Sylvia E. J. Kidd
AUSA Family Programs
I have always believed that life is a series of phases: Our childhood phase, young adult phase, couples phase and parenting phase.
We enter yet another phase when our children are finishing their high school years and preparing to leave home for college and become young adults themselves.
During that phase of my life, I truly became devoted to working on behalf of military families and finding ways to assist them to be better prepared to handle the challenges and hardships inherent to our lifestyle.
Now I feel the time has come for me to enter the next phase of my life, a time when I can again concentrate more on my family and also work on the many projects that I have been putting off for a number of years.
Hence, I am retiring as the director of AUSA Family Programs effective Dec. 31.
I joined AUSA almost 12 years ago with the mission of building the Family Programs Directorate.
My main priority was to empower Army families by providing them with information about their benefits, as well as the programs and other resources available to them.
I feel strongly that knowledge is power and enhances our ability to weather the storms in our lives.
I also wanted to share what I had learned through my experiences as a child growing up in the Army, as the wife of a soldier, raising kids in the Army and as the mother of a soldier.
I found that each of these phases brought different challenges and caused vastly different emotions and responses.
Over the years, we’ve seen many improvements in Army family quality of life, many of them due to the recognition that families have a strong impact on a soldiers’ performance and his/her decisions about remaining in the military.
The Army leadership has also come to acknowledge that families contribute greatly to the soldier’s unit, as well as to both the military communities and civilian communities in which they live.
Army leaders know that they must nurture families and provide a variety of programs so that, in addition to those which provide assistance when needed, there are also those that will help family members to obtain personal goals so they can grow and thrive.
I wanted very much to have a part in making sure that these programs continued to be available and remained relevant.
I want Army families to be strong and self sufficient because I know personally that it helps us build self confidence to know that we can handle the challenges we often face.
Therefore, I worked to build the different parts of our AUSA Family Programs to include the family events at the AUSA Annual Meeting.
My efforts and those of my two staff members, Karen Morilak and Je’La Dean, have resulted in having a Family Programs pavilion dedicated to organizations and programs that benefit Army families, as well as four Military Family Forums that provide our family members an opportunity to listen to and communicate with our Army leadership.
The AUSA Annual Meeting has long been acknowledged as professional development for soldiers and I am pleased that the Military Family Forums are now also recognized as professional development for spouses, volunteers and others involved with Army families.
Also, many military families will soon be entering another phase in their lives. The past years of war have been stressful for families, but their voices have been heard, and efforts have been made to address their needs so most have been able to maintain some normalcy.
Now the wars are winding down and many families will soon be reunited.
Their stress and turmoil, however, will not go away just because they no longer have to worry about so many separations.
In fact for many, stress may increase because they are going to have to address the myriad of issues that have been tucked away because they knew their soldier would be leaving again soon.
Becoming a fully integrated and functioning family again will not be an easy venture.
We also face the additional problem of funding cuts.
Although our country currently faces an extraordinary economic crisis, reducing troops and funding for the defense budget is a historical occurrence every time our military operations wind down.
Organizations that work on behalf of service members and their families are going to have to be especially vigilant to ensure these reductions inflict as little harm as possible.
Family members also need to join that effort and stay alert and knowledgeable about what proposals are being made. They need to continue to communicate with their elected and Army leaders to insure that promised health and retirement benefits among other things are not unfairly impacted.
Our military, through its service to our country, already provides the other 99 percent of our population with the luxury of freedom and security.
Many have sacrificed not only time lost with family, lagging pay and other difficulties, but also have given their lives.
Military families should not be at the top of the list for more sacrifices, but should be in recognized with more than just words for what they give every day through their dedication and patriotism.
I have no doubt that AUSA will continue to be the "Voice for the Soldier," and will remain vigilant and involved.
I am also confident AUSA Family Programs will continue to serve you under a new director, an Army spouse whom I have known for many years.
It has been a great pleasure to work with and on behalf of all of you -- telling others outside our military community about the Army family experience as well as working with Army leaders and many others to protect our quality of life.
Our military lifestyle is often challenging but I cannot imagine having lived my life any other way.
The Kidds have always been and will always be a proud Army family.
I wish you all the very best.
May the years ahead be filled with all of life’s blessings, happiness, prosperity and peace.
Thank you for your continuing service and dedication.