Speeches & Floor Statements

Remarks Of Sen. Alexander - Military Parents Raising Children

Posted on June 18, 2003

Mr. President, I rise today to call attention to an important issue that will be considered next week. On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, chaired by Senator Chambliss, and the Children and Families Subcommittee will hold a joint hearing on the challenges facing military families. 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. And our national security is better served when our armed service men and women do not have to worry about the well-being of their families. Family readiness is an important part of military readiness. Our joint hearing here in Washington follows a series of field hearings held over the past several weeks. Earlier this month, I chaired a hearing of the Subcommittee on Children and Families at Fort Campbell to discuss how the Army is making it easier for military parents raising children and what can be done better. We heard honest and direct testimony about the challenges families are facing. On the same day as my hearing in Fort Campbell, Sen. Chambliss held a hearing of the Subcommittee on Armed Services Personnel at Warner Robins Air Force Base. The ranking member of that subcommittee, Sen. Ben Nelson, will later hold a hearing in his home state of Nebraska. This week I traveled with Senator Dodd to the New London Naval Submarine Base in Groton, CT, to hold a field hearing and learn how the Navy is working to support their families. I thank my colleagues for joining me in this important effort. Our subcommittees have learned much from these field hearings, and next week, on June 24, we will hear from policy makers at our joint hearing here in Washington. Our hearings have presented us with a picture of fewer soldiers, more missions, longer deployments, frequent moves, more marriages, more spouses working away from home and more children. The things that matter to parents in the military are the same things that matter to every parent. They want quality child care, good schools, comfortable housing, affordable health care, and reasonable pay. But military families have the added challenge of the stress and strain that goes with military life. In addition to the things every parent wants for their family, the spouses we heard from gave eloquent voice to their unique concerns. For example, they want to have more time together as a family, they would rather not move their school-aged children too many times, they want a meaningful career for themselves, they want to stay in close touch in times of deployment and need special support and help during that most difficult time. In the words of Gricell Medley, the wife of a commander of a Chinook helicopter company based at Ft. Campbell, "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." We are grateful for the service of our men and women in uniform. One of the best things we can do to show our gratitude is to help see that the federal government is as supportive of their families as possible. After our joint hearing next week, Senators Chambliss, Dodd, Nelson, and I look forward to coming back before you to tell you more about what we have learned and to recommend specific ways that we can help our military families raising children. Thank you, Mr. President.