Fox News' Harris Faulkner is a proud military brat. We chat about her father’s time serving in the Army, which included three tours in Vietnam, and how her mom was a pillar of support and strength.
Host of Fox News Outnumbered Overtime and co-anchor of Outnumbered, Harris Faulkner is a proud military brat. We chat about her father’s time serving in the Army, which included three tours in Vietnam, and how her mom was a pillar of support and strength as the family moved from one posting to another. Harris reminds us that when one person serves in the military the whole family serves.
- If you enjoyed the episode and want to hear more from Harris Faulkner, check out the Boeing Lecture: Leadership in Today’s Military. The event featured Harris moderating a panel consisting of Admiral William McRaven alongside Bush Institute Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program participants Mary Beth Bruggeman and Jason Pak.
- Learn more about the Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program, which develops the skills of those who serve our nation’s veterans and helping increase their impact.
- Learn how the George W. Bush Institute is ensuring post-9/11 veterans and their families make successful transitions to civilian life.
01:03 Andrew Kaufmann (AK): So we’re thrilled to welcome the anchor of Fox News’ Outnumbered Overtime, and co-host of Fox News’ Outnumbered, bestselling author, Harris Faulkner to The Strategerist.
01:12 Harris Faulkner (HK): Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.
01:15 AK: We’re glad you’re here. Now, Harris is the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, and also joining us today is a military father within the Bush Institute’s house warm walls, the April and Jay Graham Fellow with the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative, Colonel Miguel Howe. Colonel, thank you for joining us.
01:31 Colonel Miguel Howe (MG): Andrew, thanks for inviting me. I am thrilled to be here with Harris today, and really excited to meet her dad, Colonel Bob Harris as well.
01:41 HF: Well, thank you, I appreciate that. I feel blessed to be with you and thank you for your service and the leadership that you set as the bar for the rest of us.
01:50 AK: Let’s start a little bit with families. And you’re a military brat essentially, not essentially, exactly, right?
01:55 HF: Sometimes just a brat, but yeah, it’s usually military. [chuckle]
01:58 AK: That’s my background [chuckle]. The Bush Institute believes that we have to serve our veterans, but before we can serve our veterans, we have to know our veterans and their families. So, what was your life like as a military brat?
02:09 HF: Whenever you are in those early years and you’re moving around a lot, Mom and Dad had to kind of sell me on the military relocation program that we were on, [chuckle]. And so my mom would pack a big purple box before the moving van would pull out, and my dad always insisted that we would drive stateside to the next assignment. So when we went from Leavenworth to Fort Bragg, that was a long drive, [chuckle] but she would pack this purple… We took some paint and painted a packing box, and that was always the last one that they put on the moving van. And when we got to our housing assignment, and usually we were on post, that would be the first box that they would unpack. And my mom would tell me that you need very little to make you feel like home. It’s the people.
They never lost that box in 20 years, ever, with all that moving around; we lived in Stuttgart, Germany, we were all over the place. And I would open it up, and it would have things in there that she had chosen for me, and then things that I loved too. For instance, my Jenny bear, which has not had for many, many years, my mother would always put a special travel dress on for her to make the trip. And of course, it’d be weeks sometimes before we’d see her. And she would just make the point that you don’t need things, but these things may help you adjust better.
And there was a diary from my whole life where I would write my friends’ names and people that I had met from post to post, and it did make it easier, because sometimes we came across kids in the military who, actually, our dads and moms already knew each other. So sometimes those new assignments came with already established friends.
03:52 AK: The little things that help…
03:53 HF: Yeah.
03:53 AK: Colonel, did you experience that?
03:56 MH: Absolutely. And from two… On two fronts, right. So I too was a military brat. Now I’m the father of two military brats. But I remember distinctly when we made that… Found out that we were moving from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii to Maryland.
04:14 AK: That’s a long drive.
04:15 HF: Yeah.
04:15 MH: And I was going from the seventh to the eighth grade. And I remember distinctly telling my mom and dad that how unfair and terrible this was, and I would never do that to my kids. [laughter] I’m never doing the military thing and put them through that piece. Haley, my daughter, has similar stories to tell, and she would talk about that being a military brat is both a blessing and a burden. And I think, Harris, you just captured both elements of that. And while I don’t know your mom and dad, I absolutely know them just through that story that you told. And it’s a real example of how our military families, moms and dads, are really the anchor, so that whoever is wearing the uniform, when they deploy, when they go off to training, the family continue, ’cause military families look for the same thing as every family, and it’s so critical that moms and dads are like Harris’s mom.
05:17 HF: So, my license plates say US Brat. I live in Jersey, and born, raised and transferred. And what I think that dads like you have given kids like me is resilience. I never give up. Now, I’ve had some teachers and some employers who wish I had.
05:37 HF: But I just… I don’t. I look at every situation as one that has an answer. It may not be the answer. And I’ve met enough generals to know that, “Make a decision already, would you,” and then go in with the decision that you’ve made. There’s a chapter in my book called “Think Like A General”, and that’s exactly the thing, but it could be “Think Like A Colonel”, like you and my dad too. I wasn’t raised to have a whole lot of self-doubt when time came for a big decision. And your leadership, and showing your children that it’s okay to make mistakes, learn from them and be bigger and better from them, gosh, you only get that from people who are confident in their own ability. And being a brat, I think that’s probably one of the biggest things that we get from dads like you.
06:26 MH: I’m gonna brag a little bit on my military brat. Haley, my daughter, she’s not a large person, for our listeners who can’t see…
06:35 AK: Neither are you, sir.
06:36 MH: There you go. Thanks, Andrew, for teeing that up.
06:38 AK: Well, you’ve got the crew of 5’5″ men here.
06:40 MH: Well, as I told my son early on, make no mistake, I’m a big man, I’m just not in a big package.
06:48 MH: And so… [chuckle]
06:48 HF: He said to a five-foot tall… A 5’10” woman.
06:53 HF: My goodness. [chuckle]
06:55 MH: So my daughter is an economy-sized package, as we say in the Howe house…
07:00 HF: That’s so sweet. I like that.
07:00 MH: But she brings a lot of tenacity and strength and resilience to the table. And I think that was fostered growing up in a military family, and the resilience that you talk about that really comes from moving. My daughter went to 12 different schools in 13 years.
07:20 HF: Wow. And the first few years of my life, like the first 14 or so, were like that too. And those are difficult ages to move. Right? I mean, we’re all keyed in. But I tell you now, I can sit down in a room of five people or 500, I’m gonna come out with a friend, even if it’s against their will.
07:40 AK: So how do you think all this time, of your father being in the military, how do you think it affected you? We’ve heard a little bit about how your family adapted, but how did that change who Harris Faulkner is today?
07:51 HF: Well, my dad, and now he’s in the room ’cause he’s listening to this podcast…
07:54 AK: We have our first ever live studio audience now for the podcast.
07:56 HF: Yes, my dad the colonel. He told me to look at every man and woman in the eye, make eye contact with a smile, and everybody is valuable in their own way. And from the military, he learned that the best generals were those who knew their subordinates very well, and not just knew them as people, but understood their challenges for what their responsibilities were.
08:23 MH: And I just would love to give a shoutout to Colonel Bob Harris on two fronts; one, sir, thanks for your service, but thanks for your service during the Vietnam War. And so as both the son and the son-in-law of two Vietnam veterans, I know firsthand the service and the sacrifice that came during that period of time. And I also know from my work here at the Bush Center that this generation of warrior or post 9/11 warriors enjoys tremendous national support from a great public, but I think that’s partly out of a sense of national guilt in that we were not, as a nation, able to differentiate the warrior from the war in that period of time, but also because of the leadership of Vietnam veterans who took hold of our post 9/11 warriors early on. Some of the first people that came to visit my wounded soldiers in Walter Reed were Vietnam veterans who said, “You shall never be forgotten.” So thanks for that leadership and that service.
09:23 HF: Thank you so much for those words for my dad. I know that when you chose to serve as well and raised a military brat on your own, looking back and hearing you talk about that leadership that was pre-existing really motivated you to serve, and now you have potentially another point of legacy.
09:43 MH: Absolutely. So Harris and I were chatting a little bit earlier before the interview. So I have two children, my son Nicholas is a sophomore in college and he’s in the ROTC program out there.
09:56 HF: Wow!
09:56 MH: So, he’s already sworn the oath and he’s on his trajectory to one day join the ranks. His great-grandfather was a Private First Class in World War II.
10:08 HF: Wow.
10:08 MH: So it’s really interesting the impact on families over the generations. And so when my grandfather went off to the South Pacific, my grandmother was pregnant with my great aunt, and when he came home and met her for the first time, she was four and a half years old.
10:24 HF: Wow.
10:25 MH: And so of course, we know firsthand through your book the impact of the Vietnam War on that generation of warrior, and now it’s just different. Each war, in some ways, is always the same. In other ways, it’s… There’s different variables. And so for this generation, it’s repeated deployments over and over again. And coming back to a nation that, while it provides great support, doesn’t really understand 1% of America is at war and is in at harm’s way every single day.
10:58 AK: Just as important is the military wives. What did you learn from your mother? How did you lean on your mother, how did she lean on you?
11:04 HF: My mom’s a… Support services in our house were military-like and legendary. She could organize everything, and no one threw a gathering like my mother. [chuckle] And at the same time, she also understood compromise and sacrifice, and wanted to instill that in me and my sister. When dad is serving, the whole family serves. And particularly for me, because I was old enough, and my sister and I have an age gap of about a decade. So I was really around during those service years. But what she really instilled in me was this idea that everybody has a role to play, and while we might not be on the battlefield, there were certain things that we needed to do at home. For instance, know the news, know which wars are being fought, know your own story, really try to understand… You mentioned the 1% who are serving, I don’t think it’s all that different really since World War II.
I mean, that was a point where we had many more of our population on the battlefield. But you think about the 1% that we spend a lot of our time talking about, they’re on Wall Street, but this is the other 1% on the battlefield. And what she really wanted me to understand is, everybody has a role, that the people who are not serving at home who are civilian keep the economy going, and they keep… But we all should be interconnected. So she was really into community service and letting people know us as military people, and block parties, and she would talk about military life with civilian friends, and she said it’s very important for us to have shared experiences. And we know so much about civilian life because it’s part of our commercial culture. But to teach people about military life, about why we excel in school, about why we are resilient, about why some of us are extremely type A individuals with really shiny shoes, always meticulous about our ability to pack for a journey in a short period of time, I mean, with those things, she said, “You know, you can inform your friends of this.”
And let’s get into the bloodstream of America, what we do well and who we are. And you can’t have a country served by people and then have them come home with nothing to do. So the ability to hire and the willingness to hire comes from the accountability among ourselves to appreciate what they did when they were on the battlefield, and really understand that it’s more than just that person serving, it’s that person’s unit, their own special forces.
I’m looking at my Uncle Tim in the room, and for those people who’ve read my book, and I talk about recruiting special forces, my uncles Tim and Ronnie, my dad’s younger brothers, were his special forces. And I talk about that in detail, because sometimes your family is chosen and sometimes you recruit. But I felt like my mother really planted the seeds for understanding what it means to be on a great team, and not to suffer the difficulties and losses for people who don’t step up and don’t deserve to be on that team. So her whole thing was, Americans need to be on the team, and if you feel like they’re deficient in understanding who we are, educate them, school them, make them understand. Do it out of love of country. It’s a responsibility that we have.
14:22 AK: For a long time, the Bush Institute has used #KnowOurVets, ’cause that’s right in the core of what we believe.
14:29 MH: We talk here at the Bush Center about our veterans as humble servant leaders of character that we need leading our businesses, our communities and our nation for the decades to come. But you just… Your mother was the living embodiment of why the same holds true for our military and veteran spouses. One time I was traveling with my wife and I was in uniform, and the TSA agent looked at me, as they always do, and said, “Thanks for your service,” and then he looked at my wife and he paused and he said, “Ma’am, thanks for your sacrifice.”
15:06 HF: Oh, wow.
15:07 MH: And I said, “Well, this is somebody who absolutely gets it and understands.” And so it’s the families that bear the sacrifices of the moves and the finances and the stresses and raising great kids, but with that sacrifice, comes civic leadership. And that’s what you just described with your mom, oh, my gosh, influencing the next generation to be civic assets, to be engaged citizens, to be leaders.
15:38 HF: It’s very true. So, when we were talking off-mic right before, I guess it was maybe the walk-over to our studio here, I was asked the question, “How and when did you know you wanted to be a journalist?” And there were a lot of stories that I can tell about storytelling and watching the news, but that conscience about service is really where it comes from. And we’re protected by the Constitution. I think we’re a pretty important part of the United States. And protecting, holding the powerful accountable, it’s a service.
16:08 AK: For sure.
16:09 HF: And that’s why… I mean, social media is fine, but your life cannot be chasing click-bait. It can’t be about that. And I think in journalism, especially right now because we have a President who’s walking outside the confines of what we consider to be traditional establishment, well, that’s what he said he was gonna do, and now he is, and now we have to chase him on skates.
16:34 HF: But it is part of my service to the country. And so, you find your lane. I mean, I… Your daughter wants to be…
16:41 MH: So she wants to be an orthopedic surgeon. She wants to serve those who bear the wounds, injuries, illnesses…
16:48 HF: In the military. What is that fancy word she dropped on you that you had to Google?
16:51 MH: Oh, yeah, I had to look up “physiatrist.”
16:54 HF: Right.
16:55 HF: And that’s not just rehab for you and me when we over-exercise on a weekend, because we’re gently over 25, but that’s what you have in a wounded warrior situation. These are dedicated, long-term trials and planning and purposed, if you will, prescriptions for rehab that your daughter wants to get into with our returning soldiers. That is huge, and a level that she will have to reach with her ability as a surgeon will be very meticulous and very high, and she’s not afraid to reach for that rarefied air, and that benefits our fighting forces. That’s a beautiful thing.
17:35 MH: Well, I think this comes back to what you said earlier, Harris, and that’s how your parents, your mom and dad, but being a military brat shaped your character, your values, your grit and tenacity, but now you’re calling to serve. And as my dad and mom’s taught me, and as I’ve tried, Erica and I have tried to pass on to our kids, service comes in many forms.
18:00 HF: It does.
18:00 MH: You can serve in military uniform, or you can serve as you are, holding those that are powerful. Yeah.
18:05 HF: Peace Corps. We got a whole lot of ways. In fact, we’re one of the few Western countries that does not require some sort of something. Israel does it probably more or better than others, but it’s not the only one where you can go into service, it can be military, or it can be Peace Corps-like. I happen to think that that would make an entire new generation of American young people fortified for the future.
18:31 AK: How do you think we should be serving? Is it supporting our veterans that are serving? Are there… What are some ideas that you got?
18:36 HF: Well first of all, I think you need to involve the generation that is, veins to a body now, able to communicate with each other in a nanosecond. I think that they need to look up from their devices and make eye contact. So we have to get these young people into the community so that they can understand, and then they can also share real ways of real-time communication. And what I would like is for there to be some sort of expectation of service. It doesn’t have to be a decade. It could just simply be a year or two right out of college. And we have the sustenance of this as a country to be able to make this happen. But volunteerism is really important, because that makes everybody accountable for what’s happening, and it helps them to take responsibility for the future. Now, what do our veterans need? What do our families need? They need to be part of something, and not just on base or post. And I think that the more people we have in a service role, the bigger the… It won’t be 1% to 3%. It’ll be 20%.
And we know from diversity issues that when you get to 20% of women or people of color in any situation, that’s where you see real change happen. We know this from our military too.
19:54 AK: Yeah.
19:54 HF: Because if you were one of those first few women, like Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii that you mentioned, Representative Democrat, or Martha McSally, the Republican and Arizona Representative, if you were one of those first few combat fighting women, it was difficult as the ranks have gotten big, particularly in the Navy. I recently talked with Admiral Grady about this onboard the USS Monterey that shot the Tomahawk missiles, and he shared our fighting force was all women that did that. One of those rounds was all women. He said, “We’ve gotten to that 20%, and now we’re seeing women on our leadership, they’re recruiting other women. So I do think that getting millennials involved is important, and that’s where the movement for women is, and you gotta get that into the bloodstream of our military communities. Have them on post. Have a young person in the Community Day on post. Fort Hood is huge. It’s here in Texas. Can you imagine the outreach?
20:54 MH: Recently, Veterans Day. And one of the things that we talked about in terms of a way to honor veterans and military service members and their families is to emulate a life of character service in leadership. And it doesn’t matter what your chosen endeavor is, whether it’s in your professional life or at home in your community, or volunteering in non-profits or in your churches, there is a way to live a life of character service and leadership. Harris, thanks for… You hit, I think, the key piece, and that is when it comes to veterans… And when we talk about veterans, we’re talking about family members as well, not just the one who wore the uniform, but we’re talking about their family members, we’re talking about caregivers, for those that are wounded, ill and injured, and are survivors, those whose military loved one made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation and our Constitution.
So it’s all of them. And connection is the first piece. And connection is a two-way street. And that’s kind of one of the neat things about these new post 9/11 non-profit organizations is the majority of them are not veteran only; they encourage members of the community to connect and be a part of those, whether it’s Team Rubicon, Team Red, White and Blue…
22:19 HF: Or Stand-To here at the Bush Institute.
22:22 MH: Absolutely. And then once you connect, there are a number of… There are some things we specifically ask for. Find, hire, employ a veteran and a military spouse. A military spouse has 16% unemployment rate, four times the national average. Almost 40% that wanna be employed find themselves grossly underemployed, not leveraging the talent that you described in your mom.
22:50 HF: So where I work at Fox News, we have a number of people who are onboard with us as mentees, and these are not the type of intern that I was out of college. These are people who have served in a tremendous capacity with a kind of stick-to-itiveness and dedication that I think sometimes we’re all challenged by as civilians, those multiple deployments that we’ve been speaking of. They don’t just leave the battlefield, they stick in there. And that’s a thing, their ability to stick, who wouldn’t want that on their staff? I mean, they infect us with that at Fox News. And I work in a place where we already value that, but, oh, my goodness, we value it even more because we see them among us.
Some of them are even active duty. They’ll come in when they’re home and they’ll be with us for a month or so, and then we’ll all miss them when they leave and celebrate them as they move forward. It really is a special thing. And I think that small businesses make up more than 70% of those companies that hire people in the country, and we’re already seeing our veterans fill out those roles. Pretty soon, small business may overtake these large corporations as a place where we all wanna work for a whole host of issues. But that value sharing with our military members working at those companies is huge. It’s a big component of success for them, and I think for us as a country.
24:12 AK: Harris Faulkner’s book, “Nine Rules of Engagement” is available now, go to your local bookstore to get that or Amazon, where you like to shop…
24:17 HF: Or you can come to the Bush Institute.
24:19 AK: Or you can come to the Bush Institute, we have copies in our bookstore. You can also catch her on Fox News, weekdays at 11:00 AM Central for Outnumbered, and at noon Central for Outnumbered Overtime. Did I get that right?
24:30 HF: Yes, you did. I did the Overtime show live here at The Presidential Library Center, and it was pretty special. I told my executive producer when we wrapped up, I said, “So I’m just gonna stay here and we’ll just do this, and you guys can stay in New York every day.” They were like, “Why?” And I’m like, “‘Cause we can.”
24:46 AK: Our weather is nicer too, [24:47]
24:48 HF: So thank you for letting me do that here, that…
24:49 AK: Thank you so much for being here, we appreciate it. And Colonel Howe, thank you as well.