COLUMBUS, GA – Today, on Thursday, June 14, 2012, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Military Family Caucus (CMFC), hosted a Military Family Summit at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center near Fort Benning, Georgia.
Today’s summit connected military families with Members of Congress, officials from the Department of Defense, personnel from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and various military and veteran support organizations to discuss pressing issues impacting America’s service members and their families.
Military spouses, veterans, councilors, educators, and advocates voiced their concerns with homelessness in the veteran community, individual battles with PTSD, loss of employment due to relocation, and sacrifices stemming from the redeployment of loved ones. Members of the panels shared their own experiences as well as provided local and online resources available to those in need.
After sharing his own personal struggles living in a military family, Congressman Bishop commented, “I mention my wife and her family’s experiences because often we tend to focus primarily on the service members who willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the freedoms we cherish. However, we cannot forget that the families they leave behind sacrifice just as much as our heroes who deploy on missions for our country.”
“As Co-Chairs of the Military Family Caucus, we recognize that when a service member joins the military, it’s not just a job; it’s a family commitment to our country,” said McMorris Rodgers during her opening remarks. “As the wife of a retired Navy pilot, I’ve come to better appreciate the unique challenges our military families face and I’m committed to doing all we can in Congress to address them.”
Keynote speakers included Mrs. Patricia Shinseki of the White House Joining Forces Initiative; Secretary Robert L. Gordon, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy; and LTG Michael Ferriter, the Commander of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command and Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. Representatives from the Wounded Warrior Project, Blue Star Families, the Military Child Education Coalition, and many other service groups also participated.
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.
In his opening remarks, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. praised our nation’s veterans and military families. Below is the text of Congressman Bishop’s remarks:
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THE HONORABLE SANFORD D. BISHOP, JR.
CMFC FAMILY SUMMIT – NATIONAL INFANTRY MUSEUM
COLUMBUS, GA - THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2012
Thank you all for joining us this morning at the second Congressional Military Family Caucus Family Summit! It’s a pleasure to be in a room with those who make America great – the brave service men and women who admirably defend our nation and safeguard our liberties.
Today, I am honored to be joined by my friend, colleague and Co-Chair of the Congressional Military Family Caucus, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers from Washington State’s Fifth Congressional District. Married to a Navy pilot retired after 26 years of service, Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers knows firsthand the sacrifices our military families make as their loved ones fight to defend our nation. I want to thank both Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers and Brian, her husband, for their respective service to our great nation.
I would be remiss if I did not also thank our keynote speakers – Mrs. Patricia Shinseki, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Gordon, and LTG Michael Ferriter – for their participation in today’s event. Their service to military families has gone above and beyond the call of duty through the many things that they do.
The active participation of the various government agencies and advocacy organizations will make this a truly informative event for all of us in attendance. Our moderators President and CEO of the Military Child Education Coalition Dr. Mary Keller; The Wounded Warrior Project’s Chief of Staff John Molino; and Blue Star Families Research and Policy Director Dr. Vivian Greentree have been especially helpful in assisting with today. Special thanks to Governor Deal’s office, Secretary of the State Brian Kemp’s office the Veteran’s Administration, and the U.S. and Columbus Chamber of Commerce for their support. Of course, I would like to thank all of our panelists for providing the backbone of the panels today; please make sure you ask them some great questions!
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 with the Joining Forces Initiative; advocacy organizations such as Blue Star Families, the Wounded Warrior Project, the Military Child Education Coalition, the Military Officers Association of America, and many others who work every day to bridge the gap between government, business, the military, and military families; and the 85 Members of the bipartisan Senate Military Family Caucus.
A note of thanks must be given to my staff, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ staff, LTG Carmen Cavezza of the National Infantry Foundation, and the staff here at the beautiful National Infantry Museum. They have worked hard to pull today together and I am looking forward to watching the day progress.
On a side note, it was a proud day for me when I had the opportunity to see the doors of this wonderful museum open in my home district. Located no more than 10 minutes from the doors of the Home of the Infantry, FT Benning, I could not be happier than to see this museum host this year’s Military Family Caucus Summit.
But most of all, I would like to thank the service members, military families, and veterans that are here with us today. Our nation will forever be indebted to you for service and selfless sacrifices.
A few years ago, Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers and I founded the Congressional Military Families Caucus because, through our experiences with military families, we felt it was important to educate elected officials, congressional staffers, senior military leaders and the public on a wide range of issues that affect military families such as:
• Educational challenges facing military children;
• PTSD and suicide prevention amongst service members and veterans;
• Access and education about military retirement benefits;
• Spousal employment needs and licensing issues; and
• Post-service employment for veterans;
Last October, Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers and I held a town hall with military families stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington and heard directly from them on a wide range of issues. Following up on what we learned, the Caucus held our first Military Family Summit in Washington, DC in January of last year. Both the town hall we held at Fairchild Air Force Base, our first summit in Washington DC, and today’s summit are vital to our efforts in finding policy solutions that will benefit our nation’s beloved veterans and military families.
Today we have three panel sessions designed to help us to work together to improve your quality of life and expand your opportunities. We hope that you will actively participate by listening and asking questions of the panelists.
You will also have access to the knowledge and services provided by the various advocacy organizations present here today. Understanding that the life of a military family presents a challenging set of issues, these organizations will work to make sure you have the knowledge and resources to meet your challenges with success.
In closing, I will briefly share with you all that whenever I meet with military families, two people who frequently come to mind are my father-in-law and my wife. My father-in-law served in the U.S. military for several years and my wife was a military child. In fact, when my wife was a child, her family moved every two or three years. She spent her formative years at home and overseas.
The constant change of station impacted her family both positively and negatively. Due to all of her family’s travels, my wife grew-up as a very well-rounded child in that she was able to gain exposure to different people and various cultures. However, the flip side of that coin is that with the frequent travels her family was forced to address hard pressing issues such as saying goodbye to old friends and acclimating themselves to new re-assignment locations.
I mention my wife and her family’s experiences because often we tend to focus primarily on the service members who willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the freedoms we cherish. However, we cannot forget that the families they leave behind sacrifice just as much as our heroes who deploy on missions for our country. These families are impacted in countless ways – seen and unseen – and we have an obligation to do right by them.
As the Co-Chair of the Congressional Military Family Caucus and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, please rest assured that the well-being of our men and women in uniform and their families will continue to be one of my top priorities.
I look forward to continuing the good work of the Military Family Caucus with Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers and the over 80 Members of Congress who make up this Caucus. We have no choice but to see that our troops, veterans and their families have the support they need. Together, I know we can get the job done.
Thank you all again for being here this morning and I very much look forward to today’s insightful dialogues.