More than 80 Airmen, mostly from the 125th Fighter Wing (125 FW), attended the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, accompanied by spouses, family members and loved ones. The attendees that had recently returned from deployments overseas learned of important benefits now available through general session briefings and break-out classes, while reconnecting to loved ones in a relaxing atmosphere.
Mike Lopes, Resort Banquet Captain, is a big believer in this reintegration program and works every Yellow Ribbon event possible. Lopes saw first-hand the effects of war on his older brother, a combat veteran four times over, now dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Relaxation is really understated,” said Lopes. “Imagine how much your body goes through on a regular day with just one tense moment, and how much that affects you. Now imagine that tense moment multiplied by a thousand on a daily basis. Like it or not, that stress is going to spill onto your kids, to your spouse, to your mother, to your father. It’s going to affect them because it’s affecting you. You’re not the only one that’s deployed; in a sense they are too.”
Keynote speaker Dr. Margarita Gurri helped close that communication gap that so often exists for couples and loved ones during deployment.
“The big mistake we make is that we talk about very personal things in a public way,” said Gurri. “How we come back from those mistakes is what makes the difference.”
Gurri kept the audience relaxed by using humor to get her point across regarding the complexity of being human.
“We all are wonderful … we all are awful,” Gurri told the crowd as they broke into laughter.
Using a popular laughing baby video pulled from social media, Gurri drove home another concept.
“The only thing more contagious than a grumpy mood is laughter,” Gurri proved.
Certified Yoga and Integrative Restoration (iRest) Meditation Instructor Emily Hain was also on hand to aid Airmen and their support groups in winding down.
“This helps bring the balance back,” Hain informed the group. “It allows us to feel a sense of wholeness and integration within ourselves.”
Hain began studying iRest as a way to help balance herself, after learning of her son’s plan to join the Marines. Now a staff sergeant on his second deployment, Hain is proud to be connected with Yellow Ribbon.
“Being with you brings out the best in me,” Hain told her class. “Thank you for the opportunity.”
Hain later elaborated on the fundamentals of iRest.
“This form of relaxation and meditation is research based, and has been selected by the Defense Centers of Excellence for treatment of PTSD and chronic pain,” Hain explained. “It gives the tools to deal with the ups and downs and stresses of life, which are exacerbated by deployment for both the military member and family members.”
This half-hour relaxation session did wonders for several of those under Hain’s tutelage. For Senior Master Sgt. Dana Gaffney of the 125 FW’s Safety office, the visualization technique worked well.
“I was out on a boat fishin’,” Gaffney said. “And all I heard was ‘fish on’!”
Hain’s approach to inner rest also proved effective for 125 FW Equal Opportunity Specialist Master Sgt. Janine Obando.
“That was the best sleep I’ve had,” Obando declared with a smile. “I was completely out.”
Between the hotel’s hospitality, great food and entertainment along the International Drive district, and exhibitors passionate about what they do, it would be hard not to relax with your loved ones at Yellow Ribbon.
“Yellow Ribbon is a humbling experience for me and my staff,” said Lopes. “It’s two or three days of us giving to these families, when these families have given way more than just two or three days.”
Lopes makes it his mission to be there for service members and their families by doing what he does best, helping people relax.
“You’re not just guests, you’re family,” Lopes said. “We are welcoming your family into our family, and I’ll be darned if somebody comes over to my house and doesn’t leave with a smile on their face.”