By Heather Forsgren Weaver
American Forces Press Service
July 26, 2010 - Heather Forsgren Weaver, a colleague at American Forces Press Service, is a regular contributor to Family Matters. Heather's been heavily involved in this blog from the start. She edits, helps write and posts content on a daily basis.
In this blog, Heather writes about the messages of Dr. Jill Biden and top military leaders to the Military Child Education Coalition's 12 annual conference in suburban Maryland.
Dr. Biden, Leaders Focus on Education Needs of Military Kids
Even before Sept. 11, 2001, and the resulting military conflicts, the departments of Defense and Education began meeting annually to discuss the needs of military children. Now with about 2 million children having experienced a parent's deployment and 600,000 Army children and countless others from the other services currently separated from a deployed parent, this year's conference held in nearby Maryland last week brought out some heavy hitters.
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, headlined the last day of the conference.
Dr. Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama frequently visit military installations. During these visits they often hear about the important role schools play in their children's lives and the challenge of changing schools due to relocations, Dr. Biden told the conference.
Lisa Daniel wrote about Dr. Biden's speech to the Military Child Education Coalition's 12 annual conference in her American Forces Press Service article, "Dr. Biden: Military Children Deserve America's Support."
Teachers and other school staff need to be able to identify military children and need to be trained to help them, Biden said.
Biden said she has not been able to stop thinking about a little girl a U.S. Army general in Iraq told her about when she visited there with the vice president over the Fourth of July weekend. A little girl in his six-year-old daughter's class burst into tears at a recent school concert when the band began playing "Ave Maria" because, as the girl explained to her teacher, that song was played at her father's funeral after he was killed in Iraq.
Dr. Biden wasn't the only leader to address the conference. Leaders from all of the military services participated on a panel.
As Daniel described in a second American Forces Press Services article, "Service Chiefs Gather to Address Children's Conference," the military leaders took turns describing their own experiences raising military children and, in some cases, being raised as military children. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., attended four high schools in three countries, he said. His mother told all of her children to "make the best of it" whenever they had to move but all of those high schools were a challenge, he said.
Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had to get used to being unpopular each time he moved his family. Today, he said, his grown daughters are appreciative of their military upbringing, but some years were hard.
"It wasn't really about academics those first few days" after a move, Cartwright said. "It was about the girls' ability to make friends, or not. It's not about the 'who, what, where, when and why' – it's about assimilating."
Sometimes where families live can have a negative impact on their children's education.
Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, said he is concerned that many places Navy families are stationed are in urban districts with challenged school systems.
On the other hand, National Guard and Coast Guard families often live away from military installations and all of those support programs, said Coast Guard Vice Adm. John P. Currier, chief of staff of the Coast Guard, and Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III of the Air National Guard.