Airmen and families gather for Yellow Ribbon weekend

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
  • 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
In the height of World War II, over 90,000 U.S. Army combat engineers were preparing for the adversities of battle at Camp Abbot, a 5,500-acre training center here along the Deschutes River.

The 17 weeks of training shaped the new recruits into a tough and skilled force, ready for the demands of defending their nation abroad.  After the camp was closed in late 1944, the one remaining training project constructed by the new engineers was the legendary Officers Club, known today as the Great Hall at the Sunriver Resort.

As another generation of Citizen-Airmen faces the ubiquitous demands of overseas action, the landmark building was once again packed with deploying service members, as nearly 200 Oregon Air National Guardsmen and their families gathered for three days of reflection and preparation.

The May 29-31 Yellow Ribbon event held at the Sunriver Resort, provided a unique setting for Airmen, family and Yellow Ribbon staff to integrate the assistance and resources needed for mobilization.

The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) allows National Guard members and their families the opportunity to bond and connect with their local support community during the entire deployment process.

During her opening remarks, Col. Donna Prigmore, 142nd Fighter Wing vice commander, welcomed everyone attending and touched on the importance of the upcoming challenges.

"The assignment that each of you is about to take on is of global significance: don't underestimate the role each of you here will play in that mission's success," she said.

Transitioning her testimonial quickly, she emphasized that "even though I am a member of the military, I am also a military spouse, so I can empathize with all of you left behind just how difficult the separations can be."

The benefits of the YRRP weekend concentrate a host of provisions for the deployed member, their families and employers at home. Workshops during the event focused on personal finances, parenting, maintaining a healthy marriage and other seminars to help elevate stress.

As with most of the break out courses, families had time to connect. Day care was provided for children, allowing spouses to bond and share in the process without distractions. 

The session, "How I See It," hosted by (ret) Col. Terry Larkin, gave couples a chance to share some of the anxiety and uncertainty that comes in an overseas deployment.

"It seems odd but often one of the biggest periods of disconnection between two people is right before they leave," said Larkin. "When memories should be being made, there is often silence and confusion."

For the Marcus family, this breakout session allowed them to participate within a larger group, where they could contrast each other's feelings and perspectives while getting feedback from others about to deploy.

"It has been hard as he has gone back and forth more than once, from being on the deployment list to being the alternate and back on the list to leave," said Mrs. Marcus about her husband's status.

Other sessions allowed lighter moments such as, the "Four Lenses" workshop, to a yoga lesson, or time to share in one-on-one conversation.

Legal assistance was provided for nearly everyone in attendance as Tech. Sgt. Brandon Foy, a paralegal assigned to the 142nd Fighter Wing JAG office, was busy drafting documents throughout the weekend.

"This is a large group so the demands are keeping all of us moving pretty quick," he said. "We did a great deal of paper work in advance of this weekend, so that way when someone comes in, we have a good start with their documents."

By having the event in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, family members could enjoy a hike or bike ride along the Deschutes River or enjoy dinner and time away from home relaxing by the pool later in the afternoon of each day.

During the close of the weekend, YRRP coordinator James Owens, asked members to take a survey of their weekend's experience. The results were fairly evenly split for those attending the three days. Whether it was time away from home, to the specialized events in the program, or well as just enjoying family time, there seemed to be something for everyone.

"These surveys are important because they allow us to keep building on the program based on what members feel are important and what they would like to see in future [Yellow Ribbon] events," Owens told the group.

As members turned in items and departed the Great Hall to return home, the quiet building held, for a brief moment, a shared soft echo of two generations who trained in the same building nearly 70 years removed. 'Camp Abbot' had once again provided an engaging atmosphere to prepare Oregon citizens and service members for their overseas military duties.