News

Much-Traveled Military Children Enjoy Opportunities, Face Challenges

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2015 - Military children may have opportunities to live in interesting places but they also face unique challenges that can affect their education, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command said yesterday at the Military Child Education Coalition seminar here.

Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. said the MCEC offers customized tools and information to give military children the greatest opportunity for a successful education, with long-term impact.

 

"Our people, not our platforms, are the real foundation of our military - just as it's the foundation of our nation," Harris said.

The admiral reflected on 14 years of relentless combat that have created historically high levels of stress on military families, as many high school graduates have known nothing other than back-to-back deployments and individual augmentation and mobilization by their parents.

*Opportunities, Challenges*

"Children of military parents repeatedly face the challenges of engagement, disengagement, and reengagement as they move to new schools every two or three years," Harris said.

The admiral acknowledged that while being a military child affords uncommon opportunities to travel and experience other cultures, it also poses unique challenges, which fall not only on service member parents, but upon educators and support networks.

"It's no surprise that studies have shown that children of military parents are often more vulnerable to fear and anxiety, and that those stressors manifest themselves behaviorally and academically," the admiral said.

Harris elaborated on inherent challenges that much-traveled military children face, such as delayed school enrollment, inappropriate grade-level placement, exclusion from educational programs and extracurricular activities, and delayed graduation.

"Our educational system simply isn't designed, much to its discredit, to support the lifestyle that accompanies a career of service," he said.

As a combatant commander, Harris said he realizes the gravity of military obligation and the flexibility of needing to mobilize on a moment's notice.

"Our sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines sacrifice a great deal when they decide to put on the cloth of their nation," Harris said. "But the last thing they should have to accept is that their children will receive anything but the very best educational experience during the most formative period in their lives."

According to Harris, on average, a college graduate will accrue more than 90 times the wealth during their lifetime than an individual who did not complete high school.

"It isn't just about earning power," he said. "The average lifespan of a high school graduate is nine years longer than a dropout."

But, statistics, Harris asserts, only tell a small portion of the story.

*Education is Essential to Nation's Future*

"Simply put, education does not only enhance our individual lives, but it is essential to the future of our nation," the admiral said. "We only have to look at our country's history to see the immense value of education on our society."

Harris cited the Servicemen's Readjustment Act, a historical piece of legislation enacted over 60 years ago that he said initially met lukewarm reception and later generated significant controversy.

The admiral described the legislation, better known as the GI Bill, as "one of the greatest pieces of legislation ever passed by our government."

With World War II ending, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt faced the potentially damaging economic impact of 15.7 million veterans returning home, looking for scarce jobs and even scarcer housing. His dilemma, Harris explained, was how to support almost 16 million veterans without keeping them dependent.

President Roosevelt's solution was to provide troops with greater access to loans to purchase homes and start businesses, but most importantly, the GI bill provided financial assistance for the education of returning veterans.

*GI Bill Helped America Grow*

"Of the 15.7 million returning veterans, 2.2 million GIs attended college and 5.6 million received vocational training," Harris said. "This had a tremendous impact on our nation's higher educational system as well as our post-war economy."

After Congress passed the GI bill, colleges and universities expanded, Harris said, to meet the new demand and U.S. college attendance skyrocketed, doubling in just two years and generating jobs not only for teachers, but for engineers, construction workers, and others.

"Eight million new professionals would help spur America's post-war economic growth, which would continue for the next 25 years."

The GI Bill would enable 14 Nobel laureates, 12 Pulitzer Prize winners, three Supreme Court Justices, and three Presidents of the United States, the admiral said.

The educational investment after World War II profoundly impacted the United States, Harris said.

"And now we have expanded that benefit to be transferrable to the children of those who have served post-9/11," he said, "so that the next generation of military dependents has the opportunity to go to college."

Harris said service members' children deserve nothing less.

"It all starts with giving them the support structures, character development, and academics to help our military children achieve their goals."

*Related Sites:*

Military Child Education Coalition [ http://www.militarychild.org/?source=GovDelivery ]

U.S. Pacific Command [ http://www.pacom.mil/?source=GovDelivery ]

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Carter: Future Force Depends on Military Child Education [ http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=129387&source=GovDelivery ]

Senior Leaders Discuss Importance of Supporting Military Children [ http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=129393&source=GovDelivery ]

Dempsey Fields Students' Questions at Military Child Seminar [ http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=129380&source=GovDelivery ]