Challenges for Military Families and Veterans

    931291_476441722438541_328052086_n Since the Civil War, our country has been celebrating Memorial Day, initially called, “Decoration Day” to remember those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  According to  Professor David Blight of Yale University, “the first Memorial Day took place on May 1, 1865 in Charleston, SC, after a group of African-Americans, mostly former slaves, gave 257 Union soldiers a proper burial. The black community in Charleston then consecrated the new cemetery with an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people, led by 3,000 black school children.”  Some folks don’t distinguish this holiday from Veteran’s Day, when we officially celebrate all Americans who served.
     The White House recently released the 2014 budget which sustains the $8.5 billion it invests across military installations.  As stated in the Office of Management and Budget, The Department of Defense (DOD) provides a broad spectrum of programs and services for service members and military families including: mental health and counseling services; deployment assistance; child care and youth programs; morale, welfare, and recreation programs; commissaries; DOD-run schools for military dependents; military spouse employment programs; and many other services. DOD is working to improve its support to the All-Volunteer Force by identifying and discontinuing redundant or less effective military family programs, while increasing support for programs that are proven to serve military families well. “
     National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is also concerned about children of military families citing that, “The average military student will attend six to nine different school systems in their lives from kindergarten to 12th grade graduation.”  A Compact has been formed to help to compensate for some of the challenges faced by these students.  Some of the specific educational issues covered by the compact for those who qualify include:
  • Enrollment, Educational Records, Immunizations
  • Kindergarten & First Grade Entrance Age, Placement & Attendance
  • Course & Educational Program Placement, Special Education Services
  • Placement Flexibility and Absence Related to Deployment Activities

     All states except, New Hampshire, New York, Minnesota, Montana and Oregon have accepted this voluntary Compact.  If you live in a state that has accepted this compact, you can contact your superintendent to remind them of its commitment and offerings.  If you live in a state that has not accepted it, contact your legislator requesting them to do so.  Obtain a script here to expedite that process! Also, access the Military Interstate Children Compact Commission (MIC3) for more information, such as “Resolving Education Transition Issues for Military Families”.

     Other challenges plague veterans that include unemployment and homelessness.  In recent years, unemployment for new veterans soared well over 11%.  According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, over 62,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, which is 13% of the homeless population.  In our state of Kentucky, the number of homeless vets dropped by 31% in 2011-12 whereas those in states like Wyoming increased 275% whose veterans represent 23% of their homeless population.  The homeless vet population includes those who fought in many conflicts including World War II.  But, severe disabilities obtained by those in Afghanistan and Iraq greatly correlate to those who are homeless, including women.

      Another crucial concern for veterans include a rising number of suicides.  According to the New York Times, suicides for active duty troops rose to 350 in 2012.  In 2011, 25% of the troops committing suicide had been diagnosed with substance abuse while 50% had suffered intimate break ups.  According to Wesley  Poriotis, Founder of Veterans Across America, there are nearly 22 veterans committing suicide each day.  According to Leah Gunn Barrett, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, there is a correlation between unemployment, suicides and gun availability.  Many men in their 50’s with lower economic outlooks and even young veterans have made fatal choices to cope.  “Suicides are nearly 62 percent of all gun deaths in the United States, and more than 50 percent of all suicides are committed with a gun.”  Also, gun usage lead to more fatal attempts. “Suicide rates are nearly twice as high in parts of the country with weak gun laws and higher rates of gun ownership” – such as in the aforementioned Wyoming.

     For many of us, it gives us honor to remember the contributions of others. For some, Memorial Day marks the last holiday before the long anticipated summer – a time that many homeless people don’t have to struggle for insulation, but must survive the sweltering heat.  For many veterans and their families, I hope it gives them a warm sense of accomplishment to know that many of us appreciate them and their sacrifices for our freedoms.  Whether you’re hosting or supporting a 2k event by the Veterans Administration or enjoying a play by the talented, Mitzi Sinnott which highlights homelessness among veterans, let’s show them we care by speaking up with groups like A Soldiers Project and others for better treatment of veterans and for better access of needed services.  As we light that candle to remember their sacrifices to keep our freedoms safe, let us also memorialize the spirit in that ole’ Taps chorus:

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.”

By Cayden Bennett, National PTA Reflections Arts Award of Excellence Winner for Intermediate Visual Arts. ( 5th grade-RMIS of Kentucky)

“Coming Home” By Cayden Bennett, National PTA Reflections Arts Award of Excellence Winner for Intermediate Visual Arts. (5th grade-RMIS of Kentucky)

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About Bren Martin

Brenda is an education advocate and has been an active leader in the schools, church and community. She is a National PTA Social Media Ambassador and was a Panelist on NBC's Education Nation in New York City, "Stepping Up: The Power of a Parent Advocate," for Parenting Magazine. Brenda was honored by the U. S. Department of Education and the White House as a “Champion of Change” for educational advocacy. She is Parenting Magazine’s Mom Congress-Kentucky delegate and a recipient of Knowledge Universe-KinderCare’s Education Achievement Award! (See Parenting Magazine’s, “The Power and Potential of Parent Advocates,“ and one of Brenda’s articles, “Changing Us, Changes Them.“) Some of her services include: District PTA President and State PTA Board; Education Commissioner's Steering Committee for Teacher Effectiveness. She is a former regional President, Gifted Education; Summer Camp Creator/Director; Church Youth Director; Vacation Bible School Director; Prichard Committee’s Commonwealth of Institute for Parent Leadership (CIPL) Fellow; School Based Decision Making; Employability Skills Consultant to prison & colleges; Television Special host and more. Also, Follow Brenda on Twitter @bdrumartin. Disclaimer: Use sites, blogs, information or links at your own risk.
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3 Responses to Challenges for Military Families and Veterans

  1. Pingback: Veterans of “Armed Forces” for Equality | Debate and Switch's Blog

  2. Thank you IndyTony! I read your blog-Nice piece on this special day! I enjoyed the poetry also. There are so many struggles for our veterans but coming home should not be the battlefield that defeats them. God Bless!

    Like

  3. indytony says:

    I appreciate you honoring veterans by highlighting their needs and services provided.

    I’m remembering “wounded warriors” today. To raise awareness and encourage conversation, I have written this post –

    http://writingforfoodinindy.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/the-suicide-of-sam-stone-remembering-all-our-fallen-soldiers/

    I would love for you to drop by and leave a comment, if you are so led.

    Like

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