On Wednesday evening of this week, nine members of Blue Star Families gathered at the Russell Senate Office Building and waited (some of us more nervous than others) to meet with Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. The former Governor asked to meet with military spouses. An advisor knew one of the BSF members – so there we were!
His aide and an advisor came in first, we chatted about what we wanted to discuss.. then with a rush (fresh from the Senate floor from a vote) – he was there. Senator Warner asked us to go around the table and introduce ourselves and talk about what issues we thought were impacting the military families. So round we went, Navy Wives, Marine Wives, Navy Husband, Army Wife, Navy Child. We talked about the problems we had seen, the need for psychological counseling (this was only 2 days after the deaths at Camp Liberty) for the service members, and for the families.
Senator Warner was surprised by the BSF survey result – showing that 94% of respondent military families felt disconnected from and by the rest of the country; we discussed deployments/dwell time; we mentioned the problems of finding jobs while moving as often as we do. The National Guard/Reserve, dear to the heart of the former Commander of the Virginia Guard, wasn’t left out – their particular problems of jobs for returning soldiers was a big topic! But, this wasn’t a negative meeting, in any way!
We talked about the joys as well as the sadness. We didn’t just bring up problems – we started throwing out ideas for solutions! Those solutions that we can help with – helping military families and non military families get together – helping get those citizens who want to help together with a deployed family who could use a hand. How can we use all that brainpower living on post, the lawyers, therapists, teachers, paralegals, writers, organizers, cooks – those who can’t find a job or have to wait for licenses in each state?
Some would say we shouldn’t talk about the problems in our community, that we should be stoic and not let “others” see that all is not perfect and rosy. But without the light, how do we get things fixed? As one of the senator’s advisors said – remember military housing 5 years ago? It was awful, and when these conditions were brought into the open, the solutions began! if Ft. Belvoir is an indicator, on post housing has improved dramatically. More recently – the Walter Reed affair shed a spotlight on conditions that had been quietly complained about for a long time.
A point was made, we don’t want pity, we don’t need it. We are very proud of who we are, that we are proud to be military spouses (and the military child with us echoed that sentiment!). We did make a choice, and we are coping and flourishing as best we can. But everyone needs an assist sometimes!
After a while, an aide stuck his head in.. and again… and again. The Senator started giving out the assignments – Get some ideas together, get me some questions to ask when I head to certain areas, let’s figure out how we work TOGETHER – military, civilians, military families, legislators, employers. The Senator is a very energetic man, and had us all energized, so much so that when the aide again gently reminded him he’d have a family problem of his own if he didn’t leave….. it was 7 ish – we kept talking – kept coming up with ideas.
Alright – so here’s YOUR assignment. In the comments – tell us what you think is a problem and a solution to it. If you don’t know a solution – let’s try to find one. Who knows, someone out there may have already “been there, done that, got the coffee cup!”
You can also read about this on Senator Warner’s Blog.