October 3, 2012 -- CSA Remarks at Joining Forces Event (As Delivered)
October 5, 2012
- Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno
- Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno Blog
- Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno on Twitter
- Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno on Facebook
- Video - Joining Forces: "Operation Educate the Educators" Celebration
General Odierno: Thank you very much. It is truly my honor to be here today and participate in this event. I am so proud of our military families and especially our children. As we wear this uniform, we often talk about why we wear it. We talk about making a better life for our children. That is what this is about, and that is what you are about. So we have very common goals going forward. I want to recognize Dr. Jill Biden, who has done so much for military families and Joining Forces. The First Lady and Dr. Biden have dedicated themselves to our military families, especially working in education. Dr. Jill Biden is a teacher herself, and I know she is very dedicated to what she does. She is the perfect person to be part of this. So thank you, Dr. Biden. (Applause). I also want to thank the leadership of Dr. Robinson. We couldn't do this without you. Thank you for your effort in making this happen. Patty Shinseki, whom I have known for a very long time, said a minute ago, "This is not done yet." Trust me, she means it. (Laughter). I have been watching her for 20 years working this issue for military families and children. She will not rest until she feels we have reached the appropriate goal. Patty, thank you for your work. (Applause).
150 years ago the Army recognized the importance of educating military children. In 1866 the Army established a system of Post schools for dependents. This was the first system of compulsory education in the United States. In 1918, 52 years later, compulsory education became mandatory in the United States. I think it is important to understand how important education has always been to the military, and how important education of our children has been. The term is thrown around many times, and some people affectionately call them military brats. I actually see them much differently. I see these young children as bright and dedicated young people who have been asked to sacrifice and serve in their own way to support their parents who are out serving their country. I believe that because of this, their experiences should be rich and diverse as they grow up. Being uprooted from familiar surroundings and transitioning to a new environment while coping with deployments and extended absences of Soldier parents, especially over the last several years of war is a lot to ask of our children.
Like all military families, Linda and I have had first hand experiences of this. Over my 36+ year career, we moved 24 times. Think about doing your freshman year in Monterrey, California, your sophomore year in Tacoma, Washington, your junior year in Carlyle, Pennsylvania, and your senior year in Killeen, Texas. Think about doing your freshman year in Killeen, Texas, your sophomore and junior year in Heidelberg Germany, and your senior year in Baumholder, Germany. That is my oldest son and daughter. My oldest son went to West Point, served in the military, and is now a Vice President for JP Morgan Chase. My daughter went to college and graduated, and is now a mother. She is now beginning to start her own business as an interior designer. Why were they successful? They were successful because they were happy being someone who wanted to help nurture their abilities as they went to this diverse array of schools. It is just not about education. It is about the social piece. In fact, I would tell you that is the most difficult piece -- how you integrate socially, whether it be in activities, whether it be in sports, whether it be meeting new children. That is the most difficult adjustment. I think we should look at this as an opportunity. If you ask my children today, they will tell you they are happy that they had the opportunity to go to all those different schools because the rich experiences and the diverse people that they got to meet has made a distinct difference in their lives.
So I think this comes full circle at events like this. With the right program and the right assistance, it will give more children the resources to thrive in these environments. The Army also continues to develop some initiatives working with many schools. We have now placed School Liaison Officers in all schools worldwide that support military children. We are providing training to school districts and communities on military life. We are using social media and technical solutions for homework support and assistance when necessary. We are partnering with many organizations such as the Military Child Education Coalition to convince states to adopt common core standards. We have tutoring programs we have established and school age services in all our installations. We have Adopt-a-School partnerships with our military units. We have Military Family Life Counselors that we try to get in all the schools in order to help those who are going through tough times when their parents are deployed or just for other reasons. It is initiatives like these that we are trying to do coupled with the committed efforts of the schools present here today that I think is so important.
By implementing a set of guiding principles that were discussed earlier, newly educated teachers and other officials are better equipped to support the unique challenges in supporting our military children in their classrooms. We couldn't do this without the dedicated educators who have committed their lives to ensuring generation after generation of children get the quality education that they deserve. 80% of military children attend public schools. So it is very important to have educators understand the challenges and sensitivities of these children. I have one story I would like to relay about a young lady, Amelia McConnell, 17 years old. She was the 2012 Military Child of the Year. She is the youngest of 6 kids. She has done 9 family moves. Her father, Colonel Scott McConnell was deployed three times and between deployments was diagnosed and treated for leukemia. Her brother, Sergeant Andrew McConnell was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2009. Through her adversities, she is an honor student, active in Honor Society, school athletics, and is a dedicated community volunteer. This is an incredibly resilient young lady, who with the help of many, enabled her to deal with many of the problems she had to deal with in her family. Those were significant problems. She has overcome them and will continue to contribute.
The children of our Military Service members should have access to the best education we have to offer. They deserve absolutely nothing less. So thank you everyone for being here and lending your tremendous support to all our military children and making them your priority. Now we have the unique opportunity to hear from one of these remarkable military children, Felicity Horan. Felicity is 11 years old, and her identical twin Abigail will join her here on stage. They are both in the seventh grade at Frost Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia. They are the daughters of Lieutenant Colonel Dave and Bel Horan. Dave currently works on the National Security Staff. In the seven years she has been in school, Felicity has attended five schools in four states. She does have great taste in sports teams, because she is in fact a New York Yankees and New York Giants fan. (Laughter) Felicity represents what is best about military children. She is resilient; she is courageous; she is confident. I am sure all of you will be impressed with this young lady as much as I am. So I want to welcome both Felicity and Abigail. Thank you so much. (Applause).
End of Remarks.