Reserve salutes children at Yellow Ribbon event

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs
Children of Air Force Reserve Citizen Airmen were front and center during Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program training weekends in April, the Month of the Military Child.

The celebration was established in 1986 by Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger to recognize the contribution made by children of service members.

Senior Master Sgt. Jackie Zawada, Yellow Ribbon project manager, plans and organizes the military children’s portion of every Yellow Ribbon event. This month, along with Tech. Sgt. Josue Santiago, Master Sgt. Annjill Transfiguracion and 1st Lt. Erica Morgan, she facilitated several activities to celebrate Month of the Military Child during an event in New Orleans. Children were recognized at a similar event the following weekend in San Diego.

“The reason I’m so passionate about what I do is because the children didn’t volunteer for this,” Zawada said. “They’re the medicine we need during deployment, and for many members, the kids are the staple that they need to make it through.”

Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before and after deployments. It began in 2008 following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist reservists and National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles. Each year, the Air Force Reserve program trains 7,000 reservists and family members in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more.

Program coordinators kicked off the New Orleans event by wearing purple clothing as part of “purple up day” to show support for the military children who were in attendance. Purple symbolizes the blending of all the different service branches — Army green, Marine Corps red and the blue of the Air Force, Coast Guard and Navy.

The children also received Superhero Training Kits with a photo book, super hero certificate magnet, a night vision flashlight, crayons, postcards with inspirational quotes and the Superhero Training Handbook, which covers concepts military children going through the deployment of a parent might encounter. These concepts are shared through quizzes and games and include communication, trust, expressing feelings and doing the right thing.

Inside it says, “You don’t really need to wear a cape or fly without an airplane to be a superhero. Superheroes are people who use their talents to do good deeds and help others. Just like your family members who serve in the military use their super powers to protect you, your family and your country. You are a superhero, as well. You support your loved ones while they’re away by helping keep yourself and other family members happy and healthy using your special talents.”

Staff Sgt. Timothy Pettis from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, said that his daughter and wife back home were critical to him better handle the separation during his deployment to Turkey last year, especially because they had frequent opportunities to video chat.

He said that because he leaves on temporary duty assignments frequently his daughter is used to him being gone and coped really well with it until the last month.

“She didn’t really understand the countdown when we started it,” said Pettis, a KC-135 Stratotanker crew chief with the 916th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “She just wanted daddy to be home.”

His wife, Devin Pettis, said she thinks military children are special because they’re able to be so resilient when their parents aren’t home.

Zawada said that she’s amazed at how adaptable military children are.

“They are naturally born resilient,” she said.

Col. David Pavey, 514th Air Mobility Wing commander from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, said it’s critical to recognize the contributions of children because the nation depends on Airmen to deploy.

“Our dependence on the Air Force Reserve means that we demand an awful lot from our families and especially our children,” he said “That’s why these Yellow Ribbon events are so important. We have to have support from the families to complete our mission.”