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Story by: Master Sgt. Corinne Lombardo - 42nd Infantry Division Public Affairs
Dated: Tue, Apr 21, 2009
ROCHESTER, NY- When New York Army National Guard Master Sgt. Edwin Garris deployed to Afghanistan in 2007, his three daughters, 12-year old Angelene, 15-year old Valicity, and 18-year old LeShante, missed him terribly.
They never imagined his homecoming would be just as difficult or that when he returned, the initial thrill of having him home would wane quickly.
“It was a big relief to know he was safe,” recalled LeShante Garris. “Then it was like it was another person there and two days later, it was like, okay, when are you going back,” she said. “It was tough, we had gotten used to it being only four of us at home, and then we had to put him back in the picture somehow. It was kind of awkward at first, but it’s better now,” she added.
“I think it’s been harder for him to come home, than for us to welcome him home” said Valicity. According to Valicity, he’s been having a tough time making the transition from “Army mode” where his Soldiers moved instantly when he told them to do something, to family life where an edict to clean up their room received a response more in line with “Come on dad, do I have to?
The Garris sisters and other teenage children of New York Army National Guard Soldiers shared similar stories and feelings related to their deployment experiences, on video as the New York Army National Guard introduced a new component to its Yellow Ribbon reintegration program.
The New York National Guard Youth Program teamed up with the state Public Affairs office to give teenagers a chance to work in video-both behind of and in front of the camera--interviewing each other about the experience of being home while mom or dad served overseas.
This newest program kicked-off at the Rochester Convention Center on Mar. 21 during the 27th Brigade Combat team’s 60-day reintegration session. The unit returned from Afghanistan in late 2008.
“Doing this video helped because I was able to talk about my feelings and I think it will also help other kids know that they are not alone, that there are others out there just like them,” said 13-year-old Danea Knowles. “I had a lot of fun and learned how to do interviews and how to use a camera. This is something I might want to study later on, since I still haven’t decided what I want to do when I grow up,” Knowles said.
“This video class helps these kids talk about their experiences, address some of the concerns they faced while their loved ones were deployed and also discuss some of the issues of rebuilding as a family upon their return, in a fun and innovative way,” said Shelly Aiken, Youth Program Coordinator.
The program began with a 30-minute class on video production and interview techniques, enabling the teens to visualize their final project and design their own interview questions.
While returning Soldiers and spouses met throughout the day with military and civilian counselors discussing issues such as substance abuse prevention and anger management, nearly a dozen teens spent their time scoping out interview settings and videotaping individual interviews.
In the end, the teens made a 10-minute video, which they will share with other children of deploying National Guard Soldiers, in hopes that it will help them identify and cope with issues they may also face.
With dreams of becoming a journalist, Valicity Garris, viewed the class as an educational opportunity.
“I really loved learning about the camera, learning about how to do interviews and talk on camera. It was like going to school, only better, because this was not just having a fun time with your friends, it was an actual experience. How many kids can say they made a real video and got to do interviews? Garris asked.
“It was like a dream class, we were able to interact closer than if we were just in the room playing around with other kids and it was great to finally sit down and talk about my feelings about my dad’s deployment,” she added.