Mrs. Sergeant Major
Dear President Obama:
Sir, I speak to you today as a proud and battle-tested military wife, a mother of two beautiful children and an advocate for HOPE, AWARENESS and CHANGE. I also speak to you as the mother of a charming little girl with autism.
My husband is a twenty-four-year veteran currently serving in the Active Guard Reserve as a Sergeant Major in an Infantry Battalion. He has served one tour in Kuwait in support of Operation Desert Storm and two in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The life of an active duty military family that also lives with autism is isolating. Frequent changes of duty station, cycling deployments and disruption of family life are all overwhelming hindrances to accessing therapies and support our children so desperately need. In addition, the demands on Reserve components activated since 9/11 equates to many more families answering the call to duty without the advantages of residing within a military community leading to even further isolation.
One in eighty-eight active duty military dependent children in our country lives with autism. That is a staggering thirteen-thousand warrior children fighting every day to be heard, understood and accepted. A truly unbelievable number of our brave men and women are fighting the battle of their lives this very moment on two separate fronts – The Global War on Terror abroad and Autism at home.
Our daughter was diagnosed with autism at the age of three while her father was serving in Afghanistan. I wish I could tell you, Mr. President, that I am the only person who has had to make that devastating phone call from seven-thousand miles away – ‘Honey, our baby has autism’ – but unfortunately the numbers don’t lie.
Since that devastating phone call last year, we have been fighting with everything we have for our daughter’s future. Thousands of our military families are doing the same.
Our military families are battling to get what we need from our school districts and our medical community. We are fighting to secure the therapies that have been PROVEN to help our children. We are pleading for TRICARE to provide autism therapies as medically necessary to ALL military dependent children, whether their soldier is active duty or retired. Because after twenty-four years of service, it is unfair to look my battle-weary soldier in the eyes and tell him he cannot retire because of our daughter’s autism.
We are in constant communication with our legislators. All the while, we are sharing our stories in the effort to demystify autism within our community. We are fighting back the exhaustion, frustration and tears; so that in the absence of our soldiers, our families can find the courage to keep moving forward.
Above all else, our family is working for our daughter’s future – for her physical health, her education, her success and her happiness – none of which can be won without first creating awareness in others.
We are battling for HOPE, AWARENESS and CHANGE. And just as our troops will continue the fight abroad, our families will do the same here at home.
Please, Mr. President, light The White House blue in honor of all of our citizens who live with autism.
I urge you to honor the thousands of courageous men and women who have answered your call to duty by answering ours. For it is our soldiers, and the families who serve alongside them, that are in need of a commanding battle cry sounding out for all to hear. Ours today is, ‘LIGHT IT UP BLUE!’
Mrs. Sergeant Major