Executive Director's Message

Mike - OARConference  2004Executive Director's Message
November 10, 2009

In some respects this project has been almost 40 years in the making, beginning when I was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps in July 1969.  In less than a year, I was on my way to “WESTPAC” and my first leadership assignment.   Beginning then and in every stop after, the Marine Corps taught me that a leader’s first and most important charge was to “take care or your men and women.” This responsibility extended beyond training, combat, and military affairs to taking care of the families of the people we led as well.

For me, that sense of responsibility was re-awakened with new purpose after we founded OAR, and I met people like Karen Driscoll, a Marine wife, autism Mom, and recipient of OAR’s 2009 Jae Davis Award for Community Service; LtCol Scott Campbell, USA, another autism parent-champion helping other military families dealing with autism; and Joe Valenzano, a Marine in earlier days and today CEO and President of Exceptional Parent Magazine, and another advocate and champion for military families that have family members with special needs and disabilities.  I had been looking for the combination of purpose and opportunity to extend OAR’s work to military families touched by autism.  Each of these persons helped guide us through personal example, insight, inspiration, and encouragement.

The stars came more closely aligned in June 2007 when OAR’s Board of Directors gave the green light to develop an OAR initiative that would help military families touched by autism.  They completely aligned that October when the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation awarded OAR a grant of almost $41,000 to create Operation Autism and produce Life Journey through Autism: A Guide for Military Families. You are looking at the result.

This Web site and its companion Guide for Military Families stand as OAR’s way of offering continuing support to military families with children on the autism spectrum and saying “thank you” to them for their service.  Our hope is that the resources and the information we offer meet their needs and guide them well in their personal journeys with autism.  At the same time now that the resources are available, OAR and each of the persons who have contributed to this effort can enjoy the feelings of satisfaction and pride that come with knowing that they have indeed done something meaningful for others; in this instance, those people are the men and women who serve in uniform today and their families.  Just like 40 years ago, it’s called “taking care of our own.”

The timing of the launch of Operation Autism could not be more appropriate. Today the U.S. Marine Corps celebrates its 234th birthday, and tomorrow is Veterans’ Day. Happy Birthday and Semper Fidelis to my fellow Marines, and as celebration gives way to reflection tomorrow, we say to all who have gone before and to all men and women serving in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard and all their reserve components today, thank you for your service. Offering this resource for military families touched by autism is our way of returning the favor and giving your families and you the best information we can provide. I hope you find it useful.

Sincerely,

Michael V. Maloney

Executive Director
Organization for Autism Research