This is going to be a quick report – because I have so many notes, and so much to say, it’s going to take me hours to put together something good enough to tell YOU all how incredible our round table discussion with members of Congress and other military family support groups was.
A group of BSF members met at a local coffee shop and walked up to the Hill. Nerves? definitely! After going through security, and finding our way through the maze (thanks to the young page who herded us through!), we reached a very large room. The usual confusion of who sits where, except the chair labeled Speaker Pelosi, ensued. Then suddenly, the room filled with aides, the cameras set at one end of the room switched on, and the Speaker started the meeting.
The next report will give you more “meat” on these bones. But I want you all to know that Pamela Stokes Eggleston gave a great presentation, as did Claire Woodward. The more intense discussions began after the press was asked to leave. BSF and NMFA members were asked to tell their own stories and we heard from various members of Congress. The overwhelming theme from the military spouses was, at least to me and some of the others I spoke to, “we don’t want your pity, we want you to understand what our lives are like, and that we need some of the help we were promised”.
The great need for health care providers, especially counselors for family members was a dominant theme; the need for funding for ombudsmen/FRG representatives; funding for the Beyond a Yellow Ribbon program and others for National Guard service members and their families. The members of Congress were “discouraged” and surprised by the leading survey result – that over 94% of military families feel disconnected from the American public. There was a great deal packed into the hour and a half (and we went over the allotted time as well, thanks to the Speaker’s permission). As you can tell, there is SO much to talk about, I must make sure that it is properly presented.