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Program offers support to W.Va. airmen back from deployment

December 03, 2009

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing hosted its first Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program recently for nearly 40 airmen who deployed for at least 90 days to missions around the globe.

Airmen, family members and their significant others gathered at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown on Nov. 21 and 22 to learn about programs and services available to making the reintegration from deployment easier for not only the airmen but their loved ones.

In the future, the program will disseminate information for airmen and their families both before and during deployments.

Cmd. Chief Master Sgt. John Alderton said the program provides information on various topics, from TRICARE to financial management to counseling.

"Sometimes, airmen and their families don't know what's out there to support them," Alderton said.

Alderton, the command chief for the 167th Airlift Wing, said "without the family members' support we couldn't do what we do" with regards to deploying on missions. In that way, the program is not only critical for airmen, but their loved ones as well.

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Representatives from TRICARE, Military One Source, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, USAA, Veterans in Business, the Veterans Administration Center as well as the Martinsburg Vet Center were on hand to share information and answer questions.

Staff Sgt. Brad Weller, a single father of three, said he gleaned a lot of information from the two-day event.

Staff Sgt. Craig Pearrell, his wife Angie and their 2-year-old daughter Gracie attended the event, which he described as "very useful."

"We got a lot of good information from it," said Pearrell, who deployed with the wing's Security Forces to Iraq.

"I can see why it's important to have," Senior Airman Kalvan Palmer said. "It's about reintegrating with your family, friends and community when you come back from a deployment."

Stacy Lawing came with her son, Senior Airman Russel Franklin.

Lawing is no stranger to the military, noting that when she was 19, her husband at the time was in the Navy. She said her current husband is also a veteran.

Lawing said she wished there had been a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program years ago when she was looking for help from military venues.

"The information was not all in one place like it was presented here," she said.

Lawing said she can't wait to share the information she received from the event, because her veteran husband might find it useful, too.

Lawing said she was glad that presenters "dumbed it down for those of us that don't speak militarese."

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