Military spouses commonly hold a misconception: you have to keep your political opinions to yourself because you don’t want to “impact your service member’s career.” I’m here to dispel that myth and encourage military spouses to GET INVOLVED with politics. Our voices and stories need to be heard!
While it is true that according to the DOD Directive 1344.10, Active Duty service members need to stay non-partisan whenever they are at work or in uniform, we as spouses are not required to do the same. The decisions that our government makes directly impact our lives in unique ways. While the transient lifestyle of a military family can be extremely challenging, one positive is that it occasionally provides opportunities for direct action.
In October 2020, our family was excited as we said good-bye to Florida. My husband and I were fulfilling our long-term dream of retiring in Hawaii with our two children Mihailo (9) and Jemma (8) – the place where we first met and fell in love in 2003. Unbeknownst to our family, we were stepping into what would be the fight of our lives, and many other military families on the Island of Oahu. When my family and I arrived on the island, we immediately started showing symptoms. I had a battery of unexplained medical issues such as gastrointestinal, neurological, vision, esophageal, as well as multiple miscarriages to name a few. Over the years I heard of the fuel leaks from Red Hill from local media broadcasts within the military housing where we lived, but I would dismiss my intuition that the leaks were causing severe medical issues because the Navy would always say that their water and housing were not in the affected areas.
What eventually changed was the strength and knowledge I acquired over a year’s worth of fighting to stay as healthy as possible with little-to-no help. Over time, I learned to advocate not just for my littles, but for myself as well. I finally found my voice and was not afraid to use it anymore.
When the news finally broke that there was another massive leak, but reporting insisted that the water was fine, I knew instantly this is what was making me, my family, and our dog so sick all this time. This started a mission that I morally could not walk away from. I was raised with the beliefs that “if you see something you say something” and to “stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.” When the water contamination was confirmed, I wanted to advocate for myself and my family. I thought maybe no one would hear my voice and was extremely shy. I started by sharing anonymously, believing this would be respectful to my husband and to the military – an institution we have dedicated our whole lives to. As time went on, I continued to report the severity of the issues to any and all authority of power, but I felt ignored
So I took the next step and went to all of my neighbors directly and informed them of the contamination. I started documenting any and all issues. I donated and delivered over 100 cases of water to those affected, and raised donations and pledges for another 150 cases to those still receiving minimal help. I accomplished this through the love, support, and collaboration of local advocates, as well as other military families affected.
Next, I decided to go live on social media and show others what I was seeing, teaching others how to spot any issue in their home. This led to many other military families receiving help and ceasing to use the water in any form. Never did I imagine so many would watch my posts, videos, or lives, but I am very thankful they are.
Most recently, I have also had the opportunity to take my concerns to Washington D.C. along with Major Amanda Fiendt and their legal team. I met with 9 Congressional leaders and demonstrated the truth of the unfathomable reality that so many are living in Oahu. Our recommended courses of action included:
- Clean water for all, with a third party investigation and proper medical care provided for those who are exposed to contaminated water for life
- Compassionate transfer and permanent change of duty station (or ERD) for any and all who desire to leave Hawaii due to contamination – especially for our EFMP families or those that are severely ill.
- Whistleblower protection for spouses. There is currently no protection for the spouses who speak up about this problem, and many are not speaking up because they fear retaliation.
As I press on with my advocacy, I hope the water contamination in Hawaii is addressed by our President and Department of Defense leadership, as military families are heading into their 4th month of living without clean water.
Editor’s Note: As a result of tireless advocacy by folks like Jamie, on March 7, 2022 the Department of Defense announced it will permanently close the Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility.
Jamie Simic is currently living in Florida, she moved off island with her family March 4, 2022. Jamie is currently a stay at home mom due to her being poisoned by the Navy. Jamie has been a military spouse for the past 16 1/2 year’s and now that her spouse has retried she plans to finish her last 3 classes to complete a double major in psychology/criminal justice with a minor in early childhood education from Chaminade University. Ms. Simic is a very passionate as driven mother of 2 who by no means is done in terms of advocacy and standing up for those whose voice isn’t being heard. This is issue has become not just a pain but a life’s main to ensure every person has clean water and a voice.