Military Children Need Nation's Support
(March 26, 2011)
|WASHINGTON, March 23, 2011 – Military children need the
support not just of the Defense Department, but the “whole
of nation” to ensure they're ready for the future, a DOD
official said here today.|
“Military children are
resilient, but they need a lot of help,” said Robert L.
Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for
military community and family policy. “We're doing much more
in the within the Department of Defense and federal
government, but it will not be enough, because this is an
American problem -- it's not just a problem of the
Department of Defense.”
Gordon touched on the
challenges facing military children and some of the programs
the Defense Department is implementing to help them during a
roundtable on the education of military children, one of the
culminating events of an education summit called “Building a
Military families today have different
challenges from those their predecessors faced, he sai, most
notably multiple deployments. “Again and again we are seeing
service members deployed and spouses having to take care of
their families back home,” he said. “It's been very
Gordon said he just returned from a trip
to Europe, where he met with spouses and children. Some of
the spouses he met had never been out of the United States
before, yet were asked to move overseas with their children
and without their military spouse, who was deployed directly
into the combat theater. Most of these spouses, he noted,
were under 25 years old.
“That is the world in which
we live today,” he said.
Scattered around the world are
about 2 million military children, Gordon said, 1.2 million
of school age.
Of the 1.2 million, roughly 90,000 are
in the military school system, and about 70,000 are in
public schools on military installations across the country.
The other roughly 1 million children are scattered
throughout the United States in the public school system.
“One the issues is finding them, understanding where in
the world they are and what they are doing,” Gordon said.
Then, he added, it's “finding and engaging them.”
This will take a concerted effort that extends far beyond
the reach of the Defense Department, he said.
praised President Barack Obama's Presidential Study
Directive 9, which directed federal agencies to determine
how they can better support military families. A report
titled “Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting
America's Commitment” outlines the nearly 50 commitments
federal government agencies made on behalf of military
families. Many are specific to military children and their
“It is a whole-of-nation approach,” Gordon
said. “All 16 agencies of the federal government focused on
military families. It's about strengthening military
Within the Defense Department, Gordon
called for leadership involvement to help bolster military
children and praised the efforts of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deborah
Mullen, who also spoke at the roundtable.
chairman could ... prioritize a lot of different things – this
is the DOD – but it has been our children that they have
prioritized,” he said. The chairman and his wife have gone
across country and brought back pertinent issues and avenues
of change, he noted, which “helps us craft our programs.”
Additionally, DOD leaders have commissioned a 270-day
education review, currently under way, to “ensure
world-class educational opportunities for all 1.2 million
military children,” he said.
The review will look at
curriculums for military children, the impact of transitions
and deployments, and facilities.
highlighted the military family life consultant program,
which is designed to provide support to service members and
their families. Consultants provide parent education,
information on support services, and helps individuals and
families develop coping mechanisms.
includes 40,000 consultants, he said, who assist with
nonmedical counseling for a set length of time. They also
can work within schools for a semester at a time. “This is a
huge success story,” he said.
Overall, it will take a
combination of strong leadership seeking areas of
improvement and the support of the entire nation to ensure
military children receive the support they need and deserve,
After all, he noted, “military children
are American children.”
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
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