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NEWS | May 19, 2023

Music City Hosts 2023 REDCOM Jacksonville Returning Warrior Workshop

By MC1 Beverly Taylor

Over 86 Sailors and their family members participated in Navy Reserve Region Readiness and Mobilization Command (REDCOM) Jacksonville’s 38th Returning Warrior Workshop (RWW) hosted in Nashville, Tennessee, April 21-23, 2023. Returning Warrior Workshops are a component of the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) designed to honor service members and their families.

This year’s RWW boasted a full agenda of speakers, tabletop exercises, breakout sessions, ceremonies, awards, and a lineup of valuable resources to help service members reconnect with their loved ones after a recent deployment.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to speak to our loved ones about what we have gone through,” says Mathew McDaniel, head REDCOM Jacksonville RWW coordinator and YRRP Specialist. “So, we come to these events and we listen to speakers and we listen to the facilitators and they are able to speak for us. So, then we go "Hey, that is what I have been trying to say!"'

“Events like these create a safe environment for our attendees and get them to recognize that they might need some help," McDaniel continued. "We let them know that it is okay to say you aren’t okay. This is also where we start peeling the layers back and get them to open up. Not for us, but for themselves and for their family members who came with them.”

The 2023 Nashville RWW hosted a variety of impactful speakers imparting actionable advice such as how to get finances on track, how to get couples to reconnect, spiritual toughness and so much more. McDaniel, along with his team of speakers and facilitators utilized tabletop events specifically orchestrated to create a safe environment where Sailors and their service members can engage in open communication.

“I really like how it was set up and organized,” said Katherine Hagan, Navy retiree and mother of attendee Lt. Natalie McIver from Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 5. “I like how each table had a monitor or somebody to keep the conversation going and get everybody to talk. It wasn’t just thrown together. There was a lot of thought.”

Hagan accompanied her daughter to the Nashville RWW to better understand what her daughter went through during her recent deployments and to learn different strategies to help.

“They were able to get my daughter to open up about what she experienced and gave me a different point of view to look at,” Hagan said. “I was surprised to learn how withdrawn she felt when she came back, but it was eye-opening to see that others felt the same way. It’s not my problem to fix, but it is my job to support her and help her to find and use resources available to her to help her out.”

“I think a lot of family members take it personally,” said McIver. “They think it’s their fault, or that they did something wrong. Being in this environment is important because it may give them more network to reach out to someone who has experienced similar things.”

Sailors and their families were introduced to a plethora of resources during the RWW event. This year’s lineup included representatives from the Red Cross, Military One Source, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Nashville Vet Center, Military Family Life Counselors and a personal financial counselor.

“When I go back to drill, I am telling my Sailors that they need to go to this,” said McIver. “To take time for themselves and know that it’s important to use the resources that the Navy provides for you. This event gives Sailors the knowledge of the tools that they might not have known that they have.”

Now more than ever, it is important for Sailors and their familial support to band together to overcome the challenges of today utilizing everything in their tool belt.

“The world is becoming a more complicated and dangerous place,” said Rear Admiral Andrew Shreiner, Deputy Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, a surprise guest speaker during the RWW banquet. “It’s essential that we take time and the opportunity to say thank you to the families who serve along us to protect our way of life. It’s hard sometimes, and that’s really the reason the Navy Reserve has focused on the RWW program as frequently and as long as it has. Without the support of our families, our Sailors cannot do the great things they do."

Shreiner spoke directly to the Sailors and families with a message of enduring support and gratitude. 

"We need to make sure your needs are met to the best of our abilities," he said. "We’re doing better, but we realize there’s more to do. So to the families and the loved ones in attendance, please accept my genuine gratitude for the support and unconditional love you give to our Sailors every day, but specifically during the challenging times of pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment.”

For more information about Returning Warrior Workshops and the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, and to participate in upcoming events, visit the YRRP website at