Several years ago, when her husband was still a junior Navy officer, Rosemary Locke recalled yesterday, they had to make one of those cross-country moves at an unsettling time that are a big part of life for a military family.
As they set out by car from Norfolk, they discovered one son had the measles. The second son came down with a case in South Dakota. By the time they reached Oregon, their daughter had caught it, "and she infected her Irish grandfather."
Locke, whose husband is now a rear admiral in the cruise missile program, is president of the National Military Wives Association. She went to Capitol Hill yesterday to describe some of the particular problems of military dependents at a hearing of the White House Conference on Families.
She was among about 300 people signed up to tell the White House what they think needs to be done to preserve the American family. The two-day hearings continue today at the District building.
The issues addressed (72 by official count) ranged across the whole field of potential pressures on the family, including abortion, drug abuse, domestic violence, gay rights, poverty and the family life of the elderly.
"About every 2 1/2 years," Locke said, "orders arrive. This may bring excitement and adventure, but in recent years, it has brought real financial hardship."
The military family, she said, doesn't get sent ahead at government expense to find a new place to live. Instead, "they usually arrive tired, having hurriedly traveled from the last duty station, to quickly find a place to live." The Defense Department estimates that military families spend $1.2 billion out of their own pockets each year for authorized moves, she said.
Part of the financial problem in this age of two-career families, she said, is that the wife -- who frequently must work -- can't develop her own career because of the frequent moves.
Locke's situation has been somewhat unusual for a military family. Her husband has been stationed in Washington for more than 11 years, and the couple has had a chance to develop strong ties in their Crofton, Md., neighborhood, where she served a term as an advisor to the Sea Explorers.
Despite the problems, she said, she believes a military career is "quite challenging and rewarding." And it can be exciting for the wife "if her husband has made her feel a part of it." As for the children, she said, her two sons are both in Navy ROTC at the University of New Mexico. near the Army-Navy football game. "Navy better win, or it will spoil my birthday.
Jerry Cammarata's concern yesterday was parenting and particularly the father's role. Six years ago, he said, he became "the first father in the country to have been granted a paternity leave."
It came about at the birth of his second daughter, Michelle. He had been working from 7 a.m. to midnight as a speech pathologist for the New York City Schools and as a private consultant, but he decided he wanted more time for his family.
"There was a tremendous amount of women's lib beginning then," he said, and he filed suit for the same four-year unpaid leave granted to new mothers. Before the case reached the court, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission acted in his favor.
He took the four years, using savings and moving in with the in-laws during the first two years and then working part-time as a consultant.
"I could have gone back in a year," he said, "but since mine was a test case, I felt I had to see it through for four years."
Along the way, he put into a book, "The Fun Book of Fatherhood," a game he and his wife play with their daughters. An animal game.
"Everything we tried to do, animals have done before us. Take child abandonment. A fish will lay eggs and swim off."
Or, "if we talk about dads who are tired and can't tolerate coming home -- that's like a panda.Fo a farther who is very much involved with the deep roots of paternity, look at the seahorse. He carries the eggs in his pouch."
It's a way of explaining, he said. The hardbound sold about 10,000 copies at $9.95, he said, and it has been out in paperback since June.
Cammarata's message to the White House was that Americans today "are being helped to death. We have allowed ourselves to be dictated to by flocks of teachers, psychologists, social workers, counselors, court officers" and other specialists.
"They are raising our kids," he said, and this has led to an erosion of the family because parents lack confidence in what to believe.
Ileana C. Herrell came from San Juan, Puerto Rico, 11 years ago to get her doctorate in psychology from the University of Maryland. She experienced the same culture shock that most of her fellow islanders go through when they arrive on the mainland.
That shock often can lead to deterioration of the Hispanic family, she said, that's what she wanted the White House Conference to be aware of.
In her case, the adjustment was smooth. She married a fellow graduate student and has worked for the Montgomery County school system. She is about the become the county's first Hispanic coordinator.
Herrell estimated there are 3,000 to 5,000 Pureto Ricans in the Washington area, many of whom will return to the islands when they retire from the government.
There comes a time, she said, when they start telling themselves, "I miss the mangoes."
To compensate for the sorely missed friends and relatives on the islands, she said, local Puerto Ricans have built up a good network of social organizations and have a newsletter, like a hometown paper.
To keep the home ties, she and her family fly back to Puerto Rico about five times a year, which means her two children speak both English and Spanish. That's an important point with her.
"If you mention my children, say they're bilingual."