Yellow Ribbon program offers military families support services

The Department of Defense Yellow Ribbon program focuses on returning soldiers as well as those gearing up for deployment.

Every year thousands of servicemen and women are sent overseas. Now one program is helping troops and their families when they deploy as well as when they come home.

Hundreds of National Guard and Reserve service members and their families gathered at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor for a Yellow Ribbon event Saturday. Soldiers and their families browsed booths that focused on everything from educational opportunities to health and dental care.

“The Yellow Ribbon is a reintegration program to help the soldiers once they deploy to try and come back and get them as close as a life of normalcy as possible,” says April Millington, the program manager of Yellow Ribbon.

The Congress-mandated program focuses on returning soldiers as well as those gearing up for deployment.

Pvt. Sharif Payne just returned from boot camp and is getting ready for his first assignment.

“I just want to learn what I'm doing for my deployment and what I'm going to be doing for the rest of my career,” says Pvt. Payne. “This is my first event. I've never been to an event like this. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can.”

Pvt. Payne’s mother is a Desert Storm veteran and has 24 years of service. She says she is thankful her son has a program like Yellow Ribbon to guide him.

“It’s nice to see that this program has a life of its own for our troops,” says Carmen Vega-Stevens. “I was not fortunate when I had to go through with my deployment. I didn’t have these services so watching my son now make this big move I’m glad that these services are here for him to use. It makes me feel better.”

The Yellow Ribbon Program was established in January 2008 and has since helped more than 1.1 million National Guard and Reserve service members.

“I’m just looking forward to this deployment and right now all the opportunities and all the decisions that I made and all the support I have from my mom and my unit,” says Pvt. Payne. “It’s just amazing.”

There will be several other programs throughout the District next month.

Click here for more information on the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program.