Getting a Word In

Friday, April 30, 2010
 I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to a class of graduate students on Tuesday of this week. The class was studying mental health issues and the presentation was on particular stresses that the military puts on military children. As the father of two military children, I was a perfect fit.

My key issues came down to the pros and cons of the military for our kids and the kids of other military families. Of course I discussed issues like discipline problems, behavior issues, problems with moving, etc. But what it really boils down to is health care. As a father, I can make up for a lot of things. I can spend a lot of time with my kids to show them that I didn't abandon them during deployment and I've even found some ways to enforce discipline even when I'm gone.

But I can't fix cystic fibrosis. That is why I titled my post "Getting a Word In." CF didn't hijack the discussion at all, but I felt it was important to discuss it with the class because they may very well face other medical issues that compound mental health issues someday, especially as it relates to the military.

For example, Alicia and I are moving our family to Dahlgren, Virginia in July/August of this year. The treatment center is about 90 minutes from the base I'm being stationed on. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't convince the detailer that my situation trumped "Needs of the Navy." So we will go to Dahlgren. Many of you know that most CF clinics have a social worker attached to the team. I discussed with the students Tuesday that, should they find themselves working with kids who travel a long way for health care, that this could be a compounding factor in whatever mental issues are taking place.

It felt good to honestly discuss what was going on in our lives at the moment without having to fake anything or feel bad about how I felt.

The last thing that I talked about was respite care. One of the grad students in the room is our provider, so I got to thank her publicly for her work on our behalf. It is a vital service that the Navy provides in some locations for families with special needs. It has saved Alicia while I was on deployment, and since then, more than once. I'm grateful for the service and we will miss it when we transfer to Dahlgren.

Cystic fibrosis is a nasty disease. Getting to talk about it, in conjunction with our lives as a military family, helped me realize how I felt about some things. It was great. And the class was perfectly respectful. I loved every minute of the presentation.