical-environmental technician with the 927th Air Refueling Wing, a reserve unit located at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. "It's great to be home and have this opportunity."

Stramiello and nearly 90 other reservists from the 927th ARW deployed to Turkey recently - forcing them to leave their civilian jobs to serve their country. Whereas many active-duty servicemembers live on or near a military base, many reservists are separated from the military community they serve with.

"Being a traditional reservist is challenging," Stramiello said. "They only have the weekend drill periods to accomplish their duties, and even when they are mobilized, it is still really tough on them."

Air Force Reservists and their immediate families can attend the YRP events, located at resort hotels around the nation. They are eligible to attend before a deployment, and then twice after they return at the 30-and 60-day marks. The weekend workshop involves sessions ranging from emotional well-being to financial management, and can be tailored by each family's situation so they get the most out of the classes.

One of the guest speakers at the event was Dr. Margarita Gurri, a psychologist who counsels people about how to make the best of bad situations. She taught servicemembers and their families coping techniques that would allow them to navigate the hard parts of a deployment.

"Before, during and after a deployment there's lots of noisy silences," Gurri said. "The thing we need to focus on is how are we going to add positive energy to a situation?"
Another guest speaker was Chip Lutz, a motivational speaker who uses humor as a way to teach people to find balance in their lives. One of his lessons to servicemembers was how to use laughter to create positive emotions.

"If you can laugh in the face of adversity, it doesn't own you, you own it," Lutz said to the gathered crowd of reservists. "Find something to laugh about!"

The overall message the Stramiello family took away was a renewed perspective on their lives and John's commitment to the Air Force Reserve.

"The little things aren't that big of a deal," Stramiello said about the lessons he learned over the weekend. "We got a lot of great information about the resources available to us and the support networks out there. The YRP is an awesome way to come together and learn in-depth information about how to deal with all aspects of a deployment."

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