|Photo taken by me at the Flight 93 Memorial
in Shanksville, PA, October 2011
I could write this Memorial Day morning about what books I’ve read this week. I could post photos of the flowerbed project I so proudly completed yesterday. I could tell you about the elderly woman all alone eating a sundae at the next table at Eat’n Park yesterday as I enjoyed lunch with Boo and how she looked so damn sad, like she was missing someone this holiday weekend … and how I decided to pay her $12 bill for her, just because.
I will tell you about all of those things. But they can all wait.
Because today is about something a little more important than books and gardening. (It does tie in with the whole idea of paying it forward, though.)
A bit of background. This post that follows comes from A Diary of a Mom, which is written by my friend Jess, who has a friend named Rachel. I don’t know Rachel very well, but I know her story … mainly because Jess has written about it extensively on her blog (and I follow Rachel’s blog, Welcome to Stim City.)
I also confess that I have not taken as much forceful action for this cause as I could have and, more importantly, should have. I’ve posted the links to my Facebook page. I’ve liked numerous other posts on the issue. I think I blogged about it once. I signed the Change.org petition.
I hope, after reading Jess’s words and those of Rachel’s as to why this is important, you will do so too.
From Diary of a Mom (because, as always, she says it better than I can):
If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ve heard me talk (ad nauseam you might say) about the absolutely egregious lack of care for our nation’s military children with autism. You’ve also undoubtedly heard me talk about my friend, Rachel, who is leading the fight to fix it.
Yesterday, Rachel sent the following letter to every single chief of staff of every single member of the Armed Services Committee. When she shared it with me, I knew I had to share it with you. Because together, we can help to right this disastrous wrong. We can step up to the plate to care for the families of our nation’s heroes just as they step up to the plate every day for us. We can, in twenty seconds or less, do the right thing.
If you’re pressed for time, please feel free to simply click HERE and then be on your merry way. If not, then read the following to find out why this matters so damned much.
Thank you and God Bless.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Armed Services Committee Offices.
My name is Rachel Kenyon. I am a proud and battle-tested Army wife and mom of two beautiful babes, one with autism.
Currently, “TRICARE” military healthcare provides less than half the recommended treatments for autism, and only to children of active duty service members.
Service members who retire after more than twenty years and Wounded Warriors forced to medically retire are stripped of what little treatment TRICARE allows via the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO).
On Thursday, May 17, 2012, Congressman John Larson took to the House floor armed with embarrassingly large photos of our little family and made the case for Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act to be included as an amendment to the FY2013 NDAA. It worked, because for Mr. Larson, this had become personal. It worked because Rep. Tom Rooney had the courage to walk up to Chairman Buck McKeon and tell him it was personal. Mr. Rooney has two nephews with autism. Mr. McKeon did the right thing, because now he understood, it was personal. The amendment passed as part of the NDAA in the House.
Senator Gillibrand attempted this past week to do the same in the Senate Armed Services Committee markup session. The amendment was rejected.
I contact you today because this fight is so very personal for so many of us serving our country each day. Not only do I want my husband to feel that his more than 25 years of service warrant the medical care our daughter with autism needs, but I want my daughter to have the security of being able to access the tools that can give her a richer, more meaningful life.
It’s personal because I now hold 23,000 other children in my heart, and more than that many parents who serve our country. I love them as I love my own. I want them to feel proud of their country’s service to them in return. I want them to sleep at night, knowing that though autism may have knocked on their door, they can live their lives to the fullest with the care they need and deserve. It’s personal.
I know once you read the attached comments from your constituents, both military and civilian, you all will choose to do the right thing. To take this fight personally. To share with your fellow staffers and your Senators and Representatives that our families are proud. That our children are worthy. That if just one military child was denied the cancer treatments he or she needed, we would not be wasting time with emails and petitions. A true American who hears that 23,000 military children are being denied the medical standard of care for autism takes that personally. Well, for real American patriots, it is so very personal.
I appreciate your time and I wish you all a fun, relaxing Memorial Weekend in remembrance of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Our little family will be spending another weekend living with autism in our house and struggling to understand why we have to fight this battle, too.
Mrs. Rachel E. Kenyon
Wife to Command Sergeant Major William W. Kenyon
Mother of two beautiful babes – one with autism.
Ed Note: As promised in the letter above, Rachel passed on scores of comments to the Armed Services Committee. You can read them all HERE. But of the comments, one stood out to me the most.
Jennifer Lockwood Stafford VA 22554 United States 5/26/12
“I am signing this because My husband has 25+ years AD Army Special Forces, and we have an 8 year-old son with Autism. My husband has deployed multiple times throughout the various wars, which our country has been involved in since the 90′s, risking his life each time. He recently returned from a yearlong combat deployment in Afghanistan and is scheduled to deploy again in August.
My son was diagnosed with Autism at 3 years old and began Applied Behavior Analysis therapy from the age of 4 years via the Extended Heath Care Option (ECHO) Program. Although the recommended amount of ABA therapy is 30 – 40 hours/week, my son only receives 10 hours/week, not near what is recommended, but better than nothing. Due in part because of these services, my son has gone from functioning as an 18 month old to functioning of a 6 year-old; And this would not have been so had these services not been available.
Although my husband has more than enough years to retire from military service, he cannot retire for fear of losing all autism therapies for our son, because retirees are not eligible for ECHO services. As stated earlier, my husband will soon be heading back to Afghanistan for another year-long deployment. What I think is important for you to know is that if my husband is injured while serving his country in Afghanistan, and forced to medically retire, my son will no longer be eligible to receive autism therapies. Additionally, if my husband is fatally wounded while serving his county in Afghanistan, my son will no longer be eligible for autism therapies.
My husband has made many sacrifices for this county and his family. I’m signing this petition because the medically necessary therapies that my son requires should not preclude him from having a father present in his life.”
From me: So, here it is again: http://www.change.org/petitions/congress-make-recommended-autism-treatment-available-to-all-military-children