By Andrea Scherpich
Here’s how my adventure began: There was something big in the works and a chance I could get involved. There was just one catch, it was top secret and I didn’t know anything about it except that it was a once-in a lifetime experience and I would be sad if I missed it. I cleared my schedule! My name was thrown into the mix with other deserving Military Spouses from Twentynine Palms, CA. To say I was curious would be an understatement. I was dying to know what was going on!
Several days later, I received a call to please attend a meeting the following morning; no other instructions were given and so I arrived to the location anxious to find out what was happening. The coffee and muffins were served as I and a handful of MilSpouses came in and sat socially distanced. I recognized a couple faces, but there were also a couple of new ones. It was a small group of five or six women and one male spouse. We were notified that we had been chosen as the five Military Spouses who would be meeting with a special guest on base! We all knew at this point that the First Lady of the United States, Jill Biden, was coming soon, so it was a big moment realizing that we would be able to sit down with her for a roundtable.
Each of us was chosen based on our particular experiences as Military Spouses. I have a child with special needs, and also two kids in high school, so I have tons of experience navigating EFMP (the Exceptional Family Member Program) and also the local school district. I am also a seasoned spouse who has been through multiple deployments and separations over the years. These are all things that Dr. Biden is interested in learning about. We were given some information and told that there would be more coming in the next few days. We were also given the choice to decline (no way!) and, if we wanted to attend, we were asked for personal info in order for the Secret Service to do a background check.
So began one of the most exciting events of my life! I was going to meet The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden! This was all pretty hush hush; we were allowed to tell our spouses and that’s about it. The next couple days passed in a flurry of writing my bio and sending in a headshot to the White House staff so that they could get to know us a bit, and getting a COVID test. We were given instructions on where to show up and a rough time frame of when we would be meeting her and having a conversation — but no location or other details. It was very mysterious!
Finally, the day arrived — Wednesday, March 10, 2021! I woke up in so much anticipation and got ready still not knowing if I would be indoors or out, so planning for out in case there was wind. It ended up being extremely windy. Those who live in the desert know how quickly it can flip from warm to cold and that’s exactly what happened! We met at the designated location, got a briefing of the day’s events, and then we waited… and waited… and waited. After what seemed like forever — but was only 45-50 minutes — we were walked to the location, which was indoors, and given a chance to familiarize ourselves with the process.
The team from MCAGCC (the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center) was so helpful and professional. There were six spouses in total from every walk of military life, from a young wife with only five months on base to a seasoned spouse with over 25 years as a Marine Corps Spouse. We were each introduced to Dr. Biden and then given a chance for a picture with her (masks on of course).
The purpose of Dr. Biden’s visit was to talk to families and see what is working and what is not on our base. We live in a remote area in the High Desert and there are many challenges faced by those stationed here. It was really great to have a chance to express some of those concerns and know they were heard. We were not coached, or given any specific topics, although we were told that the White House staff had chosen each of us based on different areas we have experienced. We spoke candidly with the team for about 30 minutes.
The topics included things like EFMP, Medical, Housing, The Child Development Center, etc. We also discussed what is working and what resources we have personally utilized. It was exciting to talk to the team about the successes on this base, programs like L.I.N.K.S and the Desert Leadership Seminar that are providing spouses with education and resources to anyone who wants them. All in all, I feel so fortunate to have had this chance, not just to meet the First Lady, but more importantly the chance to bring issues that are important to Military families not just here in my little desert, but all through the Armed Forces family!
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