This is an open letter to beg you to allow us to stay where we are living. Last week, my husband, a school select for Air War College, found out that he was alternate this year on the school list. Well, to the non-military reading this, you may ask, well, what the heck does that mean? It means nothing, and it means everything. Basically, if someone elects to retire, gets in trouble, or for some other reason not known to anyone, turns down school, my husband may go in their place. It also means that we have no choice, say, or input on where my husband goes to school. It means that if he is picked up for school, we will likely be separated for 10-12 months until my husband graduates from school, and gets a follow on assignment. Since we have also been at this base for a longer than normal period of time (thanks to several doctors and extremely understanding commanders), we are also “hot” for a new assignment.
I understand that I’m just a military wife, and you probably think that I have little to no understanding of how the military works. Here’s my background, I am a veteran. I am also a mom to two children with different challenges. My son has moderate autism, and my daughter is incredibly gifted (and is being evaluated for autism– on the higher end of the spectrum, or ADHD). The last time we moved everything with my son went tragically wrong. We essentially “lost” my son– he went from functioning at around a 5-6 year old child (he was 7) to functioning at the level of a 2-year-old. He was abused at his public school, and wrote to everyone and their mother for help. Help came a little bit too late, and it has take YEARS for him to return to where he was when we first came here. He is just NOW catching up. I know that most generals have children, I ask you to think about what you would do, and how you would feel if your child regressed at that rate.
We have fought and fought to get him where he is today. If you request my husband to come work for you, thereby deny the reclama that his very understanding commander is about to fill out, and then force my family to move. If my husband ends up going to school in 2017, it can be very bad for my son. It takes a REALLY long time to set up services for an autistic child after a military PCS. It takes equally as long for that child to develop a relationship with his therapists. By moving us this summer, and with the increased likelihood that my husband will go to school in 2017, you will make him move twice in less than a year, or you will force us into a geo-bachelor situation.
I understand as a military wife, that there are separations. That’s part of the life that I lead. I don’t mind them when they become necessary. I don’t mind the deployments. I don’t mind the two week TDYs every month, and I have learned how to be a military wife, counselor, taxi cab, teacher, mother, father, and whatever other role I need to do, so that my children have the support that they need. The separations that bother me, are the ones that are completely and totally preventable by taking a family’s situation into consideration when making decisions regarding one of the family member’s career. This is one of those situations. Many of the bases where the senior developmental schools are located are bases that my children and I cannot go to, because of EFMP limitations.
If we stay here, and he was sent to the school that is 3-4 hours away, my husband would be able to participate in my children’s lives. My son has made amazing strides when by participating in weekend activities with typical children. These activities are paramount to his continued development. He will be in Boy Scouts next year (he is Arrow of Light right now), he also plays soccer in the fall for the VIP special education league, and baseball in the spring league for the VIP league. While I can do soccer and baseball on my own, Boy Scouts will not only difficult, it will be impossible, and it would detrimental to my son’s development. This is the ONLY activity were he is in contact with typical children– again this is PARAMOUNT to his continued development. If my husband is far away, and cannot come home on the weekends, my son cannot participate in Boy Scouts. While I can attend many of the weekend activities with him, women are not allowed on most of the camping trips. He cannot progress in Boy Scouts, an activity he loves, and needs, without going on those camping trips. There is no one else who can go with him. My father passed away this past summer, and even if he was alive, his health is poor. My father-in-law is unfortunately, untrustworthy, and will not attend camping with my son. There are not many men in our lives that understands, or tolerates my son’s behavior.
I understand that the needs of the Air Force come before my needs, or my son’s needs, but I ask for compassion and understanding when it comes to making your decisions. I ask that you please listen to my husband’s boss in this matter, and read this. With raising rates of autism and ADHD among the military population, I am not the only parent facing this obstacle. I also am aware that my husband has the option of turning down schooling all together, but I also know that by turning down school, he is putting future progression in the military at risk. Recently, in SpouseBuzz there was an article that states that military families with special needs children tend to stay in the military as long as possible to take advantage of the premier health care. We are one of those families. We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize my husband’s ability to stay in the military beyond 20 years.
I know that this letter is a lot of rambling, and I hope you can understand why I am doing this. Please don’t take it out on my husband, we don’t need a general inquiry, and please don’t have the Chief of Staff spouse call me (the last time I wrote a letter like this, I was told to shut up and color by the AF Chief of Staff’s spouse). The way I look at it, my primary duty is to my children, and I will say and do what needs to be said and done to advocate for my children. I see it as my duty to show you how much power you have over the outcome of my children. I hope you see this as a means of educating you, and not something more. Thank-you very much for your service to our country.