Returnees, families get help in transition

TUPELO – Nearly two years ago, Cory Brown had to make the transition from being a civilian to a combat solider when he was deployed to serve in Iraq.
In March he had to learn to be a civilian again, but thanks to the Mississippi National Guard’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, leaving home and coming back was made easier.
Brown, along with other soldiers from the 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, attended the first of three Yellow Ribbon events at the BancorpSouth Arena Saturday. Others will be held in Jackson, on the Coast and in Desoto County.
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program helps to transition deployed soldiers back into a civilian role as they return to family, work, school and community life.
Brown, a Pontotoc resident, became a father while he was deployed in Iraq. He said a lot of things at home changed during his deployment and programs like the one held Saturday helped him, his family and other soldiers and their families deal with the changes.
“The programs Yellow Ribbon provides for us help a lot,” said Brown. “Military life is so much different from civilian life and it’s not an easy transition for some soldiers. Many of us need help to adjust and this program provides that help.”

Benefits for families
The families of the soldiers also benefit from the program, according to 1st. Sgt. Teddy Hadaway of Amory.
“To me it’s more about the families than the soldiers,” said Hadaway. “It actually is a big help in helping us reintegrate with our families. It helps them to understand what we do and what we’ve gone through during our deployment and having that knowledge does everyone a world of good.”
Maj. Joe Hardman is state program director for Yellow Ribbon.
“Use to, when you make it back home from a deployment you’d get three months off and just go back to work,” said Hardman. “But the way we do it now with Yellow Ribbon is better for the soldiers and their families. Now we are able to provide information and help to these soldiers for various things they might need help with.
“We have workshops here today talking about everything from suicide prevention to how to apply for certain benefits. Everything here today is to make the lives of these men, women and their families easier.”
More than 1,000 soldiers and their families attended the Yellow Ribbon Program. Hardman said reuniting with other soldiers is another bonus.
“These soldiers have been gone for nearly two years,” he said. “When they get back to their civilian jobs their co-workers are talking about things they don’t know about. So when they get a chance to spend time with one another, they often feel more comfortable because these guys can relate to them and what they’ve gone through.”
Rashaun Trice of Tupelo said getting to see some of the men he served with again made attending the event worthwhile.
“It’s great that they help us with important information that we can use to make our transition easier,” said Trice. “But I’m just glad to be here with the guys and catching up on old times. Seeing the people you serve with is always a big help with making the transition.”

Danza Johnson / NEMS Daily Journal