But Not Alone: Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays - DIPNOTE
(U.S. Department of State Official Blog)
December 24, 2015
The nature of diplomacy has changed since the events of September 11, 2001. Today, a number of State Department employees serve around the world in roles where their jobs and living situations lack many of the simple creature comforts and normalcy we are generally accustomed to. And in many cases, for matters of safety and security, these employees are asked to serve in difficult circumstances without their loved ones nearby. The individuals who choose to serve on unaccompanied tours – whether in Kabul, Islamabad, Baghdad or any number of other high-risk posts – are doing an amazing service for our country.
As we approach this holiday season, we are reminded of the importance of keeping the children and families of our diplomats serving on unaccompanied tours in our thoughts. Although these family members are not deployed themselves, they – like loved ones – are serving their country and also deserve our thanks for the sacrifices they make in the name of diplomacy.
This sentiment is the driving force behind the Office of the Chief of Protocol’s annual holiday reception for these important members of the State Department family. It allows us to extend our thanks in person for the sacrifices these family members are asked to make when their loved ones take on duties that require them to be apart for extended periods of time. Secretary Kerry captured the sentiment well in his remarks last week when he , “I express my personal, deepest affection for and gratitude to every single one of you for serving your country the way you do. It’s a remarkable gift, and we treasure it.”
This year, we were proud to host a performance by three members of the Tony Award®-winning Broadway hit “Matilda the Musical.” It excited us to see the joy in the eyes of the children in attendance as they decorated craft keepsake boxes to preserve their most treasured items for sharing with their parents upon return from their tours abroad. Our annual reception is only one way the State Department recognizes the sacrifices of these children while their loved ones are serving abroad. As Secretary Kerry noted, “We aim to help people through difficult times here at the Department.”
Through the Medals and Certificates Program, the Family Liaison Office (FLO) has arranged for nearly 6,500 medals to be awarded to children as symbols of our appreciation for their service to our country. The medals are a tangible recognition that children are doing their part here at home while their parents serve this country abroad. FLO also provides year-round support to these families through workshops, counseling and coping skills sessions, networking activities, and offers online resources to support the unique challenges parents and children involved in unaccompanied tours may face.
I join Secretary Kerry and the broader State Department family in expressing my personal, deepest affection for and gratitude to the growing number of employees and families who are separated during unaccompanied tours. Know that you are in our thoughts today and every day of the year, and we wish you a joyous holiday and happy New Year.