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Family Matters Blog: Passing the Torch on Family Coverage

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2012 – Three years ago, I was in an editorial planning meeting here at American Forces Press Service where staff hashed out ideas for improving our content. We covered the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other DOD leaders voraciously. What more could we be giving readers?

Then came the voice of our then-new colleague, Elaine (Wilson) Sanchez. Elaine wanted to give a stronger voice to military families. A former military mom herself, her vision – that families matter, and we should say so -- gave birth to AFPS’s Family Matters blog. The timing could not have been better, as attention to military families has increasingly become part of leaders’ messages, from the commander in chief and the first lady on down.

I am humbled and grateful to write that as Elaine left us last week to pursue new opportunities as an Army civilian, she left her military family beat and blog to me. I promised to give it the care and attention it deserves.

In the case of full disclosure, I have not served in uniform, nor has my spouse, although both of us have spent most of our careers working for or around the military. I have covered the military as a journalist for the better part of two decades. I have written about pay and benefits, personnel issues, and hot topics of the day – from fraternization policies to opening more jobs to women to both the beginning and the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I have covered the military from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill, and, thankfully, from the land, sea and air with troops in training and on missions. In every assignment, I’ve tried to stay cognizant of the families behind the troops whose support makes their missions possible.

My father served in the Marine Corps, and if anyone doubts the adage, “Once a Marine, always a Marine,” I can vouch for its veracity. Although he left military service for civil service before I was born, he and my mother instilled in their children that there is no greater service than with the armed forces. Like many veterans I’ve interviewed in the twilight of their lives, my dad’s military service is among his proudest accomplishments and clearest memories.

I’m proud to say that my own children, ages 12 and 9, also recognize the sacrifices of military families. Growing up in the shadow of the Pentagon and four military bases, they have said many goodbyes to close friends and neighbors who had to move for their parents’ military service, and they’ve witnessed both the pride and sadness in those with a deployed parent.

As a journalist, I take my charge as being the eyes and ears for the masses, getting to people and events others can’t get to, and writing up important information in a way that makes sense and, hopefully, in a way not too painful to read. An editor once told me, “Write it so they’ll read it on the beach.” That can be a high bar when the information is coming out of Official Washington, but it remains my goal.

That is what I strive to do with the Family Matters blog. I hope to make sense of the plethora of information that relates to military families and write it up in a way that is both helpful and digestible. Also, there are so many service members and their families doing amazing, inspiring things. I’d like to hear from you about those, as well as the policies, laws and regulations that are on your minds.

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