Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004. Prior to Congress, Rep. McMorris Rodgers worked at an orchard, cleaned motel rooms, and worked at a McDonald’s franchise to save up for college. In 2006 she married her husband Brian Rodgers, a retired 26-year Commander in the U.S. Navy.
She gave birth to her first child in 2007, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome, inspiring her to become an advocate for the disability community. She has since given birth to two more children, making her the only Member of Congress in history to give birth three times while in office.
VetFran talked with Rep. McMorris Rodgers ahead of Military Spouse Appreciation Day, May 9. The conversation follows:
Jax Gordon: Between your career and raising three kids, you certainly have a lot on your plate! What advice would you give to military spouses who are currently trying to manage a career, a family, and still support their spouse who may be deployed overseas?
Cathy McMorris Rodgers: Take it one day at a time and know that there are people and resources out there who want to help. And make your voice heard. If you are struggling, there are many others struggling, too. Awareness of the challenges that military families are facing is the first step in helping us address these challenges.
JG: How has your experience as a spouse of a former service member affected the ideas and goals you take back to Congress?
CMR: The military community holds a special place in my heart. My husband, Brian Rodgers, now retired, spent 26 years in the Navy. We met after he retired, but his experience opened my eyes further to the realities of military service—especially the impact on families. Whenever I am a little grumpy about being apart from my family for a few days, Brian will respond: “think about those military families.” He has helped me better understand that when someone joins the military, it’s not just a job—it’s a family commitment to our country. And it’s our job to make sure they have the support they need.
JG: Each year you host the Military Family Congressional Summit with Congressman Sanford Bishop of Georgia. What does that entail? And what do you hope to achieve at the event?
CMR: Our goal for the Congressional Military Family Caucus, in general, is to put a microphone in front of military families to discuss the unique challenges they are facing and bring their stories back to D.C. so we can lead on their behalf. Through the caucus, we’ve addressed critical challenges that military families face, with a particular focus on mental health, Wounded Warrior support, health care, military spouse employment, the effects of multiple deployments, and education.
The summit brings together Congressional Leadership, Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve service members and their families with Department of Defense officials and military service organizations to discuss the most pressing issues facing military families today — pay and benefits, community integration and transition, and the health and well-being of their families and children.
JG: With your unique perspective as a Congresswoman, spouse of a former service member, and advocate, what do you think are the most pressing issues facing military families?
CMR: The issue I hear about the most as I talk with military families is the impact of frequent moves on military spouse employment and education. For nurses, teachers, or other occupations that require state certification, moving frequently can be a major issue. And for students who are having to transition to new schools in different parts of the country every few years, that can also take a toll. My goal in Congress is to look for solutions to these issues to improve the quality of life for our military families.
Thank you! More information on Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers can be found on her website, https://mcmorris.house.gov/.