Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the Reading Rainbow Blog. See the original post here.
Earlier this month, Joe and I invited a few military families over to our home for dinner to celebrate the Month of the Military Child. We know we owe thanks every day to those who wear the uniform, but we also believe we owe a debt of gratitude to their families as well. Because when you have a family member who serves in the military, your whole family serves too.
There are so many military-connected children in this country, and on average these children will attend six to nine different schools before graduating high school. Frequent school changes mean you have to start over in your new community, from trying out for another sports team to making new friends. We know military parents try to do everything that they can to make those transitions as smooth as possible, but we also know it is not easy.
That is one of the reasons why First Lady Michelle Obama and I started Joining Forces in 2011. We wanted to show our appreciation and bring attention to the incredible families across America who do so much for our country. We wanted to show our support not just with words, but with real, concrete opportunities in employment, wellness, and education.
As a lifelong educator and military mom, the way we reach out to military-connected children in our classrooms is especially close to my heart.
Several years ago, Joe and I visited Camp Victory in Iraq for the Fourth of July holiday where I met a general who told me a story that I will never forget. During a concert at his 6-year-old daughter’s school, one of her classmates burst into tears when the song “Ave Maria” played. She told the teacher it was the song they played at her daddy’s funeral. Her teacher was unaware she was a military child. I knew then that we had to do more to raise awareness both inside and outside the classroom about what military families go through.
Through Joining Forces, we launched Operation Educate the Educators to help bridge this gap between teachers and military families and train teachers to recognize the unique needs of military-connected students in their classrooms. More than 100 colleges and universities have signed on to ensure that thousands of future teachers will have the knowledge they need to address the unique challenges military kids face. This training, which builds awareness of the experiences of military children, is the key to promoting their success in the classroom.
During the Month of the Military Child, and every month moving forward, we must do more to support our service members and their families.