The sequestration is a non-answer from our leaders. Rather than coming together to solve our debt problems they’ve taken this cowardly route. There are a lot of ways the sequestration affects Americans from air traffic controllers to education to public services, these cuts run deep. Those of us in the military community are already beginning to see just how much the cuts will affect our day-to-day life. That is because the first cuts come to services. They always cut our services first.
I’m not sure civilians understand how much military families depend on these services. Some DOD schools will be required to cut teacher hours. Since they cannot reduce the number of days students can attend school, teachers will be forced to double up on classes. They could work four days per week while another teacher takes over their class on the fifth day. That also means that teachers will have to cover a class one of the four days they are working. For military children this means two of the five days they attend school they will be mixed with another class. You cannot tell me this won’t negatively impact the education of our military children.
Military kids do not choose this life. We choose it for them, along with all of the sacrifices it requires. Most children have a sense of pride and contribution for these sacrifices. But that does not mean it is without hardship. My husband joined the Army when our older children were in the 3rd grade. They’re in the 10th grade now and we have moved three times. We will move again next year and possibly once more before they graduate high school. My younger children started kindergarten this year, they will start first grade at another school, and possibly second grade at yet another. My children are a representation of all military children, by some standards they’ve even had it easy. To take those children, who have already had their education disrupted multiple times and further disrupt it is cruel.
There is a lot of conjecture about other cuts. I heard this weekend that the Child Development Centers on Military Bases are next in line. If the Department of Defense has to furlough 800,000 employees, I would not be surprised if the CDC’s felt it too. As a parent this is extremely upsetting to me. Yes, there are plenty of off-post childcare centers available, but those centers do not understand the unique needs of military families. Their staffs are not experienced in dealing with children who move regularly, who have at least one parent absent for long periods of time, and most importantly they are not filled with children who make my kids feel normal. Last year Reese and Jackson were enrolled in the on-post preschool program. Most of the students in the class had at least one parent deployed. Their little cubbies were decorated with pictures of the deployed parent for when they got sad and there was a desk set up with paper, pencils, and envelopes so they could write letters whenever they felt the need. Jackson’s best friend Chandon was in his class. Chandon’s Dad had deployed at the same time as my husband, the boys were battle buddies. Chandon’s Mom, Megan, is one of my best friends and most trusted battle buddy too. While my husband was home on R & R Chandon asked if Jackson could come play after school. Jackson told him he couldn’t because his Dad was home. Chandon yelled, “Your Dad’s home?! I didn’t know your Dad was home!!” Then he threw his arms around him and the boys hugged for a long time. Even at 5-years-old those children understood and needed each other. Sending them to an off-post preschool would have robbed them of that experience and emotional connection. All of our military children deserve that same opportunity.
The military services that are being cut are the services that build these relationships. They are what our families depend on to get through all of the dark times. For most Americans, the war in Afghanistan is winding down. But for us, it’s not even close to over. For some, it might never be completely over. Last year the military reported record high suicide rates, for the first time more suicides than combat deaths. This is not a time to increase the stress on military families.
Regardless of your politics or how you feel about the war, remember that our military serves on behalf of the American people. Whether you like what they do or not, they do it because they were directed to by a government we elected. This country could not survive without a standing military and it is naive to think otherwise. Men and women who choose to do this job and the families who stand behind them deserve better than these budget cuts. There are plenty of other places, places that make sense, to make cuts in military spending. I voted for this president twice. I also voted for my Republican senator Lisa Murkowski in large part because she said she cared about military families. When she ran for re-election she met with military spouses, she looked me in the eye and said she needed to know what would help those of us in the trenches and what we needed. Now she has done nothing but further the burden on us. I am going to write her and ask that she try to make it stop. I hope that you too will write your representatives, on behalf of the military families who have sacrificed so much for you, and also ask to make this nonsense stop.