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Patriotic Article
By Navy MC2 Katrina Parker

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Returning Warrior Workshop Honors Sailors, Family Members
(October 31, 2010)

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (NNS - 10/27/2010) -- More than 140 active duty and Reserve personnel and their families attended the Navy Region Mid Atlantic Reserve Component Command's (NRMA RCC) Returning Warrior Workshop (RWW) at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. Oct. 22-24.

RWW is designed to honor individual augmentee Sailors who have been deployed in support of combat support operations, and their families. The workshop supports these members with reintegration and reunion after deployments, and addresses the stresses that come from these situations.

NRMA RCCs Commanding Officer Capt. Brian Smith addressed the crowd at the beginning of the ceremony to thank them for the service they have rendered for their country and to tell them that RWW is truly a celebration of their service.

"The nature of service is of course sacrifice, and I understand that service members have sacrificed greatly, particularly our Sailors in the reserve component," Smith said. "You answer the call when it comes and leave life as you know it for a year or more at a time going to the less desirable places in the world to do a very difficult job.

"That sacrifice would not be possible without the on-going steadfast support of the family and friends that you leave behind. So this weekend is a celebration of your service and to honor the service, sacrifice, and support. So we are here for you. We are here to better appreciate the sacrifices that you have made."

Mr. Phillip Brashear, an Army Reservist with the 159th Aviation Regiment at Ft. Eustis and son of legendary U.S. Navy Master Diver and Master Chief Carl Brashear, was the guest speaker for the event.

"It is an honor to be here this morning, and I am so glad to share this time with you as I am yet another Reservist amongst fellow Reservists," Brashear said. "I wanted to share some of my experiences and some of the influences that I was exposed to, which made me the Reservist you see here in front of you."

Brashear spoke to the crowd about his father's historical mark on military history, from his start as an under-educated African-American and his drive to become a Navy diver, to ending up as one of the most influential African-American Sailors. Brashear also discussed his own experiences, and ended his speech with an emotional account of a young corporal he met while on combat duty.

"During combat duty, I witnessed an improvised explosive device (IED) going off on a convoy," he said. "I was there to pick up a 19-year-old corporal who actually stepped on an IED. He was a 19-year-old Marine, serving his country, who lost his left foot and left hand. He was a former high school baseball player....Ladies and gentleman, these are the true heroes you never hear about, these are the guys that go out and risk their lives day in and day out, risking life and limb, and these are the true heroes."

Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Gabriel Mirelez, assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Support 24 and a RWW participant, said he was particularly touched by Brashear's story and felt honored to be able to meet him.

"His story was very personal, and I feel that it really motivated me," Mirelez said. "The story of his father, Carl Brashear, will stick with me. I want to try to implement it into my own life."

Throughout the weekend time was allotted for service members and their families to attend break-out sessions regarding a topic of their choice. These sessions allowed a more personal environment where participants had the chance to talk to others who have had similar experiences.

Topics during the event included warrior transitions, spiritual and emotional well-being, telling your story, couples reconnecting, financial management, focus on fitness, stress management techniques and considering redeployment. Confidential sessions with counselors were also available.

"This workshop has helped me learn how to deal with the deployment stresses and other things that deployment brings," Mirelez said. "This is a great workshop; it is absolutely wonderful."

Military members and guests were treated to a gourmet banquet, with Rear Adm. Scott Sanders, deputy commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, thanking participants. Letters of appreciation were given to Sailors and their families to thank them for their continued support. Several military spouses were in tears of gratitude after being honored with the letter.

"I want to thank everybody for being here," Sanders said. "I know we have a lot of family members here, and they are critically important. I appreciate the fact that spouses and other family members support their service members. It can be very hard dealing with those family situations at home, the problems that arise, and endure the anxiety over what is going on. That, in some sense, is much harder than going forward, so I thank you very much to all of you who are here tonight."

Sanders said RWW is a quality program and a way that the Navy can demonstrate how it values the service and sacrifices from the returning warriors and their families.

"It is critically important that the Navy values what you have done and what you may potentially do in the future," said Sanders. "That is why they have invested the time and the resources to put on an event like this. I am honored to be here, this is a pleasure for me to come, and it is a pleasure for me to meet some of the people out in the audience. This isn't just an event that's put on; it's sincere and it's heartfelt."

RWWs are hosted throughout the country by Reserve component commands, and are an important part of the Department of Defense Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program.

By Navy MC2 Katrina Parker
Region Mid-Atlantic Reserve Component Command Public Affairs
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Navy News Service

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