I’ve watched the internet erupt in anger, sassy retorts, and frustration at the sheer lack of empathy exhibited by Tom Brady’s comments of comparing a football season to a military deployment. And trust me, I get the frustration- I have an iPhone note full of all the things I’d love to say to him.
Yet, I keep coming back to the why behind the comment. I don’t think there is an ounce of malice in it even though it feels that way. It feels that way because the current active-duty population is less than 0.5% of the American people.* That means 99.5% of the people those 0.5% serve and protect aren’t under same pressures to do more with less while keeping the wars off our shores.
The why behind the comment, is ignorance and a lack of understanding of what it truly means to serve and protect. Yet, this ignorance does not solely lie on Tom Brady’s shoulders.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve attended many meetings and conferences, I’ve talked to fellow military spouses, I’ve seen the good works of well-intentioned people, yet I’ve been plagued by this: we lack effective communication about where we’re really at and what we really need.
A lot of the discussions about meeting the needs of the military community comes from within its own ranks. Those of us that see the issues, continue to talk to others who also see the issues. We are discussing solutions in an echo chamber.
I acknowledge that I’m part of the problem. The years when my military life is hardest are the times I am least vocal about how much my family and I struggle. Even now, during this current season of deployment, I am overwhelmed with how to identify and ask for what I need.
A few weeks ago, I heard a presentation from the Blue Star Families team. They presented data from their Military Family Lifestyle Survey that was specific to Hampton Roads. One of the data points that stuck out to me is that 87% of military families live off base in Hampton Roads. I am part of that 87%. This means that I live in a neighborhood full of civilians.
As a Hampton Roads native this data point really struck me. I grew up in a military area, yet the military was always that thing, over there. It didn’t concern me therefore it didn’t affect me. Perhaps this is lens that allows me to give Tom Brady a slight pass.
But now I’m in it. It most definitely concerns and affects me, daily. While I know I will never get the entire 99.5% of the American population to be as concerned or as affected I as am by the day to day of national defense, what this offhand comment solidified for me is that I can be a better educator and communicator. I can step out of the echo chamber and engage the civilian population around me.
So here it goes:
We need your help. We need you to hire military spouses so that our families no longer face food insecurity. We need you to write to your Congress representatives to demand a minimum of Medicare rate reimbursement for Tricare providers so that we can make a doctor’s appointment. We need your friendship. We need invites to your homes, your churches, your after-school activities, even, no especially, if we will only be here for a couple years. To put it plainly, as Uncle Sam once did: WE NEED YOU.
A Seasoned Military Spouse who knows I can’t live this life on my own
*the active-duty population data link above shows higher percentage because the number they used includes the 2020 National Guard and Reserve forces. The percentage I used is the 2020 Active Duty ONLY: 1,333,822 AD/329,500,00 Total US population= 0.04% AD population
** I’m happy to connect anyone to people and/or organizations who do great work improving military family quality of life in areas such as: military spouse employment, food insecurity, mental health, children with special needs.