Yellow Ribbon program smooths the road home
Back in 2003, when Capt. Justin Baker came back from serving a tour of duty in Bosnia, there was no reintegration program. It was welcome home and good luck.
During that time Justin said he struggled with boredom and missed the people he deployed with.
"It was a transition," said Baker.
Last year when Baker returned from a 22-month deployment in Iraq, it was a much different experience. Through the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program, Baker and the rest of the 34th Infantry Division, went through reintegration programs at 30, 60 and 90 days and then again at a year.
The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program aims to provide soldiers the resources they need to overcome any struggles they encounter while returning to life back home.
Over the weekend, soldiers who deployed with the Red Bulls went through their one-year reintegration program. While there, soldiers attended two seminars on issues including finances, relationships, education, employment and medical. They also had the opportunity to talk with providers for services available to veterans and their families.
Baker said he found the financial and relationship seminars were especially helpful.
"I definitely think it's a benefit," he said.
Baker and his wife, Scholastica, both returned from deployments in Iraq in early 2010. Since returning, the couple has had a baby, Justin returned to law school and Scholastica was accepted into law school. Both are at William Mitchell College of Law.
The desire to attend law school was one of the first things the couple found they had in common. They met while they were both serving in Bosnia.
Needless to say it's been a crazy but good year for the couple.
More than 1,200 soldiers deployed with the Red Bulls to Iraq in February 2009. The soldiers, who provided command and control of military forces in the southern third of Iraq, returned in three waves in January 2010.
Headquartered at Contingency Operating Base Basra, the 34th Infantry Division led a force of approximately 14,000 U.S. service members throughout nine of Iraq's 18 provinces.
Both Bakers hope to put 20 years into the National Guard, so that means there is a chance one or both could be deployed again. Scholastica said they'll do what they have to do.
In Rosemount a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon group has started to take shape. The group aims to further the mission of helping soldiers come all the way home.
To learn more about the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program and how to get involved visit www.btyr.org.