On the Ground: April 21, 2011
Have you heard the news?
U.S. Military Soldiers Have Families.
Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces,
“a comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members
and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.”
And what do most major media outlets want to focus on about this initiative?
General Stanley McChrystal.
Fine. Let’s talk McChrystal.
But for once, let’s talk about McChrystal from a perspective that matters – the military family perspective, the perspective of the very people he has been asked to advise on. And let’s pretend for a moment that the media will NOT descend into a debate about McChrystal’s past actions or any other entanglement of rhetoric that might detract from the issue at hand. The issue is this:
After more than a decade of war, the military family is beyond strained –
it is broken.
And we need help.
And by Presidential appointment, one of the people who will speak for our families and offer guidance and support to the Joining Forces initiative is General McChrystal. General McChrystal will be a voice for military families for the future, and he will serve us well not because the President of the United States asked him to, but because this military family is asking him to.
And we are asking him to do more than look at the stats, and the briefs, and confer with higher-ups and policy makers. We are asking him to listen.
We are asking him to listen to the bloggers who have been on the front lines trying to change public perception and writing about military family issues since at least as far back as 2005. We are asking him to listen to our FRG leaders, who have been holding the military family together in an all-volunteer, unfunded effort since Operation Desert Storm. We are asking him to listen to the movers and shakers who are out there trying to make a difference, trying to raise awareness, and trying to heal this family.
We are also asking him to do more than advise in the role he has been appointed for.
We are asking him to “Listen, learn … then lead.”
Listen, learn … then lead, is the title of McChrystal’s TED Talk, given in March of this year. In that talk, McChrystal says of the military today, “we’re operating a force that must have shared purpose and shared consciousness.”
Yes. And that “force” that he speaks of is not only comprised of military service members – it is held together by their families and loved ones. And we, as military families, need to share that purpose and share that consciousness about our role in today’s military, and about the obstacles we face. Our job of communicating this cannot be underestimated.
We need to comment on blogs, we need to write to our congressional representatives, and we need to go out into our communities – especially those with a small and unnoticed military population – and we need to start talking. We need to talk to schools, scout troops, civic clubs, volunteer organizations, and the media, and we need to use all of our resources and all of our talents to make ourselves heard.
McChrystal closes his TED Talk by saying, “If you’re a leader, the people who count on you need you on your feet.” If that’s the case, General McChrystal, sir, then this military family needs you on your feet – and we need you on your feet right here on the ground with us – where military families have been battling for over ten years and are now bone-weary and falling apart.
That is the only perspective that matters to the military family.
“On the Ground” is a new effort by LIFT to provide an ongoing
discussion of the Joining Forces initiative from the military family perspective.