CENTENNIAL, Colo. - Nine-year-old Colby Allen, a fourth-grader at Lone Tree Elementary School, knew he was receiving something special from his father for being away so long in a war, but he had no idea that a group of Colorado National Guard soldiers would march into his classroom and present him with a medal.
On June 2, Army Capt. Derwin Allen, assistant operations officer for the 89th Troop Command, along with seven other Colorado Army and Air National Guardsmen, presented Colby a hero medal with the words, "We Serve Too," honoring the children who are left behind by parents who serve overseas.
The Colorado Yellow Ribbon Program routinely presents children medals as a token of gratitude and a way to say thanks when their parents are deployed.
"It's a way for the state to recognize the children of those deployed," Allen said. "Colby was very happy to receive the medal. It was a pretty special moment."
Colby was also handed a Colorado Army National Guard coin.
His father was deployed to Afghanistan for nine months and he didn't see him for a year.
"I had little contact with my son because I was out in the field," said Allen, who was embedded with Afghan National Police. "He told me that he knew that I would come home because he saw it in his dreams."
The CYRP, a part of the Colorado National Guard Family Program, was founded in 2008 and helps families prepare and deal with loved ones who deploy overseas. Everything from financial issues to reintegration into civilian life upon a servicemember's return is addressed by the organization, which is run by an office of three civilians and a senior enlisted Army Guardsman.
"We try to give families the different areas and resources to make sure that there aren't any problems," said Cynthia Riley, Yellow Ribbon support specialist. She added that because if there are problems on the home front, then there are problems overseas.
Sgt. 1st Class Pete Toelle, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Yellow Ribbon Program, not only makes sure everything runs smooth in the program, he's also utilized its services in the past when he returned from Iraq.
"It's a good program," Toelle said. "We've received a lot of positive feedback about it."