Yesterday afternoon, families and friends gathered for a Welcome Home Ceremony for the 419th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion just back from a tour of duty in Iraq. A convoy of Harleys ridden by grizzled vets roared into Camp James. The crowd let out a cheer when the busses entered. Families scrambled to hug soldiers. Children jumped into their father’s arms. Not a dry eye anywhere.
I was there because the Battalion Commander, LTC Kristin Hericks, is a family friend. Deployed in Iraq for a year, Kristan left behind her husband and children. Kristan humbly says, “It was my honor and privilege to serve my country.” Every soldier in her battalion returned home. There were no casualties.
Regrettably in 2008, Lt. Mark Daley from Irvine was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He was the first UCLA grad to be killed in the war and the first from Irvine. A political science student, Mark blogged about his view of the war and his mission. His blogs were so incisive and his arguments so compelling, that these were read from the Senate floor and have been quoted numerous times since. His death struck at the heart of our community.
What could I do to honor his memory? Give a donation to a favorite charity? I decided to give 300 copies of my children’s math book to military families in Irvine. However, the school district informed me there are fewer families now that the El Toro base has closed. Within days, Mark’s mother contacted me and suggested I donate the books to children at Fort Bliss where Mark had trained with his battalion. I did so. I hoped the Daley family would find solace from out community’s outpouring of deep condolence.
Within a few weeks, I received a letter from the Commanding Officer at Ft. Bliss. Colonel Burns thanked me for the books stating that a book like mine would make a difference in that children of military families face special challenges because families are relocated from base to base so often, “sometimes once or twice every two to three years.” I had never stopped to consider that.
I went online with military families and found out from moms that this was indeed true. Their children’s education does suffer. Often, they are way behind academically when they enter the new school. My proposal: why not give children in military families the option of taking their textbooks with them to bridge the gap between schools? Why not give military families a greater discount than the 10% they now have as “government employees” on computers and software? There are corporations who provide scholarships to these children but we need to do more. Could not publishers offer free copies of textbooks to students whose families are transferred mid-year?
Their education should not be yet another casualty of war. We can do better. Military families face enough challenges, hardships and sacrifice without having their children’s education suffer. By helping the children, we strengthen families. By strengthening families, we support our troops.