This morning at the 2nd Congressional Military Family Caucus, we heard from a distinguished panel of US Representatives including co-chairs Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-GA), Senior Enlisted Representatives, heads of powerful organizations like the Military Officers Association of America and US Chamber of Commerce, and senior representatives from the Department of Defense, all to discuss key issues relevant to our military families (and yes, they / we, are all ours and yours!)
- Mental health and wellness issues for families, single service members, and their children through the stress of 10 years of war
- Health care needs
- Soldier to citizen transitions
- Educational needs of children
- Employment issues for veterans and spouses
I was really quite shocked at how well Outdoor recreation, and specifically, Mission Outdoors, is set up to help with all of these needs. Certainly, in getting people outside we cannot deal directly with some physical wounds, but we can certainly help with rehabilitation.
Mental health and wellness. The outdoors helps and throughout this blog you’ll find quotes from a few who speak directly to this issue here or here (and as we go, ultimately you’ll be able to read the stories of hundreds!). Please leave a comment and tell us yours!
Soldier to citizen transitions. What better place to build trust, meet new people, and get comfortable in your community than to get outside?
Educational needs of children. Science abounds in the outdoors along with natural history, experiential learning opportunities, mathematics, and think of the canon on wilderness and outdoor writing. What’s your favorite ‘lesson learned’ from the outdoors.
Employment Issues for veterans and spouses. A lot of great things have been done to improve hiring practices for veterans and spouses including the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces. However, the outdoors and green jobs are places where companies should be looking to veterans and military spouses to partner. The Outdoor Industry is not well represented in this partnership, which is strange considering the modern outdoor industry was built largely by returning WW2 and specifically 10th Mountain Division veterans. We’ll work to change that this next year.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy) Robert Gordon enjoined the audience to make sure we care for, support, and empower the military family community. I felt somewhat smug that the Sierra Club, through our Mission Outdoors programming and leadership listening sessions and training in 2012, will be doing just that.
The final three steps Mr. Gordon encouraged us to follow were to ensure we:
- Build trust in the community and bridges between non-military / veteran and the military / veteran community;
- Focus on the well being of our communities right now! “The Future is HERE!” Mr. Gordon stated, so let’s stop planning and get to work!
- We give people the right partnerships and opportunities to share their skills with our military families.
Outside, and throughout 2012, I am confident that at next year’s Caucus, we can point back to Robert Gordon’s three steps and highlight how the Sierra Club, you, and Mission Outdoors followed the right steps, and in the words of Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who was also in attendance, “…make a future worthy of your [military families’] sacrifice!”
We'll talk in the next couple of days about how else we can make sure our country is ensuring a future worthy of military sacrifice. This morning, however, despite all the bad news, it was good to see so many people turned out to talk about military family issues, and many thanks are necessary for all the participants, panelists, and especially to Reps. McMorris Rodgers and Bishop for the leadership on the issue. It was surprising that not every member of Congress is a member, but then again, as we were reminded, less than 1% of America has served in the current conflicts, defending, the other 99%.
So, support a military family today, get outside and take them with you!
OIF Veteran and National Military Families and Veterans Representative at the Sierra Club