JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Navy Region Southeast Reserve Component Command held its 24th Returning Warrior Workshop (RWW) in Jacksonville, Fla. Dec. 6-8, sharing perspectives and experiences about the impact of mobilization.
Speaking to others about his three deployments overseas was never something Utilitiesman 2nd Class Jose Boza particularly cared to do. He didn't communicate the stress from the danger he faced, or speak about the uncomfortable and often freezing climate of Afghanistan where he had been deployed, and he didn't communicate the good times he had with his fellow Sailors during mobilization.
"I don't share information with anyone," said Boza. "Not my family. Not my girlfriend. I'm a closed book."
RWWs are designed to address issues incurred by mobilized service members and their families as a result of the member's deployment in a combat zone. Nearly 160 returning warriors and spouses attended the event that was open to both active duty and Reserve elements of all branches of service.
Warriors and their spouses are provided training and resources to assist them in family and life reintegration, stress disorder symptom recognition and referral options. RWWs also recognize and honor the warriors and their families and loved ones who endured hardship and sacrifice in defense of the nation.
"Few people outside of the military fully recognize and understand the sacrifices that you have all made," said Rear Adm. Janet R. Donovan, deputy judge advocate general for Reserve Affairs and Operations and guest speaker of the event, who addressed all the participating warriors and their guests. "Few have had to stay in touch across multiple time zones for more than a couple days, and few know how difficult it can be for military families to stay connected and fully appreciate what is going on in each other's lives."
RWWs offer a variety of workshops, break-out sessions, counseling and informational kiosks where members and their guests can interact, seek help and discover resources during the event. From stress management to workshops for couples, attendees are encouraged to pursue their interests, address their concerns and simply tell their story to others whom often shared similar experiences while deployed.
"The overall [goal] of the Returning Warrior Workshop is learning to be open to your own heart, either the warrior or the family member," said Cmdr. Shelly Scheibeler, Reserve chaplain for the Regional Operation Center. "We start them in the process of beginning to reintegrate. Sometimes [members] need a little more help to reintegrate and become familiar with resources to coach them back to where their life is meant to be."
Scheibeler, who has been working with RWWs since 2008 and who has deployed herself, participated in the event as a keynote speaker and facilitated the 'reconnecting couples' workshop.
"RWWs are the most wonderful best-kept secret, and we need it to no longer be a secret," said Scheibeler. "We need it to get out for all the people that have been [deployed], to help them rebuild their relationships with their family members and loved ones, and to recognize how much support is out there."
A banquet was held during the event honoring the Warriors and culminated in a surprise gifting of hand-made quilts by the Flying Needles Quilt Guild. The group creates quilts in an ongoing project called Quilts of Valor, creating and donating hand-made blankets to service members of all branches. Members of the guild helped drape the quilts around the warriors during the ceremony.
The banquet also offered a chance for warriors to be officially welcomed home as some did not receive recognition upon their return from deployment abroad.
Of the nearly 160 participants, more than 50 warriors who participated in the event returned from Afghanistan and other combat zones, more than 30 had deployed multiple times, and roughly 20 of the warriors were women.
"This RWW is part of your debrief; it provides an opportunity for you and your loved one to better understand each other's challenges," said Donovan during the end of the ceremony. "Also know that by attending this workshop you are demonstrating how much you care for each other and for those you serve with. I ask you to do one thing for me when you go back to your unit: tell your shipmates who have deployed about this weekend and encourage those who haven't gone to an RWW to sign up."
For more news regarding Navy Region Southeast Reserve Component Command, visit www.facebook.com/NRSERCC.