Honoring Military Families

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I am here this evening to express my unwavering support for the men and women who have answered the call of duty in our military services, our Guard and Reserve, and for their family members whose love and steady support for them have carried our servicemembers through challenging times and difficult missions.

In honor of Veterans Day, coming up the day after tomorrow, and Military Family Month, which we observe all month long this November, we need to reflect on the enormous contributions military families have made on behalf of all of us.

Since September 11, the spouses, children and parents of our service men and women have been faced with huge demands. They have endured repeated deployments, and spent many holidays and birthdays and anniversaries apart from each other. We should do everything we can in our communities to help military families cope with the difficulties and stresses of these multiple deployments.

I commend First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden for their commitment to our troops' families and for their work on initiatives to address the unique challenges military families face in this environment. I especially appreciate the First Lady's recent visit to Rhode Island. It provided a warm and welcome boost to military family members in my State, which has the second highest per capita National Guard deployment rate of all the States, as well as a significant active-duty presence at Naval Station Newport.

With so many men and women leaving home to serve on multiple deployments, the strain on the family can be particularly difficult. Last month I had the privilege of meeting two extraordinary Rhode Island students, Kathleen Callahan, who goes by Katie, and Kaitlyn Hawley, who presented a powerful and compelling message to school superintendents and educators from across Rhode Island who came together to learn about how they can better respond to the needs of military families.

These two impressive young ladies shared their personal stories and described the challenges their families faced while their parents were deployed. The event was part of a collaborative initiative to help military-connected children thrive in school through deployments. I was proud to share in this joint effort with the Rhode Island National Guard, with Governor Chafee, with our Commissioner of Education, the Commanding Officer of Naval Station Newport, our Military Child Education Coalition, and my senior Senator, Jack Reed.

Katie is the daughter of a National Guard member. She described how her father's deployment affected the roles in her family. Like most children of deployed servicemembers, Katie assumed additional responsibilities in caring for her younger sibling and helping her mother, whom she referred to as a superwoman. Together, they shouldered the burden of her father's absence and kept the family intact and sound.

Katie described the feeling of--to use her words--silent suffering that can occur when military families feel isolated in civilian communities that may not completely understand what it is like when a loved one is deployed.

Kaitlyn is the daughter of an active-duty member. She talked about her experience living in eight different States and attending seven different schools. Kaitlyn is a highly motivated student and she explained how she threw herself into her schoolwork during her father's deployment. However, she cautioned that for other students, the opposite can also occur. Some students may have a lot of difficulty focusing on their schoolwork when a parent is deployed half a world away. As Kaitlyn so well put it, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to coping with the stress of deployment.

I am proud of Katie and Kaitlyn for their courage, their resilience, and their powerful articulation of a message that I hope everyone hears. We owe our military families an enduring debt of gratitude for everything they have done. We should do everything we can to ensure that no family feels isolated or left out or endures the silent suffering Katie described. I hope every American, as we approach Veterans Day, will actively support our military families, and do what we can to make our communities more welcoming and supportive in accommodating their needs.

As Veterans Day approaches, let's celebrate our military families and recognize their extraordinary contributions. Let us thank not only our service men and women but also the spouses, children, and other family members who have shared in the sacrifice of military service. We should also remember the families of our civilian and intelligence servicemembers deployed in danger and away from their families around the world.

In concluding, I wish to also express my strong support for the bipartisan legislation the Senate is considering to boost employment opportunities for veterans. Unemployment has been disproportionally high among veterans and we must act now. The last thing our returning service men and women need is to have to face an unemployment line. I urge my colleagues to swiftly pass this much needed legislation, which I am very proud to cosponsor.

I yield the floor.