Military Spouse Magazine

OCT 2018

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Page 21 of 35

"Journey" is a gem studded with moments like this, where readers can feel like they're experiencing an important cultural shift alongside the name-brand couple telling their story. Gen. Schwartz's candor and thoroughness, his willingness to name names, and his touching personal reflections are memorable and compelling. His lessons on leadership and account- ability are especially important to transmit in the current historical moment. Some of his most controversial ac- tions, such as the directive to maintain government neutral- ity regarding religion, which he writes about here, have lasting historical impact. Still, as a military spouse myself, I was eager to page for- ward to Suzie's narration so I could get her take on what was happening behind the scenes. This was especially true for me toward the end of "Journey," when Suzie recalls traveling to Dover Air Force base with her husband as cas- kets of fallen service members are flown in for burial. She'd first been at Dover early in her husband's career, and she ad- mits that she was ill-prepared then to comfort the grieving spouse she had spoken to. Mortified by her own inability to help another Air Force wife through the worst moment of her life, "I vowed to learn how to do better—how to be part of the solution, not the problem." She got that opportunity in 2009, once U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates changed the administra- tion's policy to allow families to welcome their fallen at the dignified transfer ceremo- ny—when a plane containing a service member's remains arrives at Dover. As Suzie and her husband greeted the three families waiting one night, she was horri- fied to see those mothers, fathers, sisters, and broth- ers crammed together on folding chairs in a hallway. "This was not a suitable way to have the families grieve, and it was insult- ing for the United States of America to disrespect the memory of these he- roes in such a way," she writes. "Their families deserved far more than that country was provid- ing for them that night." For the next six months, Suzie called in every favor she had and "worked this like a pit bull in heat." When the 6,000-square-foot Center for the Families of the Fallen opened in 2010—her vision, realized—it was custom-designed to meet the needs of those who were at WHILE THE Y'RE AT WAR: THE TRUE STORIES OF AMERICAN FAMILIES ON THE HOMEFRONT By Kristin Henderson. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006 THE COLONEL'S L ADY ON THE WESTERN FRONTIER: THE CORRESPONDENCE OF ALICE KIRK GRIERSON By Shirley Anne Leckie, ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989 ARMY WIFE: A STORY OF LOVE AND FAMILY IN THE HEART OF THE ARMY By Vicki Cody. She Writes Press, 2016 WAITING WIVES: THE STORY OF SCHILLING MANOR, HOME FRONT TO THE VIETNAM WAR By Donna Moreau. New York: Atria Books, 2005 GLIT TERING MISERY: DEPENDENTS OF THE INDIAN FIGHTING ARMY By Patricia Y. Stallard. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992. IN LOVE AND WAR By Jim and Sybil Stockdale. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1990. Dover to honor the ultimate sacrifice. Every detail had been thought through by her. She describes a prayer and meditation room, private family sitting areas, a kids' room where children can watch videos, and volunteers who make sure there is fresh coffee and cookies. She even coordinated with Fisher House to open a facility next door, so families can stay close rather than having to find a hotel downtown. Around the time that the Center for the Families of the Fallen was created, I wrote about Suzie's efforts to change military culture in such a dramatic way. It's an odd thing to celebrate a beautiful building for incon- solable people, so for Suzie its opening wasn't a celebra- tion, but a long-overdue gesture of respect toward service members and their loved ones. "I'm proud of it," she told me then, modestly. In that moment she reminded me of some of the military wives I'd discovered when I was first looking for guidance on living within a system that expects so much from spouses and families. I thought of Martha Washington and her cadre of Revolutionary wives, collecting funds to keep the troops warm, dry, and fed. It was revolutionary, all right. She, and later Sybil Stock- dale and many others whose names we don't know, called in every favor to create something better for people who deserved more. In "Journey," Suzie Schwartz claims her hard-earned place in this tradition. H 22 MILITARYSPOUSE.COM / OCTOBER 2018

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