SUPPORTING THE BACKBONE OF OUR MILITARY
Op-Ed by Congressman Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (GA-02)
Without a doubt, our service members are the lifeblood of our great nation. We must also remember that the strength of our military is drawn from the resilience of their families—and they too make tremendous sacrifices for our country.
According to a survey by Blue Star Families, an organization dedicated to serving military families, eighty-four percent of employed active duty spouses indicate that the military lifestyle had a negative impact on their ability to pursue a career? Fifty-three percent of veterans and fifty-five percent of military spouses described their transition from the Service as difficult, and note concerns about spousal employment, benefits, and their child’s education as top concerns.
Many of the military families in my District living at Fort Benning outside Columbus, the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, and the communities outside Robins Air Force Base near Macon have similar concerns. I am often stopped at an event or get a phone call filled with questions about the future and what it might have in store for a military family. You may have similar concerns.
For me and many of my colleagues in Congress, the struggles of military families are deeply personal. It’s why I helped form the Congressional Military Family Caucus nearly five years ago and continue to work across the aisle to address these issues.
You know, far too often these days we are reminded of the uncertainty life holds for us all. But military families have to live with a special set of uncertainty.
Will I or my spouse be able to get a job after deployment? How will my children adjust to their third school in six years? What are our options if my spouse becomes injured, depressed, or God forbid, killed in the line of duty?
The survey revealed that fifty-six percent of military children have separation anxiety and thirty-five percent of have difficulty sleeping. Sixty percent of military spouses claim that the availability of childcare has impacted their pursuit of employment, education, or both. Maybe most shockingly, thirteen percent of veterans and eight percent of military spouses have had thoughts about suicide.
In a fiscal environment that includes reductions of military end-strength and constrained defense budgets, we must ensure that we continue to meet our obligations to military families. 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.
After asking our Active Duty, National Guard, Reserve members, and their families to endure multiple deployments over the last thirteen years, we in Congress and the American people must meet our commitment to support increased spousal and widow employment, training and education, health care options and coverage, as well as better education for the children of our soldiers.
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 who value our military families to continue this dialog with us. Your member of Congress needs to hear from you. As constituent feedback is vital to Congress’ efforts in finding policy solutions, your voices are important and extremely powerful.
While our nation will forever be grateful for our military families’ selfless sacrifices as the backbone of our military, they still deserve the nation’s tangible support. So please feel free to speak your mind and share your story. We will be listening.