(IJ Review) President Obama’s comments that civilian Ebola workers shouldn’t be routinely quarantined because they’re special volunteers have left some military families muttering, ‘What about us, Mr. President?’

The President said if volunteer doctors and nurses are quarantined, there will be fewer willing to do it. He left the impression civilian volunteer efforts were more important than those of the military.  Here’s a key excerpt reported by The Hill:

When we have volunteers who are taking time out from their families, from their loved ones and so forth to go over there because they have very particular expertise to tackle a very difficult job — we want to make sure that when they come back that we are prudent, that we are making sure that they are not at risk themselves or at risk of spreading the disease — but we don’t want to do things that aren’t based on science and best practices.

Because if we do, then we’re just putting another barrier on somebody who’s already doing really important work on our behalf. And that’s not something that I think any of us should want to see happen.

On the other hand, all military troops coming from Western Africa have been ordered quarantined 21 days after leaving the hot zone. The President said that was OK because the military is different. From The Hill:

It’s part of their mission that’s been assigned to them by their commanders and ultimately by me, the commander in chief. So we don’t expect to have similar rules for our military as we do for civilians. They are already, by definition, if they’re in the military, under more circumscribed conditions.

That may be true, but some military family members, including Rebekah Gleaves Sanderlin, think he’s dissing their sacrifices. The Army wife and board member for the Military Family Advisory Network told The Hill:

The President’s comments on the differences between the quarantine policies for members of the military and civilian volunteers seemed to dismiss the fact that every member of military has, indeed, volunteered to serve. In pointing out that the civilian volunteers would be sacrificing time away from their families, the President failed to consider that military members also have families and in this, our 13th year of war, most have already sacrificed years away from their homes and the people they love.

Susan Reynolds, who is a columnist and Air Force wife told The Hill:

We are an all-volunteer force. To say that we’re not volunteers as well is insulting to us. To say that those healthcare workers’ time with their families is more valuable than the time that my husband spends with me and our son — it’s very insulting.

 

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