WALLA WALLA - Members of the Oregon National Guard 1186 MP Company held their regular drill on Saturday, but joining them for their monthly exercise were the loved ones they will soon leave behind.
"Just having him being overseas scares me," Michelle Perez said, while sitting next to her husband, Spc. Cody Sears.
In August, Sears and the rest of the 1186 MP Company will be deployed to Afghanistan, where they will serve in their specialty, performing as military police.
But months before their lives are uprooted, the National Guard members and their families are getting ready to deal with deployment.
On Saturday, for the first time in Walla Walla, a Yellow Ribbon event was held for National Guard members and their families to help prepare them for deployment.
National Guard 821 Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Sean McGann said Yellow Ribbons are a key part of deployment, noting that Saturday was the first of five such events that will take place prior to and during deployment.
The Yellow Ribbon was held at Walla Walla Community College, where the commons was transformed into what looked like a small expo.
About two dozen folding tables lined the walkway to the cafeteria. And on those tables were numerous pamphlets, fliers, magazines and topics such as finances, lowering interest rates, health-care options and counseling service.
There was even information on a program that promises to keep Sears connected with his 2-year-old daughter, Layla, through an online video reading program, so his daughter can see and hear him read to her every night.
"I think my biggest fear is having him come home and her not remembering him," Perez said.
While military family support programs have been around for decades, it was only several years ago that Yellow Ribbon events became an official part of deployment and re-integration.
The event also included brief talks by various government and private social services providers.
Hermiston-based Family Assistance Specialist Jen Admire was at Saturday's all-day event as an information provider. A National Guard spouse herself, Admire remembered what it was like dealing with her husband's deployments.
"If we would have had this back then, things would have been so much smoother," she said.
After the National Guard members return in the summer of 2012, the Yellow Ribbons will continue, with the focus on re-integration.
"I don't know how my attitude will change when I get back. Just how my stress level will be. It scares me a lot," Spc. Christopher Funkhouse said, while sitting next to his future bride, Tonya Knight.
In the past, Yellow Ribbon events have been held in Pendleton.
The next Yellow Ribbon will take place a few days before the 1186 MP Company is deployed around the middle of August.