Posts Tagged ‘Deborah Mullen’

Today I watched the hail and farewell for Adm. and Mrs. Mullen. The speeches were wonderful with sincere heartfelt appreciation. The Admiral showed everyone the love and respect he holds for Deborah, as well as his boys. He read his wife’s letter to the rest of us; the milspouses for whom Deborah Mullen has worked, advocated, and been a friend to.

“Nothing can be more trying at times than life in the military — the deployments, the stress, the uncertainty and the fear,” the admiral read. “But then, nothing born from ease and comfort can ever foster the pride and the resilience that military families exude every day. It has been my honor — my deep honor — to be a military spouse and a Navy wife, and to know so many others who wait and worry and work so hard.”

Mullen concluded the message from his wife, “Thank you for your quiet sacrifice and for empowering me to represent your concerns. It has been the greatest privilege. I will miss the life and I will miss all of you.”

It is no secret, at least from anyone who has read anything I have written about Deb Mullen, that I am a great admirer of hers. Let’s be frank, I’m a huge huge fan.

A couple of years ago, I was volunteering at a Congressional Military Family Caucus event and my post was at the desk where the nametags had been set out. Other Senior Spouses had come to the caucus, with advisors and aides trailing along behind. A woman approached the desk, and in a quiet voice let me know that the staff had misspelled her name. I looked up at a lady, with no entourage, who I recognized immediately. After we corrected her name, she sat at my table, we began to discuss with the other members of the group various aspects of military family life. At this function, only first names were used. The ideas came fast and serious, and criticism of senior military members was free-flowing. “Deborah” had to leave for a family engagement, and after she left some of the other table members were wishing she could have stayed. One point I asked didn’t any of you know who she was? No one else seemed to and were in shock when I told him who she was; Deborah Mullen. She was easy to talk to, had great ideas, and wasn’t shy about giving them.

Today I watched as the Admiral and Mrs. Mullen held hands as they were “piped ashore”. We in the military spouse community are going to miss her, are going to miss both of them. I always felt that caring for military families was more to them than just a subject for speeches. Her gentleness and compassion were brought up over and over today. She may have been gentle, but the lady is no pushover. I remember her standing in front of a huge conference and asking how do you think you can help military spouse suicides when you aren’t even counting them. She didn’t overtly “ wear the rank” but her quiet authority was undeniable. I have read of her gentleness and kindness to the families of the fallen and wounded, and the care that she takes, e-mailing and writing to many of the family members.  As Sec. Panetta said she has been at the forefront of issues, especially the special challenges of military children, she is a “powerful voice of military families”.  While none of us begrudge her a quiet retirement, I can only hope she will continue to give us the benefit of her knowledge and compassion.  In her words – we will miss her.


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Today was the day the latest effort by DoD to help military spouses with their employment issues was officially unveiled.  The Military Spouse Employment Partnership .

 The Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) is developing partnerships with local, national and international businesses to support the workforce needs of both the military spouses and the companies with which we partner. Through MSEP, not only does the military spouse benefit, but so do our company partners.

This program was originally the Army Spouse Employment Partnership, but as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy) Robert L. Gordon III, said – all the services took a look at this program and  jumped aboard.  The program has been connecting military spouses and employers, and encouraging employers to work with military spouses to get them jobs that are not just entry level, but are career level jobs.

Mrs. Deborah Mullen was introduced by Secretary Gordon as a titan  – as a voice of the military spouses.  (and you all know that I stand in absolute awe of Mrs. Mullen, and couldn’t agree with Secretary Gordon more)  She, as always, said it succinctly.  She told her audience that military spouses aren’t asking for rules to be broken, they know the economy is tough, this isn’t about entitlement, it’s about opportunity; they want a chance to get a foot in the door.   As she said, a job isn’t just a job, it’s respect, self empowerment and the defeat of impoverishment of the spirit.   The lady can turn a phrase!

Dr. Biden was on hand to reiterate that this is also an important issue for herself and the First Lady, that they are Joining Forces with this initiative as well.

I was on a followup roundtable phone call this afternoon with Secretary Gordon and his team.  There were some great questions and information.  Did you know that the wage gap between what a military spouse and the equivalent civilian earns is 25%?  We earn 25% less than our civilian contemporaries…  That just sucks.

Secretary Gordon talked about the vetting process – how the employers become partners and how the program will be checking up on them, it’s been streamlined but it’s still “robust” – they can’t just stand there and say we support military spouses, they will have to prove it!

The question of how the site works, they are still working on it (did you know the site was designed by a milspouse?  Money where the mouth is, in practice!)  and a few of us were hoping it might integrate with USAJobs.  (btw, we are all encouraged to head over to the site, kick the tires, and if there’s a problem, let them know)   A resume that is sent to an employer from MSEP’s site will go straight to that company’s HR department, no middleman involved, and with a “watermark” that shows it’s from MSEP.  The HR departments (where we all know the final decisions are made as to which applications are accepted or not) are being or have been trained in what military spouse resumes look like, (as in we aren’t  job hopping because our resume shows 9 jobs in 12 years!)

We talked a bit about how to market this new program to milspouses.  After all, I can hear some of you from HERE

Another program.. more talk, less action.

After MyCAA, you think I’m going to trust these people?

Yeah Yeah, DoD really cares about me, they just screwed up my employment history again…

And I’ve thought the same.  So I’m going to take Secretary Gordon up on his challenge to hold their feet to the fire.  If this isn’t working, we’ll need to make some noise.    BUT, we also need to give them a chance.  So let’s get the word out that this site is here, that there are some pretty big companies out there who have signed this agreement to hire us, to work with us to help us stay employed and help support our families.   Some of the jobs are going to be entry level, but the partners have committed to not just filling jobs, but to helping spouses with continuing sustainable employment.

I asked about the certification/licensure aspect of employment for milspouses.  This has been a huge issue for many of us.  MSEP isn’t specifically set up for that, but Secretary Gordon told us that there is a group in his office working on this with the States themselves, on the legislative level and with Governors’ offices.  There are some states that have partnered with them, to streamline the process.  There’s a website that is working on many issues that were determined to be quality of life issues, not just spouse employment – USA4 Military Families    If you head over to the site, you’ll see the list of 10 issues, and certification/licensure is number 5.  There is suggested language for bills etc.  Might be a good call to your local/state/federal legislator?

Do I think this is the silver bullet that will magically change the dire employment issue for military spouses?  Oh hell no.  Do I think it’s a start?  Am I cautiously optimistic that this program might help some spouses get jobs?  Yes.  We’ll see.


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Deborah Mullen, one of the best advocates for military families, has a blog post on the Family Matters Blog at DoD. Here’s one of her points.

But as I meet with military families across the country, it is clear to me that a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan has challenged them, stretched them, and tested their resilience and strength in unprecedented ways.

She goes on to talk about how she and the Chairman both feel that the connection between the military families and the rest of the country.  As she says:

It is evident to me that people care and want to help. Often, they just don’t know what to do to support our military families in the ways they need it most, particularly as they transition back to their communities and to civilian life.

This month is Military Appreciation Month. I hope that civilians use this opportunity to connect with a military family, to connect with groups that are supporting the families.  There are a lot of groups, but what I’d like to see; would be a family in the neighborhood who is going through deployment being cared for by others in the neighborhood.  I’d like to see employers giving a military spouse a break when he or she needs to get time off to say farewell or hello to their servicemember.  I’d like to see a church or other place of worship do more than pray for the family in their midst, and pitch in to help them.


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I happen to be a HUGE fan of Deborah Mullen, the wife of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. She is one of the best advocates for us, for military spouses. When I’ve met her, she’s been down to earth, ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work. She uses her voice, her status, to give us all a voice. This speech, given at the Military Health Services Annual Conference was one that made me stand up and cheer.

She talks about anticipatory grief, secondary PTS, the situation of children missing school because their parent is unable to get up; the abuse of alcohol and drugs.  She talks about the lack of tracking, the lack of ability to get to the spouses.  She talks about the stigma still attached to mental health issues, that we still worry about the negative impact on the servicemember’s career.  She discusses the spouse who is given 5 meds and no followup appointment and no referral to mental health; the 1/15 rule.  Why are we failing to look at the totality of the problem, why do we expect the young spouse to look after the service member, but not herself.

This line resonated with me:

You do not have to put on a pair of combat boots and patrol outside the wire to suffer the effects of war. If it is keeping you from living your life and loving your family, you owe it to yourself — and frankly the military owes it to YOU — to get the help you need.

As Mrs. Mullen says, we have all sorts of programs, training, but we don’t have a place to find them all!  And we need time to recover.

They want time to explore and understand what is happening to them … and the patience and understanding of loved ones, friends and the system itself.

We need to reach out to each other.  We need to keep talking to each other.  Recently, a friend of mine decided to “go dark”  as she dealt with some stuff.  We made sure she was ok, safe and that she knew we were there.  Did we hover?  Maybe.  Did we think she was suicidal? No.  But did we want to make sure she knew we were there if she needed us?  Yes.  That’s the difference.

I talked to my husband about Jessica’s letter on her blog.  When he read it, he remarked that the symptoms seemed like those he had heard to watch out for during all his training – the infamous “don’t kill your self, don’t kick the wife or the dog” when you reintegrate training and the new resiliency training.  Since we aren’t (for another few days) in a unit that conducts resiliency training for families – I’m going to go find some at ACS.

I for one, would rather be a pest – I’d rather you hate me for being a pain in the ass – because you have to be alive to hate me.  That’s what I care about.  That you are alive.


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