Military families reveal challenges, possible solutions ahead of President Biden's visit Friday

Monique John Image
Thursday, June 8, 2023
Military families reveal challenges ahead of presidential visit
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President Biden and his wife will speak to service members and their families at Fort Liberty about the special issues they face in the military.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- President Biden is coming to Fort Liberty on Friday after he makes a stop in Rocky Mount to discuss workforce training for students.

The president and first lady will speak to service members and their families at Fort Liberty about the special issues they face in the military.

Rhonda Bright admits military spouses like her have a lot on their plate.

"With that military spouse being gone, being TDY (temporary duty assignment) for a year or even longer, it takes a toll. And it becomes a mental health issue, too, not just for that service member, but for the spouse because we're taking on everything," she said.

Jovonne Mason, now a caretaker and power of attorney for her veteran father and mother, said her father's life in the service has been tough for her, too.

"My life is service to my parents. That is my assignment," Mason said. "I'm not working because who can go and say, 'oh, no, I've got to leave because this has happened.' Or, 'I can't come to work these three days this week because one day is going to be spent at UNC, another day is going to be spent at Womack and the third day is going to be spent at Cape Fear.'"

Mason said having to look after her father's health has put her career in human services on an indefinite hiatus. She wishes there was more support for caretakers like her that could give them some relief from their parents' needs.

Experts said military families are dealing with more economic hardship today than in generations past.

"We're very used to the stigma that exists around seeking mental healthcare but that stigma also trickles into resource needs--whether that's employment insecurity, food insecurity, housing needs, even childcare needs. That can feel very isolating," said Jennifer Smith, the clinic director of the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone.

Mason calls on the government and healthcare system to give veterans--and their families--more respect and support. After watching her father struggle to get the healthcare he needs, she strongly believes strengthening medical care for veterans in North Carolina is a must.

"Healthcare in this state is abhorrent, and that should not be where you have this large military community and so many people are falling through the cracks," Mason said. "It shouldn't be like pulling teeth to get service for someone that gave three decades of their life serving and fighting for this country."