Medford resident Stacy Bannerman, who helped push a military family medical leave act through the state Legislature and prompted the introduction of a similar act in Congress, now has her sights set on creating a landmark military family advisory council in Oregon.

Medford resident Stacy Bannerman, who helped push a military family medical leave act through the state Legislature and prompted the introduction of a similar act in Congress, now has her sights set on creating a landmark military family advisory council in Oregon.

Bannerman, whose husband, Lorin, returned from his second tour of Iraq last year as a member of the Washington Army National Guard, was scheduled to make a proposal late this afternoon to the state Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in Salem to create what she believes may be the first state military family advisory council in the nation.

Made up of military family members, the council would advise the state on issues relating to Oregonians in the military, their families and veterans, she explained.

"With the protracted wars and multiple deployments, military families are struggling with finding day care, health care, dealing with relationship issues, domestic violence and deployment-related financial and mental health problems," she said. "Military family members are the primary unpaid caretakers of veterans. When a veteran comes home with a physical or psychological injury, the whole family hurts, but help for the family member can be hard to find.

"The council would provide a voice for our military families to assist the state, including the Oregon military (National Guard) and Department of Veterans Affairs, in better serving us and our loved ones," she added.

Although the council would be new, the idea is not new to Bannerman.

"This is something I have been championing for about three years now," she said of creating such a council. "This is clearly necessary with the demographics we have today."

Most people in the military serve multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, she said, adding that most also are married with children.

"These (wars) are not short-term," she said. "We can no longer pretend that military family support, particularly for the Guard and reserves, is adequate. This war on terror is demanding we begin to acknowledge and formalize support and service for the military families. The council is about acknowledging that we've got experts on the ground."

Military family members are experts by virtue of bearing the burdens of repeat deployments and caring for veterans, she said, noting the council would be modeled after state veterans' boards.

Bannerman also is the founder of the Sanctuary for Veterans & Families, which provides sanctuary weekends for women veterans. In addition, the facility advocates on behalf of the women who serve at home and in harm's way.

Bannerman lobbied the Oregon Legislature before its approval in 2009 of a military family leave act which provides up to two weeks of time off for employed military family members during the mobilization of a loved one. The leave, which is unpaid, enables family members to spend time with their loved one in uniform before or at the end of the deployment.

Her efforts also led to the Military Family Leave Act of 2009 being introduced in Congress by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. Congress, however, did not act on the bill.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.