“Military life was very foreign to me. I grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio. I’m a Jewish girl and my dad was a psychiatrist. I went to college on the East Coast to a women’s school called Bryn Mawr. There was no ROTC and no football team either.
I went to graduate school at Princeton and it was a very different world. I think the first military people I met were a few soldiers the Army sent to Princeton and they were kind of exotic and frightening to me. In 1994, I was working at the White House for President Clinton when I went to the Philippines to prepare for bilateral meetings between him and President Nikiti. I was there ahead of time, and I heard there was going to be a Marine Ball at the Embassy, and I wanted to go. I asked a friend of mine – Leo Mercado, the President’s Aide who carried the football – if he could get me tickets.
Not only did he get me tickets, he lined up three Marines to take me. One of them is now my husband. We danced all night. He was a helicopter pilot for Marine One and was there to plan the meetings at Corregidor Island, marking the 50th Anniversary of the United States retaking the island during World War II.
We dated long distance and then got engaged a year and a half later. We were married in 1997. I came back to D.C. after having left the White House to work in New York for the Revlon Foundation. I started working at the Pentagon on installations and industrial affairs. Housing prioritization was one of my bailiwicks.
We came home from the honeymoon and shortly thereafter I found out I was pregnant. He got orders to Okinawa. My life changed significantly in a short amount of time. I went from being the GS-15, step 10 employee, to living in Okinawa, unemployed with an infant. We didn’t live on base and it was a very difficult and alienating experience for me. I had so much identity from the work that I did. Suddenly, I was teaching one adjunct class and learning how to be the mom of an infant.
My sister graduated from college and she came over to live with me and that was a lifeline. Then we found this little synagogue in Kadena that became our community of military families. I had these moments of ‘who am I and what am I about,’ and instead of looking away from it, I had to grow. I think I’m a much better person for having to do that.
We moved back to San Diego, and I went to law school when I was 35 years old. My husband really pushed me to do it. I graduated when I was 39, and we moved to D.C. for seven months. We moved again and then again and ended up in Jacksonville, North Carolina. I didn’t have anything else to do, so I wrote a book called AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service and How it Hurts Our Country. It was about who serves and who doesn’t in the military. I wrote it because the people I’d known in my former life – the news editors and lawmakers and the people with influence – only knew one person in the military, my husband, and only because they knew me. I’m glad I got the chance to write it, and it’s only because we were in North Carolina.
I started doing a lot of speaking about the issue of civil-military affairs. I love our country and I love democracy. I believe in the whole process of self-government and I see our military service as a key part of that. When people don’t understand that, when the leaders don’t understand it, when they don’t understand why we do what we do and what difference it makes, then we can’t have the country we are supposed to have.
We moved again to London and then to South Carolina, and I started meeting and talking with other military spouses who had ideas about how we could make life better for military spouses with policy changes. We had a group of us, all different services and even a caregiver spouse, that decided to create a platform to make a difference for military families. Blue Star Families was born.
Blue Star Families tries to make military life a good life for families. We want to enable military service by creating a better lifestyle by connecting our communities, informing policy makers, and bringing solutions that we want most for our lives.
That’s why our annual survey is so important. It’s the heart of what we do. Policy makers, think tanks, and many non-profits use our results. It’s important for people to take it so that we can use that information to impact change. We want people to consider it their civic duty – almost like jury duty – so that we can better understand our military families. All of us who work for Blue Star Families feel very lucky because we feel like we make a difference. Our partners like Whole Foods and Disney and Facebook want to help us, and we want everyone who reads this to know they have the power to make a difference by in taking the survey.”
The #BSFSurvey is open until May 25. Take the survey today: bluestarfam.us/BSFSurvey18
This post sponsored by Blue Star Families