Create your balance. Design your life.

The One Where I Fly to DC to Support a Fellow MilSpouse

Today, I honor all Veterans, but especially my husband, who has the unenviable task of being far away from home and not around to talk me out of crazy hair-brained schemes, like flying to D.C. to convince Senators they are wrong.  This is an email I drafted to him a couple weeks ago.


Dear Sean,

It’s Thursday night. The kids are in bed, finally. We skipped trick or treating because the weather was awful, but hung out with the neighbors instead. The kids were pretty hyped up, so we watched the DVD of you reading Corduroy Goes to the Beach before bed and they settled down. They love you and of course miss you, as do I.

The last time we were able to talk on the phone, I was in the airport waiting for my plane to D.C. to take off. The connection was bad, as it always is from Afghanistan. I couldn’t make out what you were asking, but I’m sure it had something to do with our kids, my job, and our home being in Tennessee and yet me getting on a plane headed to D.C.

Looks like a lovely place to spend a Tuesday, right?

The group of military spouse attorneys that I am a part of, the Military Spouse JD Network, had recently published a profile of Patricia Millett, nominee to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Pattie is a great nominee — no one, Republican or Democrat, debates that she merits the position. Other than arguing 32 cases before the Supreme Court, leading a preeminent Supreme Court litigation practice in D.C., letters of recommendation from high-level legal leaders, including seven past Solicitor Generals (both Rs and Ds, if you’re keeping score) — Pattie is a military spouse. She met her husband, Bob, while he was on Active Duty stationed in the DC area. He recently retired after a 22-year career.

Me and you, we know first-hand the struggles that Pattie and Bob had to go through to build mutual careers while he served, first on Active Duty and then with the Reserves. It something we live on the daily, even when you are not deployed halfway around the world. That Pattie was not only able to survive but to thrive is a testimony to her hard work and tenacity.

Military spouses speak a different language than normal people. It’s a language created by twelve years of war, unending deployment cycles, and a military that is sometimes indifferent to the  needs of its families. It’s a language created by the fundamentally different experience, and one shared by fewer and fewer citizens, of sending a loved one off to war.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY), my amazing friends Mary Reding and Reda Hicks, Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI) at a Senate press conference supporting DC Circit Court nominee Patricia Millett.

Sen. Schumer, my amazing friends Mary Reding and Reda Hicks, Sen. Leahy and Sen. Hirono at a Senate press conference.

When you find someone who speaks your language, you don’t let go. All other differences — race, social status, education level, professional success — they all melt away. Pattie speaks our language. Like all of us, she knows what it’s like to wait, a life on pause, a breath held for months until her better half comes home. She has maintained normalcy for her children during a deployment. She has tackled solo parenting while juggling a full time job. The only difference is Pattie’s full time job meant regular oral arguments before the Supreme Court, a task that that slays mere mortal attorneys. To someone who regularly loses arguments to a three-year-old, this is all but inconceivable.

But Pattie’s nomination was at risk of falling victim to party politics, stellar qualifications aside. Pattie was in danger of being filibustered. To me, the failure of Pattie’s confirmation would be evidence of even more more political obstructionism. More stalled government. Shutdown 2.0. As military spouses, we had a short window of opportunity to do some in-person advocacy with Senators, and we jumped at the chance. Having someone who understands first-hand the struggles of military families in the halls of power is that important to us.

With little but a strong conviction that it was the right thing to do, I blew a small chunk of our savings and flew to D.C. to let Senators know that this nominee was different. Our message to Senators? Pattie is one of us. We don’t know how she did it, but she did, and now she deserves not to be filibustered and fall victim Washington politics. After 12 years of war, sequestration, government shutdowns and rampant military spouse unemployment, military families are tired. Pattie’s story gives us hope. Don’t take away that hope to make a political point. In our meetings with staff, we had good conversations, respectful disagreements, and some confirmations of support.

My friends and me with Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT).

Tuesday, our members stood side by side with Senators Leahy, Schumer, Feinstein, Hirono, Klobuchar and Blumenthal at a press conference urging support for Pattie. I met Sen. Landrieu, who was gracious and interested in our issues. We walked through the halls of the Senate like we belonged. And for just a quick second, I thought that we did. I came home Tuesday night exhausted and energized.

On Thursday, the vote. We knew our advocacy was a long shot, but seeing as how this would be the first fight back from the government shutdown, the parties were not particularly keen to work together. Pattie’s nomination was filibustered. Several Senators who assured us they would not block her nomination changed course and voted to filibuster.

Lawyers have trouble losing, doing it with grace is something that has to be learned. This group of lawyers, however, refuses to admit defeat. We’ll let more experienced politicos decide whether or not the “nuclear option” should be on the table. All we know is Pattie deserves a full vote by the Senate and not to be filibustered. She is different. This is different. Military families need a win. We need to see one of our own among the decision-makers.

Because, who knows? It could be one of us up there one day.

Okay, probably not me, but some other military spouse attorney. You know what I mean.

I’m back home now, back to balancing life, work, kids and deployment normalcy without the political excitement of the past week. You would think that would be enough, without adding impromptu trips to our Nation’s capitol to further complicate my already full plate. But I know you understand why this was so important to me. I will try to give you more notice next time I get the milspouse Bat Signal and jet off on an advocacy mission. I love and miss you, call soon, send more pictures.



smallJosie Beets is an attorney, military spouse, and mom. When she’s not at her day job (which she loves – hi boss!) she is Online Editor of the Military Spouse JD Network. Follow her on Twitter @JosieBeets.

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