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Yellow Ribbon program helps build resilient Reserve deployers

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AFNS) -- Approximately 450 Air Force Reserve Airmen and family members attended a Yellow Ribbon event here Aug. 20, to gain information on available resources before, during and after deployments.

Since 2008, the Air Force Yellow Ribbon Program has assisted reservists and Air National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles.

As part of the event, several guest speakers presented information to participants, including Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Dondi E. Costin, the Air Force chief of chaplains.

“I want you to think for a moment about what resiliency really is, because it’s simple,” said Costin, the senior pastor for more than half a million active-duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian forces. “I like to think of it as the old Timex (wristwatch) commercial, ‘A Timex can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.’ That’s what resiliency is.”

Costin, a member of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein’s special staff, is responsible for establishing guidance and providing advice on all matters pertaining to the religious and moral welfare of Air Force personnel. He is also responsible for establishing effective programs to meet the religious needs of Airmen and their loved ones.

One such person is Sarah Thorpe, a former North Carolina National Guard member who attended the event with her husband, Staff Sgt. Steve Thorpe, a civil engineer with the 567th Rapid Engineer Deployable, Heavy Operational Repair Squadron, Engineer Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, who is preparing for his deployment. Sarah recalled her frustration with the lack of support programs and resources following her 2005 deployment to Iraq.

“It was the first deployment for my unit, so everything was new to everyone,” she said. “We struggled. It was difficult, I didn’t know the resources, and I didn’t know how to contact the resources because I’m suddenly back to my regular life.”

The program promotes the well-being of reservists and their loved ones by connecting them with resources before and after deployments. Each year, the Air Force Reserve program trains 7,000 reservists and those closest to them in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more.

“Now that they finally have the Yellow Ribbon Program, I am getting the information as a spouse and my husband is getting the information so we can work together as a team,” Thorpe said. “I’m hopeful because now I know what to expect, because I have the resources and because I can be in control of the situation at home when his mission is overseas."

The event was the first one of its kind attended by Costin, who has been the service’s top chaplain for a year.

“You’ve got other people around you who can help you. You don’t have to go through whatever this is by yourself,” Costin said. “That’s what your squadron is there for. That’s what your flight is there for. That’s what your base community and your family and your neighborhood is there for – to help you.”

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