Sunday, July 17, 2011


"The hoofbeats ain't comin my friends. We ARE the cavalry."

- Diary's Facebook status back in May and now one of my favorite reminders to myself. 


My friend Rachel chuckled a little. "Jess," she said, "I hate to say it, but it just amazes me that you, of all people think there's a cavalry for ANYONE."

I'd called to tell her how much it irks me that nearly everyone with whom I speak about the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act (CMKAA HR 2288) assumes that someone in my family must be in the military. They simply can't seem to absorb the idea that I would spend my time and energy advocating for military families with autism unless it was personal.

Guess what? No one in my family is in the military. It's still personal.

I am a pacifist. I hate everything about war.

I think we should get the hell out of Afghanistan and I don't think we ever should have been in Iraq. I don't even know what to think about Libya. I find the things that happen in the context of war abhorrent.

I believe in diplomacy. I believe in reason. I believe in finding common ground. I also believe that diplomacy and reason don't always work and that when faced with really bad people with really big guns whose only goal is wiping us off the face of the earth, there isn't a lot of time to find common ground.

I am a pacifist. I hate everything about war.

And I am grateful beyond measure to those who sacrifice so much - who leave their families; who miss births and birthdays, holidays and graduations, family dinners and kisses goodnight - all to put their lives on the line to protect US when the wolf is at the door.

I am grateful to those that they leave behind - who live as single parents, who pick up and move to entirely new places when the order comes, all while carrying the constant fear that their soldier may never come home.

And what of those who live that life with a child with special needs? My God, what then? According to the Department of Defense, 1 in 88 military dependent children has autism. 1 in 88.

How does one explain to a child with autism where Daddy's gone for 14 months at a time? What if that child doesn't have language? Puts a new twist on the whole thing, doesn't it? 

Of those 1 in 88, TEN PERCENT of them are getting the services they need. TEN PERCENT. I can't live with that. Can you?

You joined the Army at eighteen. You've put in twenty years. You've just returned from your third tour of duty and you're up for retirement. You've served your country with honor and it's time. You want desperately to be an active participant in your kids' lives. 

Not so fast, my friend. Tricare, the military's medical insurance, does not cover autism treatment for the dependents of retirees. At all.

Time to suit back up, soldier.

You call home from Afghanistan. Your wife is in tears. Again. The bills are piling up. She's trying to manage the debt, but it's overwhelming. Speech therapy is $95 an hour, ABA is $110 and the OT is raising her rates yet again. There's no more to borrow.

You tell her to do whatever she has to do. This is your child and he needs what he needs. 

You know full well that as your debt rises back home, your access to military clearance is in increasing jeopardy. Your next promotion is shot to hell. Your ability to do the job you do now might be too.

And so I fight for these families. I fight because these things don't get fixed in a vacuum. I fight because spending manageable amounts of money on intervention saves us unfathomable sums on indefinite care. I fight because it's a matter of military readiness. I fight because it's morally imperative. I fight because I want to see these kids grow into productive members of society. I fight because if I don't, who will?

The hoofbeats ain't comin my friends. It's time to saddle up.

For information on how you can - in two minutes or less, I promise! - support HR 2288, the Caring For Military Kids with Autism Act, please click HERE.


Jess can be found at Diary of a Mom where she writes about life with her husband Luau* and their beautiful daughters - ten year-old Katie*, an utterly fabulous typically a-typical rising fifth grader, and eight year-old, Brooke*, a loving, talented, hilarious almost third grader who has autism.

She also runs the 
Diary of a Mom Facebook page, a warm and supportive community of parents, friends, adults on the autism spectrum and some random people in her life who cared enough to hit 'Like' and probably now wonder what they got themselves into.


  1. beautiful. on behalf of my two friends with husbands in the military, the friends fighting to pay their therapy bills, I thank you for sharing this.

  2. Perfect, Jess.
    This is exactly why our military families need civillians to rise up and join in the call for change - we cannot do it alone.
    Ask any soldier why they do what they do and they will simply answer: because when they are stopped by a stranger who says 'thank you for your service' it all just comes together. Service. Service to our great nation, its people, their visions, freedoms and dreams.
    Our families are sometimes so exhausted from being the calvary that we need your help, too. Autism and other special needs are hard enough - living in the face of these kids of challenges in times of war is something we cannot continue to do alone. We need a bigger calvary than just ourselves.
    Thank you, Jess, for answering the call and being a voice for all of us who serve. Bless you.

  3. We found out after my husband came off active duty/deployment that our son had Autism. The deployment was very hard as there was little language and understanding on his part and our part. It blows me away to see that our military is not fully covered in this area. The insurance was the one thing I always loved. Seemed to be the best insurance out there, however we never had any big problems or alt least knew we had big problems. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Words can not express my gratitude for our military families. I am overwhelmed at what these families sacrifice for us. I thank Jess @ Diary of a Mom for sending the info that allows us to easily email our government to voice our support of this bill. I hope everyone who reads this post and my reposting of this post does the same.

  5. Jennifer and Rachel,
    Thank you for your families' service. We are so grateful and will do whatever we can to help care for your sweet kids.

  6. Thank you, my son's father was severely wounded in Iraq, and was forced to medically retire for this reason. Under this act, my son would be allowed to receive insurance for his Autism therapies that he does not currently receive because his father was wounded in war. Clearly, this needs to change. Every day that passes without my son in therapies is such precious time being lost. Please all, click the link on this page and contact your representatives telling them to support H.R. 2288 - on behalf of my son and many, many other children... THANK YOU!!!

  7. Angela F, thank YOU! and Angela, stories like that make my blood boil. Injured in war, a veteran is forced to retire, then unable to receive services for his or her child. Dear God, HOW DOES THAT MAKE SENSE?? Thank you for sharing your story here. Thank you for your service and all that came after it. God bless.

  8. Thank you to all the military families out there for what you do for us. And thank you Jess for making me aware of this issue! Consider me saddled!

  9. THANK YOU JESS for making it so easy for us to do this - we are here & ready to help!

  10. I am an early interventionist for my state and have experience as an ABA therapist. I also have a son in the USAF. The are no greater heroes than parents of special needs children and those who protect our country each and every day. Thank you to Jess for being an advocate. God bless you all.

  11. As Jess' Mom, I can tell you that I too am most grateful to our Military people and their families who serve to keep us safe.
    As a pacifist, I too would wish that we never needed war or protection. As the Grammy of a child with Autism, I find it abhorrent that we cannot protect all children and adults by providing proper care.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart! We will keep working for you, as well.

  12. Those who give so much get so little. It is shameful.

  13. First, let me tell you that I have no children. I am a substitute teacher of classrooms for children with autism. I've seen and spoken to husbands/wives whose spouse has gone to war and who have one or more children with autism. I thank each and every one of them and their spouses EVERYDAY for their courage, not just to be a single parent, but to try to turn their child into something resembling what most people call "normal.

  14. Jess, Thank you forfor m aking everyone aware and for effecting change...wrote to my congressmen and representative. Imploored my friends and family to do the same. Our military families deserve the best medical care possible. Absolutely unthinkable.