To The Daily Sun,
"Free Bag of Apples for Furloughed Workers", that was the Miller Farm sign that received a lot of attention during Dover Apple Harvest Day this past weekend. In a region that has seen over 1,200 people temporarily left jobless by the government shutdown, people responded with gratitude and good-natured exasperation. Several branches of government employees were represented, Portsmouth Ship Yard workers, IRS, ATF, and Dept. of Agriculture. I was humbled by their appreciation of our small gesture of support and lost count of the number of people who asked me things like "what are they thinking in DC"?
I couldn't answer that question, but I know the impact that the government shutdown is having on a day-to-day basis because both my son and daughter are currently furloughed. While it's bad enough to hear that anyone would consider your kids "non-essential," seeing the impact on their lives has been difficult.
From a father's unbiased perspective, I have four really good adult kids. All have worked hard, found good jobs, and have played by the rules. My oldest son spent nearly 20 years in the U.S. Air Force before an attractive opportunity arose to work for the Air Force as a civilian. He and his wife, who stays at home to care for their three young children, my grandkids, are struggling. They have a mortgage and bills like everyone else. Money was already tight because of sequester cutbacks, but they've been doing everything right — working hard, raising a great family, and tightening their belts when necessary.
They're not alone, of course. Hanscom Air Force Base, where my son works, has seen deep cuts to its staff. Other military bases and federal agencies across the country have been forced to do the same. Many of the people that I talked to on Saturday are facing what my kids are facing or spoke about a family member in the same economic nightmare.
The news just gets worse. We learned last week that Headstart programs are being cut and that children with cancer have been denied access to an experimental drug that could save their lives. This week we found out that families of 17 fallen soldiers won't get the financial support they're entitled to in order arrange funerals, travel, and to settle the accounts of their loved ones. Some pretend that the shutdown cuts are minor. The impact of cuts like these are not minor and impact all of us on many levels.
Miller Farm is a small family business. My late wife and I created it to share with our kids and we've had a great time. The Dover Apple Harvest Day gave me an opportunity to send my kids, and other furloughed employees, a message of support. I hope my kids know that, if they need it, the Bank of Dad will be there to help. But seeing my children and our neighbors thrown into situations like this because House Republicans can't meet Pres. Obama half-way is more than frustrating, it's appalling. My daughter isn't helping her neighbors and my son can't do the work he does to keep us secure. Everyone is losing and it needs to end soon. I heard the message at our farm booth, I hope House Republicans are hearing it, too.