REP. BISHOP, REP. MCMORRIS RODGERS WORK FOR MILITARY FAMILIES AT 2016 CONGRESSIONAL MILITARY FAMILY CAUCUS SUMMIT
SPOKANE, WA – Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Military Family Caucus (CMFC) and Ranking Member of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies joined Co-Chair Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), staff from Congressional offices, officials from the Department of Defense and Fairchild Air Force Base, representatives from military service organizations, and over 60 military family and service members at the annual Congressional Military Family Caucus Summit at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington.
“We must remember that when men and women join our armed forces, their families join as well,” said Congressman Bishop. “This understanding led Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers and me to found the Congressional Military Family Caucus nearly seven years ago. This Summit, as well as previous Summits and future Summits, continues the dialogue between families, lawmakers, military leaders, and support organizations to address the unique hardships that military families face. After asking our Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserve members and their families to endure multiple deployments, we in Congress must fulfill our obligation to support increased spousal and widow employment, the education of military children, fair and complete benefits, as well as health care options and coverage.
According to Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, the goal of the caucus is to "bring together Members of Congress, Administration officials, and service members and their families in a common purpose to draw attention to the needs of military families and advocate legislative ideas on their behalf."
“The strength of our military is drawn from the strength of their families and we want to do all we can to protect our warriors and their loved ones,” concluded Congressman Bishop.
Hosted by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, today’s CMFC Summit serves as a direct channel between the Caucus and military families. Held by the CMFC annually, the Summit works to connect military families with Members of Congress, the Department of Defense, and private sector groups to discuss the challenges and pressing issues impacting America’s servicemen and their families as well as offer resources. Panel discussions addressed critical issues including military pay and benefits; military child education; and military spousal employment, community involvement, and transition.
The CMFC is a bipartisan congressional caucus that educates elected officials, congressional staffers, senior military leaders and the public on a wide range of unique issues that affect military families. Currently, over 80 Democrats and Republicans are members of the CMFC.
For coverage of the 2015 summit at Fort Benning, Georgia, please click here. For coverage of the 2014 summit at Fairchild AFB in Spokane, Washington, please click here. For coverage of the 2013 summit at Fort Benning, Georgia, please click here. For coverage of the 2012 summit at Fort Benning, Georgia, please click here. For coverage of the 2011 summit at Fairchild AFB in Spokane, Washington, please click here. For more information about the Congressional Military Family Caucus, please click here.
Below is the full text of Congressman Sanford D. Bishop’s prepared opening remarks at the Congressional Military Family Caucus Summit:
Good Morning and thank you for joining us today for this year’s Congressional Military Family Caucus Family Summit (CMFC)! It is a great pleasure to be amongst those who have such a big impact on making America great – our brave men and women in uniform and you who admirably support those that defend our nation and safeguard our liberties.
I want to thank my colleague and Co-Chair of the Congressional Military Family Caucus, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, for hosting the summit this year at Fairchild Air Force Base. For Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers, many of our colleagues in the Congressional Military Family Caucus, and myself, the issues discussed today are important to us not just because of our constituencies, but due to our deeply personal connection as well.
Experiences like my wife’s have taught me that our service members and their families serve and sacrifice together. When men and women join our armed forces, the families join as well!
I would be remiss if I did not also thank Colonel Ryan R. Samuelson and Colonel Daniel J. Swain for welcoming us here today. Also, many thanks to our keynote speaker – Michelle Aikman, Armed Forces Insurance Air Force Spouse of the Year - for her participation in today’s event. I commend you for your current, and future, work on behalf of our military families.
I would also like to thank our moderators and panelists that will be facilitating the Summit today. Almost seven years ago Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers and I founded this Caucus to honor the debt our nation holds for the sacrifices military families continue to make.
We are deeply grateful to organizations such as Blue Star Families, the Military Child Education Coalition, the Military Officer Association of America, the Red Cross, USAA Military Advocacy, National Military Family Association, and all of the military family support organizations represented here today. Your expertise continues to provide us with background on issues most important to the spouses, widows, and children of military service members stationed across the world.
Sometimes it is easy to recognize the sacrifices our service members make without being fully aware of the tremendous hardships their families must endure. We feel it is equally important to educate elected officials, congressional staffers, senior military leaders, and the public on a wide range of issues affecting military families.
Additionally, I would like to salute the outstanding work being done on behalf of our military families by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden through Joining Forces Initiative as well as Members of the bipartisan Senate Military Family Caucus – cosponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer and Richard Burr.
Most of all, I would like to thank the service members, military families, widows, and veterans joining us today. Our nation will forever be grateful for your selfless sacrifices and service to our nation.
Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers and I are incredibly proud to have everyone here today and wanted to kick off the Summit by shining a light on the issues of particular concern to military families; changes to pay and retirement military benefits, challenges for military children, military spouse employment; community involvement; and transition. Over time and at the previous military family summits, the gathered feedback has included:
- Mental Health impacts of over a decade at war;
- Educational challenges facing military children;
- Service members transitioning from active duty service to the civilian sector; and
- Health care and caregiver concerns
In the past, the feedback received was vital to our efforts in finding policy solutions that benefit our nation’s beloved veterans, widows, and military families. So today, I ask that you feel free to speak your mind and share your personal story. This event will provide our caucus a direction for the rest of the 114th Congress, and it is your input that points us to where we need to go.
I am proud of the military families living in my district in Georgia at Fort Benning in Columbus, the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, and the communities around Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. They are a living embodiment of the eternal optimism we hold in our country. They proudly volunteered to join the less than one percent to serve our nation here and abroad, in support of their soldier, sailor, airman, or marine. Truly, military families are the backbone of our military.
And after asking our Active Duty, National Guard, Reserve members, and their families to endure multiple deployments, we in Congress must meet our commitment to support increased spousal and widow employment, the education of military children, fair and complete benefits, as well as health care options and coverage.
We cannot rest and rely on the progress made in the past. We must continue to work on areas that need improvement, and explore new areas of concern. So, I would ask all those here today, who value our military families, to continue this dialog with us. The members of our Caucus, and other members of Congress, need to hear from you. Your voices are important and extremely powerful.
We cannot forget -- military service is about people. How we care for service members and their families, determine the success of the most professional all volunteer force this world has even seen, now and into the future.
We hope that you will actively participate in the breakout sessions and help us to work together, improve military families’ quality of life, and expand your opportunities.