Reserve family navigates deployment together

DALLAS, Texas -- The Jordan family of five recently navigated the rough waters of a military deployment for a second time, which is what brought them to an Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event.

Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before and after deployments.

Tech. Sgt. Heath Jordan, a 301st Fighter Wing aircraft maintenance avionics technician from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas and his wife, Aubree, had certain aspects of the Dallas event they looked forward to, prior to the weekend of March 25-26, 2017.

“I hope to relax, enjoy being with my wife and kids,” Jordan said before the event. “I would like to attend some of the sessions that I haven't attended before and learn something new. My wife is not military and enjoys the sessions.”

The weekend plans contrasted the stressful time of deployment the family experienced last year.

While Jordan was deployed, Aubree, a stay-at-home mother, managed the household and two children under the age of 6 years old. At the time, Aubree was pregnant with their youngest child, who was born a few months after Jordan returned from deployment.

“Not having him here to help with the kids and just the home life,” Aubree said. “It’s scary having him away from home … I just want him in my life and not to be gone. Regardless of circumstances, we have three young children, so we are constantly drained, but it magnifies the issue.”

Technology has made it easier to stay in contact with loved ones who are deployed, but it can also present a challenge.

“I think he gets stressed sometimes too because he sees how stressed I am,” she said. ‘So it’s kind of like the technology aspect can be bittersweet because then he gets worried because he knows how much it is.”

One positive result of using technology is the children saw their father via webcam.

“They are young, so it’s a little bit easier,” she said. “They adjust, so more of the stress is on us ... No, he wasn’t here, but we got to talk to him each day.”

To mitigate deployment stressors, the family plugged into a church at both the home and deployed locations. Aubree prayed and spoke to her family, just to vent sometimes, while Heath worked out to pass the time.

The family also planned participation in summer camp and trips for Aubree to visit family in Louisiana so she would have help while her husband was deployed.

After the deployment, the weekend Yellow Ribbon event provided the family an opportunity to learn and reconnect.

“I think it’s always good to have something like this because it makes you feel not alone, first of all and you get all the networking and resources,” Aubree said. “We all get to be together and it’s a common ground.”

As a non-military spouse, she gained understanding about the Air Force Reserve in general by participating in the program.

“It’s clued me in to a lot of the terminology and the lifestyle, it opens your eyes to a lot of that,” she said. “So I am really grateful for that. I am grateful for the fact there is childcare and we do learn.”

At this event, Jordan liked some of the resources provided, such as the Veterans Affairs session because he plans to retire in four years. The couple also went to a fitness session where the information provided served as a refresher for them and the children had an opportunity to be a part of military activities that aren’t regularly available for children of reservists.

Yellow Ribbon 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.

“I think that the program is very important for military families,” Jordan said. “It is filled with tons of information and there are plenty of representatives on hand to answer any questions that one might have on pretty much anything pertaining to our job. The activities that my family and I do together and the time that we spend together are invaluable.”