Like so many things in life, the last 12 months of my representing you as the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® has been a humbling experience. I am in so many ways a better man because of the privilege you each have allowed me; to see each day the strength and tenacity of our military spouses and their families.
I see the best in our country in each of you…
… as you struggle to restart a career for the third or fourth time.
… as you advocate in every way and every day for our military families.
… as you sit day after day, month after month, tending your spouse who was wounded.
… as you watch your child endure their cancer treatment while your wife is deployed.
… and as far too many of you remember with such love and dignity
your husband or wife who died serving our great country.
I’ve focused my efforts over the past year on the concepts surrounding advocacy and where our military spouse community fits into the bigger scheme of making a difference. What does that advocacy look like, who can do it, and how?
If I could leave you with two lessons I’ve learned over the past year, they are these:
1. Addressing the needs of military families is a task that needs constant oversight. We can never take our eye off the ball. With too many competing interests in a fiscally tight environment, we must step up as a community or we are likely to be left behind.
2. Advocacy is more than just a phone call. It is more than a single letter you might write. Advocacy needs to become a mindset.
If you help one person or one family, that is always commendable. But we need to dig deeper. If you or someone you advocate for is experiencing turmoil, there is a great likelihood that many others are experiencing the same. Step outside your comfort zone to make a change for all those other families, even if it might mean stepping on some toes. Just try to step on those toes in a respectful manner.
Sen. Robert Kennedy, in his famous Ripple of Hope speech, first quoted Archimedes: “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.” Sen. Kennedy went on to say this:
“These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and then the total- all of these acts-will be written in the history of this generation… it is from numberless diverse acts of courage such as these that the belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Each of you is a ripple in the tide of the lives of our military families and our nation, as important as any weapon system. We are part of these “diverse acts of courage,” each of us, in our own way, at our own appointed time.
For the 2012 Spouses of the Year, our time has passed and there is a new group of amazing military spouses who will take the lead for the next year. My only hope is that I have been able to provide a glimmer, even the smallest fraction, of the energy and love that I have been surrounded with this past year.
In the end, I want each of you to know that it will always have been the highlight of my “career” to have had the privilege to represent you this past year.