Military Families Can Be Board Members, Too!

by Chelsea R. Hull, M.A. H&V Military Project

Dear California Hands & Voices State Chapter,

I want to thank you for accepting my application to the Board. Even though you knew I was a military spouse who would be moving, you let me serve. By adding me to your Board, you helped shape me into a better professional. Serving on the California Board as a regional member, on the professional advisory committee, and becoming ASTra-certified, you allowed me opportunities to continue my journey as an educator of the deaf. Spending time with the other board members allowed me to develop more insight into who I am and how I can better support families.

Looking back now, I realize how having had a mother who was “Hard of Hearing” exposed me to differences in others. I called her my Deaf Mommy, and yet nothing seemed different about her to me. Looking back now, I realize she was a miraculous survivor of the Rubella epidemic. My mother had congenital heart failure and lived through two open-heart surgeries. She taught me that life is short and to “do what makes you happy.” I adored my mother’s communicative nuances. I fell in love with her closest friends who were Deafblind, Hard of Hearing, and my very special godmother, a polio survivor. I feel fortunate to have grown up amongst a diverse group of adults. Becoming a teacher of the Deaf or working as a sign language interpreter felt natural for me. So did supporting parents. In a world with a plethora of diversity, why can’t we enjoy it all without a conflict of interest?

We do at Hands & Voices.

Jenny Swan, a fellow military spouse and H&V parent, and I began holding H&V meetings in Central California in 2017. We had no idea we would help establish a Hands & Voices Military Project (HVMP). We knew we wanted to help the state chapters to understand our desire, from a military family’s perspective, to belong to the organization despite our transient lifestyles. When LaShawna Sims joined our team, we continued to develop our goals and objectives, serving families and chapters within the H&V family. With so much in common, our message is a simple one: regardless of how much time we have in one place, we want to attend playdates, meetings, conferences, and hold seats on the Board.

The HVMP exists to bring an awareness that, sometimes, people are reluctant to develop friendships with us because they know–at some point–we’re leaving. When it comes to providing services to our military children, we may often suspect our school district will “wait us out.” We also realize, sometimes, that we, too, wait until we move to receive the services our child needs. These feelings we experience while we support our spouse’s career as he/she goes out and protects our country. We experience normal responses to extraordinary circumstances like deployments and geographical separations. When we combine the stresses and strains of frequent relocations alongside deployments, all while caring for a child with a particular concern, the supporting parent and the entire family faces compounding complicating factors. Then we must move again. When we’ve finally arrived at our new location and even have all of our furniture in place, we want to belong. We want the best of our kids, like anyone else. We want to be a part of this new city or town. And we want to be a part of H&V.

What services would you like to see for our military families, serving our country, and raising a child with a particular concern?

California, you are ready to embrace military families and provide support for as long as you have them. You are prepared to invest in families regardless of the number of years they may reside near you. You understand the value of investing in military families. Thank you for recognizing when we move, we stay members of one big Hands & Voices family. Alongside each other, we have more to learn by merely engaging in meaningful conversations and board meetings.

Thank you again, California H&V. Thank you for adding this teacher of the deaf to your Board. Thank you for giving life to the Hands & Voices Military Project and a professional committee in California that collaborates directly with stakeholders. Thank you for allowing me to reexamine my own bias and a personal belief system more than I have in years. You do good work. Keep doing good work until we meet again.

Editor’s note: Hull has now PCS’d to Anchorage, Alaska. You can reach her to ask her what ‘PCS” means in the military world. Learn more about the Hands & Voices Military Project (HVMP) and how it connects families across the globe to each other and to their local Hands & Voices Chapters.