Dempseys Discuss Challenges, Benefits of Military Moves
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
GRAPEVINE, Texas, June 27, 2012 The frequent relocations common to military life may be challenging to families, but they also are one way children become resilient and adaptable -- attributes critical to the military of the future, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey made the comments as part of an informal “fireside chat” at the National Military Child Education Coalition’s 14th national training seminar. He was joined by his wife, Deanie, and retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs, a Medal of Honor recipient and vice chairman of the Medal of Honor Foundation, who asked the couple broad questions about today’s military.
The Dempseys moved 22 times in 36 years of service, they said, and all three of their children have served in the Army.
“In some ways, it is a burden,” the general said, “but it also is how our kids become resilient and adaptable. Part of being adaptable is being introduced to unfamiliar circumstances.”
It is those attributes that the military is “really going to need,” Dempsey said, “because we never [predict] the future right.
“In some ways, the military profession and its values and the versatility you have to have as a military family is really quite strengthening,” he added.
That resilience and adaptability starts with how parents handle the moves with their children, Mrs. Dempsey said. “It starts with the family and if you make each move an adventure -- and you’ve got to really sell some places,” she said, drawing laughter from the audience.
Also, “it’s the fraternity of the military family,” she said. “You can say [to the kids], ‘You will make new friends,’ or ‘You’ll be with Johnny and Susie from two moves ago.’”
Many military children grow up to enter the military themselves, Mrs. Dempsey noted.
“If it were that bad, they wouldn’t serve, too,” she said.
Military families also have more support than ever, the Dempseys said. As demands on military families skyrocketed after the 9/11 attacks and through 10 years of war, Americans have responded, many through public-private partnerships, which the chairman described as the best form of support. He credited the nonprofit education coalition as being one example of such support.
The chairman also credited the “Joining Forces” campaign created last year by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, for its efforts to raise public awareness of military families’ challenges and sacrifices and to call on all sectors of society to support them.
Such organizations are “making a difference,” Dempsey said.
“This is about public-private partnerships. This is not the government imposing the idea that we should take care of service members and their families,” he said. “It’s about the government advocating that [support of military members and their families], and about the people of the United States’ communities and corporations stepping up.
“That’s partly a reflection of what we’ve asked our service members and their families to step up and do in these past 10 years, which is remarkable,” he added.
It also has helped, Mrs. Dempsey said, that there are many more programs today to help military families, and fewer divisions among rank.
“It used to be that officers and enlisted wives were separate,” she said. “At the end of the day, we’re all military spouses and we all just want them home.”