Sailors, Marines and Families Reconnect at Returning Warrior Workshop

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Brian Brannon

SAN DIEGO – More than 75 Sailors and Marines, who recently demobilized after serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, the Horn of Africa, and around the world, reconnected with their loved ones Oct. 24-25 at the Returning Warrior Workshop in Indian Wells, Calif.

Held at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort near Palm Springs, Navy Region Southwest hosted the two-day event to thank the individual augmentees and their families for their dedication and sacrifice, to discuss the changes that can occur during mobilization, and introduce a wide range of available programs.

“Your service is deeply valued and made a difference. And we are deeply grateful to you,” Navy Chaplain Capt. Terry Pletkovich said as the workshop began. “You’ll be hearing that a lot this weekend.”

Currently, 5,299 Reservists and 5,247 Active Duty Sailors are serving “boots on the ground” fighting the Global War on Terror.

Retired SEAL Capt. Bob Schoultz put such service in context by discussing warrior traditions that stretch back tens of thousands of years. He compared the sacrifices currently made both at home and abroad to those of Odysseus and his family as chronicled in “The Illiad” and “The Odyssey,” composed by Homer in the 11th century BC.

“I challenge you to think of your own service as a hero’s journey,” Schoultz said. Though weapon systems have substantially evolved since the time of Odysseus, the code of the warrior still remains—respecting other cultures, recognizing basic human dignity, and serving with integrity.

“Honorably doing your duty the best that you can, that is the essence of the code of the warrior,” Schoultz said.

Likewise, the hardships such service places on those at home also remain; when Odysseus went to war, his wife Penelope managed the home and raised their young son.

“She wasn’t on the front, but she was taking care of the farm back in Troy,” Schoultz said. “A lot of you know what I’m talking about.”

Resources available at the workshop ranged from counseling and chaplain services to representatives from Tricare, Military One Source, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, and other organizations.

Capt. Paul Hammer, a Marine Expeditionary Force psychiatrist who deployed twice to Iraq, spoke on operational stress and the fact that it’s okay to seek help.

“The thing I really want to drive home with all of you is not to be a victim: Take action, talk to someone, seek guidance,” he said.

Rear Adm. Mike Shatynski, Vice Commander, Naval Surface Forces, was the key speaker at a banquet of honor to recognize the veterans and their family members. Despite the call for civilian dress at the event, Shatynski said he wore his uniform to speak for the Navy and the nation to thank the Sailors, Marines, and especially their families, for their devotion and dedication.

“It is the spouses that sacrifice the most—you are patriots in a quiet, strong way, and you make all the difference,” he said. “You support us, even though we work long hours that often interrupt your plans. When we are away, you hold our families together. When we get tired, you remind us how important our jobs are. When we receive recognition, you stand in the background.”

Returning Warrior Workshops are the premiere reintegration program among the services and are regularly held across the nation to welcome service members home from mobilization and help them reintegrate into life at home.