Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gates: Caring for Military Children 'Sacred Responsibility'

American Forces Press Service

July 25, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today called it a "sacred responsibility" to care for the generation of American
military children affected by the deployment, and in some cases the death, of a servicemember parent. "The empty seat at the dinner table night after night is a constant reminder of a child's worry for his or her parent's safety," Gates said, according to his prepared remarks. "And there is also the grief and the heartbreak when a loved one is injured or killed -- a grim reality of war."

Roughly 43 percent of U.S. active-duty, reserve and National Guard members engaged in the war on
terrorism are parents, Gates told members of the military Child Education Coalition in Grapevine, Texas.

military children are awesome, just as their parents are," he said. "But they have extra hurdles to clear, burdens to bear -- repeated moves, the absence of a parent at war, an injured parent, or the loss of a parent."

Children of servicemembers also make unique sacrifices during peacetime, including frequent moves that can require them to attend up to nine different schools between kindergarten and high school graduation, Gates said. He added that most teenagers of
military members attend at least two high schools.

"Because of the unique way the husbands and wives, the sons and daughters of our all-volunteer force serve this nation, we have a sacred responsibility to care for them," he said.

The secretary praised the Military Child Education Coalition, which in its 10-year history has assisted nearly 2 million children whose parents serve in the armed forces, helping ease school-related responsibilities like transferring student records, course grades and credit hours, among other duties.

Gates also highlighted several Defense Department-led initiatives designed to mitigate the demands placed on
military families and applauded an agreement signed by the departments of Defense and Education to facilitate the strain placed on deployed families returning from overseas.

The nation demonstrated its gratitude to
military families, Gates said, when Congress and President Bush last month enacted a new Montgomery GI Bill that, for the first time, will allow education benefits to be passed to family members if troops opt not to use it themselves.

"Transferring educational benefits to a servicemember's spouse or child underscores the monumental importance of 'the power behind the power' -- the husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of our men and women in uniform," Gates said.

In closing, Gates called the all-volunteer members of U.S. armed forces "the heart and soul" of America.

"They joined up to leave the world a better place for all children," he said. "Our men and women in uniform are giving something very special to future generations: a legacy of service before self.

"They are a force for good in the world," he added.

America Supports You: Organization Addresses Vets' Housing Challenges

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

July 25, 2008 - Veterans transitioning from war to peace may need a place to call home, whether it's for the long or short term, the executive director of a
North Carolina-based program that offers them that and a good bit more said. "The needs we are addressing all, in some way, revolve around temporary and long-term living arrangements that are appropriate for the various challenges that our active duty and military veterans face," Lance Orndorff said about "American Heroes Return."

"Camp Hero" is an integral part of
American Heroes Return, which, in turn, is part of the Virginia-based "Place of Solace, Inc."

The camp offers a phased living environment at no cost to active-duty servicemembers or veterans, he said. Veterans suffering from
post-traumatic stress disorder or permanent disability and in need of long-term care have access to the home-style camp that offers a mixed-use residential environment with shopping and social and recreational opportunities.

Active-duty servicemembers simply looking for someplace to hang out while they're home for rest and recuperation can stay in simple cabins and take in all that Camp Hero has to offer.

military on terminal leave and veterans post-active duty have a difficult time finding a 'landing zone' when returning to the states or leaving the base," Orndorff said. "They usually need just one to three months of living accommodations, as well as job location and training assistance, to get them reestablished in the civilian sector.

"This is where they can choose from either the rural farm or in-town contemporary housing experience, where they work with others like themselves who are transitioning back into civilian life," he added.

American Heroes Return is a new supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

The organization's America Supports You affiliation is helping bridge the gap between its efforts to support both active-duty servicemembers and veterans, Orndorff said.

"I'm finding that my own review of other [America Supports You-affiliated] organizations ... is leading me to begin thinking about ways to network and partner," he added. "There may be portions of programs that we had intended to establish on our own that we can better accomplish by partnering with a group already accomplishing that task."