Posted on April 14, 2005
More than half the men and women in the United States military are married. About half are parents raising children. Military men and women choose their profession. They choose to marry. But in order to continue to attract and retain the most talented volunteers, we must do whatever we reasonably can to make it easier for military parents raising children. All of society benefits when children grow up in strong, nurturing, attentive families. We are holding this hearing today to see how well the Navy has done in making it easier for military families raising children and what can be done better. Schooling, housing, child care, health care, pay, taxes, frequent moves, deployment, and reintegration are all issues that impact our service members as well as their families. Earlier this month, I chaired a hearing of the Subcommittee on Children and Families at Fort Campbell to discuss how the Army is dealing with these issues. We heard honest and direct testimony about the challenges families are facing on post. Our hearing presented a picture of fewer soldiers, more missions, longer deployments, frequent moves, more marriages, more spouses working away from home and more children. For example, Gricell Medley, the wife of a commander of a Chinook helicopter company, told us that out of the 17 months since their youngest daughter, Emma, had been born, he has been gone 15 of them. During the 21 days he was home between Afghanistan and Iraq, he was spending most of the time training and preparing for his next mission. She said, "There must be a sense of proportion. Our husbands want to serve their country. They want to be good soldiers, but they also want to be good husbands and fathers." On the same day as my hearing in Fort Campbell, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, chairman of the Subcommittee of Armed Services Personnel, held a hearing at Warner Robins Air Force Base. The ranking member of that subcommittee, Sen. Ben Nelson, will hold a hearing in his home state of Nebraska. I thank them, along with Sen. Chris Dodd, for joining me in this effort. Our subcommittees will learn much from these field hearings, and we will reconvene and hold a joint hearing in Washington on June 24. I thank you for having me here on base. I thank you, our witnesses, for being here and talking with us. I look forward to learning from you, and with that, I'll turn the hearing over to my colleague, Sen. Dodd, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Children and Families.