As a military dependent (spouse is retired Army) I have a military ID. Like a driver's license, it has a limited life span and requires renewal. My time had come. Yesterday we headed up to Fort Campbell, home of the 101st former-Airborne-now-Air-Assault to take care of updating my ID.
There's lots going on at Fort Campbell. Buildings are coming down, offices and departments are being moved here and there, and there's evidence to suggest that they're on the eve of new construction. Fort Campbell is now home to a Special Forces unit, growing even as we speak, which explains some of the activity.
The ID renewal office had moved, and after checking in and collecting my "take a number" number, I had barely taken my place in a chair when my number was, in fact, called. I liked this place already. I have a heart for efficiency and short waits.
The electronic sign on the wall told my number to report to station 8, and I went in search of it. The chair behind the desk was empty, but we sat down dutifully. While we waited we noted that the date on the wall calendar was highlighted in neon green, with the note "last day" written with emphasis. In short order, the woman at station 8 returned to her desk with apologies for making us wait.
While Jennifer took care of the necessities of updating my ID card we chatted. Last day? Yes, she said. Her husband was deploying soon, and she would be staying home with her kids. Her two sons have autism, and there was no provision for them to attend local child-care and school. (I confess I have forgotten some specifics of what she told us--was it day care? school? The boys have IEP's, so I'm thinking school). This got my newly discovered Irish up. Ken's, too. We asked more questions.
It turns out that forty-percent of the kids on base at Ft. Campbell have autism. FORTY PERCENT. And there is no provision for them to attend school. We were utterly dumbfounded. Jennifer has written her congressional representative, written the Pentagon, written to Obama, with perfunctory replies. We brainstormed with her about who else she could write, what else she could do, and then it struck me. The families of individuals with autism should not be the only advocates in this fight. This is, of course, stating the obvious. I guess it was the fact that our government, vis a vis the military, was ignoring the plight of a significant portion of its citizens that put me in gear. I'm attributing my response to being hit by the drop that makes the cup overflow. As of yesterday autism awareness and a role in raising it joins my list of causes.
Support our troops? You bet. At home and abroad. And that means their families, left behind as single-parent households with the added burden of daily prayers and concerns for their loved ones in harm's way. And for this pacifist, it's the perfect way to live one set of values while not compromising another. In fact, it's the perfect way to do my part, to support the men in women who make a different choice than I could ever make, and show my love and yes, patriotism.
Will you join me? I will try to learn more about the specifics at Fort Campbell, and see what I can learn, as well, about provisions elsewhere affecting military families, as well as others. My dear friend Jayne has a son with autism. Ken's cousin, Teresa, has three children with autism. And there are so many others. We are all touched by the reality of this difference in the lives of people we care about. It's time to show the love and share the fight.