The military spouse community was abuzz last week.  Why, you ask?  Because military families were featured on one of the largest public platforms in this day and age: Oprah.

I haven’t watched Oprah in years, and unfortunately I didn’t learn about this particular show until hours after it aired when I checked my messages and heard my mother-in-law telling me to turn on my tv.  But fortunately, millions of other Americans DID catch the show. 

“The Bravest Families in America.”  That’s what the show was called.  First Lady Michelle Obama and journalists Tom Brokaw and Bob Woodward joined Oprah in honoring military families and discussing the challenges we face.  And although I didn’t see the show in its entirety, seeing the preview and the brief heart-wrenching clips online left no doubt in my mind that the struggles we endure as military families are finally being noticed.

In a survey released by Blue Star Families, 92 percent of military family respondents indicated that they felt the general public doesn’t truly understand or appreciate the sacrifices made by service members and their families.  Yes I did fill out that survey.  Yes I am part of that 92%.  I don’t think the general public has any idea what military families go through.  And over the years I’ve learned not to bother talking to my civilian friends about military life because they just don’t get it.

But maybe all of that is changing.  Oprah’s show aired just days after President Obama released his report, Strengthening Our Military Families:  Meeting America’s Commitment, detailing his approach to supporting military families.  The report outlines 4 specific priorities:

        1. Enhance the well-being and psychological health of the military family.
        2. Ensure excellence in military children’s education and their development.
        3. Develop career and educational opportunities for military spouses.
        4. Increase child care availability and quality for the Armed Forces.
When I first read this, I thought, wow, someone did their research because these are definitely issues I’d love to see addressed.  But my second thought was, hmmm, how are these priorities going to be accomplished?  How exactly does the President expect to “enhance the well-being and psychological health of the military family?”  And how will he “ensure excellence in military children’s education and their development?”  Quite frankly, I have no idea.  But for now, I’m content knowing that we’re even a blip on his radar. 
Between the President of the United States and Oprah (because, really, isn’t Oprah just as influential as the POTUS?), I think word might start spreading that military families really are “the bravest families in America” and we need all the support we can get.  In fact, I think Americans are already starting to take notice.  After Oprah and Michelle Obama mentioned Blue Star Families on the show, BSF became inundated with new volunteers.  I’d say that’s a good start.
If you saw it, what did you think about that Oprah show?  If you’re a mil spouse, what do you think about the president’s report concerning military families?

14 Comments on Military Family Voices Being Heard

  1. True, military families are put through a great deal of stress, each and everyday. That was indeed a great way for Oprah and her guests to honor military families.

  2. As an Air Force brat, I feel connected to the military, although I'm not involved with it. I guess it's been a bigger blip in my life, due to my experiences, but I also agree with the "out of sight, out of mind" that the show discussed. I think many of us civilians do not know what to do and maybe feel a little outside your world…we tip our hats to our uniformed soldiers, when we see them, but don't know what else to do? I am glad they ended the show with ways to reach out and ideas on how to let you all know we do think of you. I belong to a parent's network in my community, which has various sub-groups within it. While I don't think we would have a large amount of military families, the group's President started a group for military families in the area to join, and we have a Make A Difference group that will keep military charities in mind. I think this is important to keep on the public forum!

  3. I'm bummed I missed this episode of Oprah because I would have loved to see it. I know that I definitely didn't have a CLUE what military families went through before I got married to someone in the military. I think childcare is a HUGE issue, especially overseas, so I'm glad the President took note of that.

  4. I don't watch Oprah so I didn't see the episode or even hear anything about it. Sounds like it was a good show, though.

    I am glad to see the list of what the President wants to improve upon but until I see it happen, it is nothing but words. I do hope he is able to accomplish them!

  5. I didn't watch the show…even though I probably could have. I don't watch Oprah for personal (and partially spiritual reasons), but I did notice the chatter about it online.

    Personally, I'm glad that someone is finally taking notice. For years, I always admired and respected military families. Then I became an Army wife and realized what really goes on. I think it's great that we're a blip on the radar right now. I have very low expectations as for what's going to be done about anything right now. I believe that Obama has set goals he and his administration can't attain. Those are wonderful ideas, and they would most definitely help but I'm not counting on any change happening.

    You're right, though. At least this is a start and more people are starting to volunteer with BSF. You've got to start somewhere!

  6. I didn't see the Oprah episode, but I read the transcript. I guess my only concern is that it played on a lot of themes that seem worn out in the civilian community. I have had civilians tell me that they are tired of seeing us with our hand out; they lump us in with people who abuse entitlement programs. Nothing I saw on Oprah will dissuade those people.
    I think we need to take some new approaches with outreach. I think we need to work to bridge the gap, because the American people won't on their own:
    I went to a media communication workshop last week and reports say they want better stories. Let's give them to them. To that end, I directed my guest post at Discover Mag toward Milspouses today:

  7. I completely agree 100% with what Tom Brokaw said.

    I am a military spouse. I do believe the majority of civilians "support the troops" but they do not make a conscious effort to understand the seriousness of the war, nor conditions our soldiers are in, both on the front lines and on the home front. I do think they are disconnected and I believe that is because it is so easy to be disconnected. They don't show videos from the front lines anymore. They don't show the faces of the fallen soldiers. You don't see the injured soldiers or their families. I hope things start changing and I hope our soldiers of this war have the same societal support of past wars and our citizens can become more knowledgeable and empathetic towards our service members and their families.

  8. I have to admit that I DVR'd it and was really reluctant to watch it but did. I was mostly pleased by what I did see. I think she did a good job trying to show the very extreme cases in the case of the Soldier that was severly wounded (TBI and blindness) and his family. A gold star Mother's story and just a wife trying to deal with deployments. I also admired that Oprah said she didn't realize what she didn't know and vowed to fix it and already has something big planned. I do give her credit for trying to educate but fear it isn't enough. My hubs has been fighting in Wars for over 10 years now. It's a too little too late. To me at this point words are words, I need to see some action. So far I have seen a lot of lip service but not a lot of action. Like my hubs and his Marines say…"Marines are at War, America is at the mall" I know other service branches say the same thing…lets hope we see a shift, but really after 10 years ….???

  9. As a milspouse with a masters degree who once had a pretty good career I wish it was illegal for employers discriminate against military spouses. I shouldn't have to lie and hide who I am because I'm only going to be in a job for a year or two. I used to work closely with HR people and I've had quite a number of them tell me they won't consider hiring a milspouse because of the short term attitude.

  10. I didn't see the episode of Oprah. I just don't watch her show. I did watch the press conference that the president held. To me, it seemed to be a lot of the same rhetoric we've been hearing the last couple years. I mean this morning, FORSCOM tweeted an article quoting Gen. Chiarelli that mental health needs will increase. No? Really? Where's this guy been? I've been at this gig long enough to know not to hold my breath until I see results. I mean even changes at the simplest levels would help. For example, we have 2 autistic kids. I have IEPs and doctors to coordinate. The cadets graduate in 3 months, and my husband's job is essentially done. We're due to PCS this year. Do we know anything? Nope. Even more advanced notice on orders, especially those with EFMP family members would be fantastic. Again, I'll believe it when I see it.

  11. Tom Brokaw stated that 1% of Americans are bearing 100% of the burden of these wars. I think that really drives home the whole point! I don't know what the answer is, but it's nice to see somebody standing up and taking notice. Time will tell, I suppose…

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