My friends asked me to tell you: if you want our vote, pay attention

Dear candidate running for office, I’m a third-generation military spouse.

If you want my vote, pay attention. Don’t assume you know what I’m going to say.

The diversity of our military and their families is a gift to democracy and their example is instructive.

We come from all walks of life, every faith and no faith, affluent and impoverished families; urban, suburban, and rural communities.

We don’t always agree, but we do always find a way to work together

And regardless of whether we lean right or left, there are quite a few issues we agree on firmly.

My friends asked me to tell you, if you want our vote, pay attention, you need to know:

Our service members (obviously) didn’t sign up to serve to get rich but we expect our elected officials to care about our bottom line. 

Flexibility may be the key to air power, but our military and their families shouldn’t have to be yoga masters to make ends meet while serving their country.

It is unacceptable for 1 in 4 military families to be eligible for food assistance through SNAP, WIC, or school-based free meals.

Our military families shouldn’t be negotiating chips in the Washington waltz for defense appropriations.

Stop hijacking the budget for political gain and promising pay raises to get our vote.

My friends asked me to tell you, if you want our vote, pay attention, military families care about:

Military families need access to timely and trustworthy healthcare.

Military families rarely see the same provider for more than 1-2 years.

Consequently, too many health concerns remain undiagnosed or unresolved every time we move.

Continuity of care shouldn’t be a luxury – it should be a foundational principle for military providers and a promise to military families.

Routine appointments and referrals to specialty care shouldn’t require hours of phone calls, only to be disconnected because the clinic uses an antiquated system.

We deserve pediatric and family practice clinics fully staffed with professionals who understand the challenges we face.

Military families want to know our kids will receive an excellent education.

Far too often the locations of our military installations align with cheaper real estate and subpar school districts.

Consequently, too many military families are forced to accept lower quality schools.

Others cannot afford better options or local policies restrict access through lottery systems or preferential treatment for local residents.

We deserve elected leaders at all levels of government who do more than simply praise the sacrifices of our military kids.

Demonstrate your gratitude by ensuring every U. S. military child has access to the high-quality education you want for your child or grandchild – they deserve no less.

Military spouses deserve more than a line in a speech – we need tangible support. 

Although we didn’t sign up for this crazy life as a military spouse, we find a way to love it.

(I may criticize challenges here, or among my friends, but I won’t stand for critical civilian commentary.  Say “thank you” with purposeful policies.)

Choosing to marry into the military shouldn’t be a death sentence for military spouses’ careers – nor should it make saving for retirement impossible.

We want elected officials who do more than herald blue star and gold star spouses by parading them out at political events.

Make military spouse license reciprocity the nationwide norm rather than the exception to the rule in a handful of states.

Establish a retirement savings plan that goes with us when we move.

Ensure access to affordable childcare and early childhood education for military families on every military installation.

My friends asked to me tell you, if you want our vote, pay attention, we need more than platitudes – we need policies that save lives.

Military spouses are the heartbeat of every community, but too many of us are nursing broken hearts.

We are weary of fighting for our children’s health and education while attempting to maintain a career.

Every day we see the stress on our military members asked to do more with less.

It’s enough for many to want to quit.

Sadly, the statistics prove it.

In 2017 – the first year for which the DOD had statistics on military dependent suicide – suicide ripped holes in 186 military families.

According to the most recent report, we lost an additional 193 military dependents in 2018.

Whether it’s active duty, reserve, national guard, veterans, or military dependents too many members of our military communities are silently fighting battles of life and death.

Enough is enough.

My friends asked me to tell you, if you want our vote, we’re looking for leaders like this:

Our service members salute as a sign of respect.

We want leaders who honor their service by caring for their most precious treasures: military spouses and families.

Our military understands the greatest good is done by those who seek to serve rather than be seen and celebrated.

We need leaders who recognize the responsibility of elected office and steward it wisely with integrity.

Our men and women in uniform serve all Americans.

We deserve leaders who do too, whether we vote for you or not.


Katye Riselli, 18 moves, voting in California

Katye Riselli is a third-generation Air Force spouse. She previously served as speechwriter for Mrs. Laura Bush and as a founding member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She lives in California.