Family Forum / By Judy Konitzer: The Armed Services YMCA established November as Military Family Month to recognize and honor families of service members for their unique contributions and sacrifices while supporting the Army mission. Many government, military, community, and business leaders teamed up with events and activities in support of this initiative.
Then-Army Secretary John M. McHugh, Army Chief of Staff GEN Mark A. Milley, and Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A. Dailey talk to a packed crowd of military spouses, Soldiers, DoD civilians and others during a Senior Leaders Town Hall held during AUSA’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, DC in October. / U.S. ARMY PHOTO
Although it is now December, I would like to share some of what I learned at the AUSA Annual Meeting Family Forums held in October in Washington, D.C. where accolades were given and continuing commitments are being made to our military families.
A Town Hall with GEN Mark A. Milley
During a Town Hall with senior army leaders, GEN Mark A. Milley, the 39th Chief of Staff of the Army said, “You cannot have a happy life without a happy wife!” With 60% of the force married and an average of 2 plus children, he acknowledged that among other quality of life issues, Soldiers have to know that they can live in good homes, have quality medical care, and good education for their children, so they can focus on their mission. He promised that he would continue to put families first and “…will fight for you every step of the way.” Unfortunately, while the Army has invested billions of dollars into family programs over the past few years, future budget constraints will cause many programs to become less robust. In his estimation, if sequestration becomes effective it “would be devastating and would place our nation in a dangerous place.” He encouraged us to let our congressional leaders know how important our Soldiers are to our nation and how defunding them and their family programs is detrimental.
The Importance of Developing Resiliency
During a Forum entitled “The Healthy Home-Resilient Families,” Rosemary Freitas Williams, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, defined Resilience as “The ability of a family to respond positively to an adverse situation feeling strengthened and confident in their ability to face adversity in the future.” She said, “The word actually originated in the construction industry-steel making in particular…” Elasticity and steelmaking requires intense heat. She submitted that “military families have taken that heat, and her office exists …with a commitment to better serve those who serve us.”
The top issues she sees surfaced involve marital and relationship issues, parent/child relationships, communication/ personal-family or professional, grief and loss, and financial issues. Their confidential help programs, i.e., Military One Source, Safe and Sound Campaign, New Parent Support, Family Advocacy, Exceptional Family Member, Chaplain, Family Life Counselors, as well as Morale Welfare and Recreation and Youth Centers are all designed to connect families to the resources they need before they hit a crisis. With so many families living outside the gate, she said it was also important to go to where these families live – “Online” and so they are using all forms of social media to include popular parenting websites to accomplish this.
Williams said, “Military families show their resourcefulness and strength when they seek help, NOT the opposite. The resilience they demonstrate when they are faced with challenges is an indicator that we are helping to prepare them for these life challenges and that our programs and policies are working.”
Affirming the Importance of Military Spouses and Enriching Marriages
The 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, Corie B. Weathers, LPC remarked that GEN Ray Odierno, 38th Chief of Staff, upon his retirement on August 14, affirmed the importance of military spouses when he gave this tribute to his wife Lynda. He said, “She has stood by my side since I was a cadet at West Point… She is the epitome of selfless service. She has always been the strength of our family. She has been a role model for so many spouses throughout the Army, because she always treated everybody with dignity, respect, and with a little touch of love. She sacrificed her entire life for me. I can never repay her for that.”
“These comments went viral for two weeks in the military spouse networks,” said Weathers.
She also encouraged more leaders to step forward and like Odierno, be willing to talk about the importance of marriage and families, and when needed encourage retreats, counseling, and doing whatever is necessary to take care of families. Weathers was passionate when she said, “Marriage is the one home we take with us wherever we go!” And we need to be more vocal and creative in how we enrich our military marriages.
Take Ownership and Remain Resilient
The Director of the Ready and Resilient Campaign, Sharyn J. Saunders, said that there is definitely a cultural shift in dealing with young to older senior spouses. However, spouses “need to take ownership of the things they can change,” and they should take advantage of the Resiliency Training programs offered at installations, and Reserve and National Guard Joint Readiness Centers. For more info – go to Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (csf2.army.mil). Consider also the Global Assessment Tool (GAT.2) with the Army Fit login. There are also online interactive webinars and YouTube marriage enrichment videos.
The bottom line for all of us in this high tech world is that we can have it all just for the looking, and it can provide us with all that we need, yet be as confidential as we require; but in the end we still also need to reach out to each other, get involved, and know that we are appreciated for who we are – Resilient Military Families!!!!