For years now military families have struggled to get help on issues they are facing living in on-post housing.
These issues range from lead contamination and mold, to brown “it is safe to drink” water. After these issues were brought to national attention, there has been a strong stance from the military on offering town halls, and open-door policies for those families to voice concerns and get the help that they need. In the beginning, there was a high number of residents reaching out with concerns. Now more than a year later each military base has seen a decrease in attendance. You hear time and time again that the lack of attendance just means there must not be issues.
But that is not completely accurate. Although there has been some change, these same issues of mold, lead, and brown water still plague military bases across the globe. Reaching out to those who have issues, you will find some are being actively fixed. However, it is not a far stretch that you will also come across others who have given up or decided to just live with it. So, what is preventing these military families from continuing to actively speak out?
Having a lack of knowledge
More families than you realize are not being taken seriously or in some cases are not even believed. What is the point when time and time again you are told mold is not mold, or that maybe those symptoms your whole family has are just a case of seasonal allergies? The clusters of black dots on your son’s ceiling are merely “tiny fingerprints” he somehow managed to make. That the brown particle-ridden water your child has to bathe in is “safe”! That the high lead level in your child’s bloodstream is something you did. Yet everything you read and educate yourself on tells you otherwise. But that lack of knowledge they brand you with because you are just a resident defeats you every time!
This is something that military families have seen for years. Cracks in the walls being painted over, leaking toilets being “fixed” four-plus times while water continues to bubble the linoleum. Mold sprayed with bleach and painted over. The spreading of tar over an entire section of the roof instead of finding a specific leak. Having mold remediation in your home only to have them visually call it clear. Fixing issues correctly the first time is key, but this is not something that always happens. At what point do you just give up because apparently that is the best they can/will do?
Being labeled as an overdramatic spouse or in my case a “wannabe neighborhood warrior” for being one of only a handful speaking up about issues that not only you have, but someone in the community has. Why should you not speak up for those who do not feel like they can speak up for themselves? Advocating for others is no longer looked at as a nice thing to do. Bullied and ridiculed by those in positions that are labeled as leaders and mentors. Not falling in line and being a proper “keep your mouth shut” spouse gets you labeled quick.
You get what you choose
How many times have you heard, “You should live off the installation if you do not like it?” This is a phrase that is heard often. I have heard it and know so many others who have as well. But why should we have to move? Military families choose to live on installations for many reasons. The connection to those around you, the amenities, the schools for our children, and being close to the service member’s place of work. There are even duty stations where the amount of basic allowance for housing does not allow that option to choose. Where living in on-post housing is the only thing affordable. The sacrifices that come with this lifestyle are enough. Families should not be told you get what you chose, live with it. These homes should be the same quality that comes with the amount of money they are being paid each month.
Retaliation | Reprisal
Then there is the fear of retaliation or reprisal. You hear time and time again there will be ZERO repercussions for speaking up. But the lack of trust military families have is for a reason. Housing companies overcharging during move out or threatening eviction. Involving the service members command team which in turn could go either way. There is little trust when you see rank bias or those who do speak up getting treated a certain way. There are military insulations that thankfully have the full attention of the Garrison team, however there are others where looks can be deceiving. When will we get to a point where these concerns are no longer a feared possibility? Housing issues will not be defeated if military families continue to fear speaking up.