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Yellow Ribbon Program aids loved ones of Army Reserve unit headed overseas
Members of the 802nd Ordnance Co. of the U.S. Army Reserve and their families pray Saturday morning at Lakewood Baptist Church during Yellow Ribbon Phase 1 & 2 Agenda. The programs help prepare the soldiers and their families for life back home when a soldier is deployed overseas.

Gainesville-based soldiers and their families were preparing for battle on two fronts Saturday.

As the men and women of the 802nd Ordnance Company ready themselves physically and mentally for a tour of duty in Afghanistan, their wives, husbands, parents, siblings and children will take on a different challenges on the homefront.

Saturday’s "Yellow Ribbon Program" at Lakewood Baptist Church was a primer on what kind of help soldiers and their families may need during the deployment, from health insurance to support group networking to psychological counseling. The daylong program is a fairly new initiative for the military.

"This is recognizing the fact that while we’re fighting battles in Afghanistan, families are still fighting battles in the rear," said Capt. Todd Bostic, commander of the 225-troop Army Reserve unit based out of Gainesville. "This gives them a lot of support they haven’t had before."

The 802nd, which supplies ammunition to fighting forces, is scheduled to mobilize next month and could be in Afghanistan by December. The unit last deployed overseas in 2003-04, when it was among the first ordnance companies in Kuwait and later Iraq, supplying troops in the early ground battles of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

There are a lot of new faces in the company since then, many who have never been in a war zone.

"Some are anxious," Sgt. First Class Eleanor Jackson said. "If you look at this unit, they’re very young. So this is new to them. That’s why they need this support — we need to let them know we’ve got their back."

Saturday’s workshop with soldiers and their families covered family networking on the homefront, financial readiness, family issues during deployment, counseling and veterans benefits, among other topics.

Alisa Grayson of Braselton soon will see her husband, Staff Sgt. Gerald Grayson, off to war for a second time. The couple have three teenage children.

"Mentally, we have to get prepared," said Grayson, who is active in the network of soldiers’ families known in military lingo as the "FRG," Family Readiness Group. "We’re just trying to readjust our lives, with the household and the children."

The FRG is all about "being supportive," Grayson said. "It’s just a lot of praying, talking and communicating. It’s a close-knit support group."

Grayson said Saturday’s program showed that "the outreach is extraordinary, as far as what the military is offering families."

Sgt. Shamika Grimes can’t say she’s looking forward to her second deployment overseas. Her parents and siblings will be praying for her safe return.

"It’s here," Grimes said of the orders to ship out. "You can’t change it. I’m ready to do what I’ve got to do and come home."