Last week, we had a little Capitol Hill shindig with Nancy Pelosi and about 10 other congressional representatives. Blue Star Families released the results of its Military Families Life Issues Survey to great fanfare before the Congressional Women's Caucus and the White House Council on Women and Girls.
The First Lady even quoted our survey in a national interview she did the next day.
“I just saw the results of a recent survey done by Blue Star Families that shows that 94 percent of military families feel as if the country doesn’t understand their challenges,” Obama said. “That’s a pretty powerful statement.”
For those of us affiliated with the military, the revelation that military families feel that most people don't get it was kind of a "duh" moment. But for virtually everyone else who has read the survey results, the reaction has been shock.
Why is it that military families feel like the rest of the country doesn't understand? Because the war doesn't affect most people. One percent of this country is fighting. The rest of us? We were told to go shopping. But it's time to make people sit up and notice the toll that Iraq and Afghanistan is taking on military families and their service members. The costs of this war will affect our country for years to come and we need to act now to ensure that the veterans of OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) and OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and their families are treated well.
Rep. Susan Davis and Speaker Nancy Pelosi discuss the BSF survey results
(During the event, I took a great photo of Nancy Pelosi eating a cookie. I'd love to share it but I think her staff would hunt me down and kill me.)
This week, I had a wonderful opportunity practically drop in my lap for BSF members to meet with Senator Warner to discuss military family issues before the Senator headed off to Afghanistan to meet with commanders and troops there. It was a very productive meeting and I can't thank Amy LaMarca and Carlos Deltoro enough for making the introduction to the Senator. He was engaged, he listened to our ideas and he was very excited about helping BSF take the next step to assist military families.
You can read more about our visit with Senator Warner on his blog as well. I was way too excited about those baskets on the conference table. They were shaped like Virginia and full of Virginia peanuts. Too cool!
Photo from Senator Mark Warner's blog. Here, we listen to BSF member Jolynn Shoemaker talk about the problems families of reservists face when they deploy.
I keep looking back over the last month and wonder what happened? When did I become this person who drives to D.C. on a weekly basis and tries to convince Senators of the worthiness of a cause?
I know that I've changed a lot in the last two years. Having children changed my outlook on the world; getting involved in politics showed me that I could make a difference; but Blue Star Families really opened my eyes and made me want to change things.
Blue Star Families is special. It's an organization for military families made up of, and run entirely by, those military families. We don't have a political agenda. We don't want to change national security policy. We just want to help improve the lives of those who serve our country and frequently make sacrifices the uninitiated don't understand. Does any of this affect me? Not personally. Not anymore. Not unless my brother's National Guard unit is deployed again or my husband is called out of retirement. But I want people to listen to stories like my friend Vivian's in order to understand, just a bit, what it's like to be part of a military family. To be so incredibly proud and so incredibly scared all at the same time.
If we can make people understand, if we can get the right people to listen, if we can get the rest of the country to engage in their communities and in public service, well, then we can change the world for the better.
In her other life, with her real name, Lawyer Mama is the New Media Director for Blue Star Families, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group dedicated to briding the gap between military and civilian life. The views she expresses here are her own and not those of BSF.