Oprah, First Lady Focus on Military Families

Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey, courtesy of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The number, 5, 892 deaths, and the longest war in American history: two facts Oprah opened her January 27th show with.  This show was aptly titled “The Bravest Families In America.”  Tom Brokaw started his portion of the show with a simple statement, if you don’t know someone fighting then you can’t care and you don’t think about the sacrifice these families are making.

It’s true. How could you possibly understand the sacrifice when you hear the statistics, less than 1 percent of our population is bearing 100 percent of the battle.  This number is astonishing to me. I suppose that may be because I have been surrounded with the 1 percent my entire life.

Corey and Jenny, courtesy of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

On the Oprah Show, we first meet Corey Briest and his beautiful family.  Corey was wounded by an IED and three of his fellow soldiers did not survive the attack.  This family is living every military family’s nightmare.  My tears flowed freely as Corey’s wife Jenny explained that Corey used to read to their daughter, but now she reads to him.  I imagined what if this were Brian and of course my tears flowed with even more force.   Jenny said, “This is the love of my life and I am going to do anything for him.”  With that one phrase, Jenny Briest summed up every military spouses’ feelings precisely.

Throughout the program my phone chimed several times, my fellow spouses texting me, asking if I was crying as hard as them. My friend Alaina saying, “They are ‘ARMY STRONG’ amazing.”  I couldn’t help but smile.  She is right. They are a great example of what our Army’s slogan represents.

Every few months Theresa visits her son's grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

Then there was Theresa, who will never stop mourning the loss of her son Michael.  When she pulled “Corduroy” out to read to her son, my heart sank.  My mom read that book to me and I read it to my babies.  I will never again read my girls that book without think of the young fallen hero who rests in section 60 of Arlington, the saddest acre in America.

I was happy that Oprah finally called some attention to the things military families endure. However, why did it take Tom Brokaw coming to her to dig deeper?

In order to cover all the bases, the show also portrayed a blue star family, the Blackmore’s.  I was thankful they included this aspect, as I can relate deeply.  Carmen Blackmore is involved with her FRG (Family Readiness Group) and has moved  a good number of times.

The Blackmore family's home is any where the Army sends them.

When Carmen showed her “Home is where the Army sends us” sign I actually looked at my mom and told her how cute it was.   I felt for Carmen, when she said they want a third child but they are going to wait because her husband is deploying and if they got pregnant right now he would miss the first year.

My husband has missed the first year for both of our children.  This is our reality. With all of this said, this segment left me very frustrated.  They just scratched the surface of what blue star families endure.  I think Oprah could probably produce an entire mini series showing the ins and outs of military families’ daily lives and how we are one huge family helping each other through everything.

The show repeatedly pointed out how isolated military families are and how blind a majority of America is to our lifestyle. This is a start, but there is still so much more to tell. The producers didn’t show a pregnant wife’s pride, crying during the National Anthem,  because her husband is part of the 1 percent.  They didn’t show the little kids who think their parent is just at “work” while they are thousands of miles away.

Oprah neglected to show how the military community comes together to help each other with the kids, the house and just daily life.  There was only a passing mention of how much military families give back to the civilian community.

Much of the show focused on wounded warriors and gold star families, as well it should. However, blue star families make up the majority of the military.  And while they mentioned there are problems other than physical wounds and/or death, they could have gone deeper.

How do we cope with the anxiety of our soldier coming home?  How do we work through PTSD etc.  Michelle Obama said that while on the campaign trail she was made aware of such families, and we became her mission. But, why did it take two years to launch this initiative?

First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah are working to raise awareness of the sacrifices military families make for the country.

Oprah and Michelle Obama asked the rest of the country to think about what they can do to help military families. Michelle Obama actually said people don’t know we need help because we don’t ask. I suspect she meant that it was a point of pride for military families to be self suficient, but that’s not the way it came off sounding to me.

I thought, do we really need help?  Awareness yes, kind thoughts and generosity sure, but help?  I guess there is always room for improvement, ha, higher pay, aid to military members who own homes in other states, better jobs for spouses, child care that is affordable so the spouse can work etc. Michelle Obama said she is trying to get military spouses better employment options.

But when Oprah asked what can American’s do to help us, Michelle Obama’ suggested “a girls night out” and “manicures.” While this show touched me, made me cry and made my heart ache, I also had a few “What the heck Oprah?!” moments.

Anyone wishing to show support for military families can go to serve.gov to learn more.

Jackie Dorr is an Army spouse, mother of two, president of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club and contributor to Off the Base.  Her other entries include:

Five Years, Two Kids and Four Deployments Later

“I Love You the Mostest!” an Army Spouse Goodbye

The Day I Saw My Future Husband Cry

Computer Kisses Keep Daddy Close

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