Military Kids Need Educators' Help in Overcoming Fears
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2004 Educators always try to help children overcome their fears. But when they work with military kids, they find all kinds of fears they hadn't encountered before, said a retired Marine major general and former astronaut at a recent conference.
Former astronaut and retired Marine Maj. Gen. Charles F.
Bolden Jr. logged more than 6,000 flying hours, including more than 100
combat sorties in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and spent more than
680 hours in space. NASA photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Among the many fears military kids have are fears about their parents' safety and fears about their adjustment in a new school environment, retired Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. told more than 400 educators, administrators, top military leaders, students and parents attending the Military Child Education Coalition conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., in July.
Bolden noted that military children often attend multiple schools in a year because a military parent transfers. "Some of them fear being better than their classmates because of the experiences that they've had," he said. "They are sometimes embarrassed and fearful of even mentioning the places they've lived."
The former astronaut said that as a youngster growing up in Columbia, S.C., in the 1950s and '60s, he'd never traveled farther than Charlotte, N.C., or Charleston, S.C. So he was in awe of military kids who had traveled the world and lived in places where they "had an opportunity to live and grow."
Even so, Bolden continued, these same young people "sometimes have a fear of even sharing their experiences with their classmates, for a number of different reasons." They include being considered to be "stuck up," or thought of as being better than their classmates, said Bolden.
"There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you," Bolden said. "It's our obligation -- it's our heritage -- to help kids understand that they are good, and that they're valuable."
Children need to be taught that they can do things to help the other kids around them without being fearful, he continued. "We need to dare them to achieve," Bolden said. "We have an obligation to the kids with whom we work to help them understand that heritage, to help them understand the obligation to dare to achieve."
Taking risks is important, Bolden said, and failure is an inevitable byproduct of a daring spirit. And that's not bad, he added. Children need to fail, he said, because it will help them grow. As an example, he said he applied for test pilot school six or seven times before being accepted.
"Going to space, flying airplanes -- not in the cards, not for me," is what Bolden thought as an African-American youth. "I knew astronauts, and they were all white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants about 5-foot-10, and they were all military test pilots at that time. So that was not in the cards for me. I didn't fool myself -- there was no way in the world I was going to do that."
He first thought flying airplanes was too risky, but ended up attending flight school and falling in love with flying. Bolden flew more than 100 sorties in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War era as a Marine Corps pilot. NASA accepted him as an astronaut in May 1980. A Distinguished Flying Cross recipient, he has logged more than 6,000 hours' flying time.
The veteran of four space flights logged more than 680 hours in space. In 1986, he piloted the space shuttle Columbia on a six-day flight that deployed the communication satellite and conducted experiments in astrophysics and materials processing. In 1990, Bolden flew aboard the space shuttle Discovery on a five-day mission to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope and conduct a variety of experiments.
Two years later, he commanded a crew of seven aboard the space shuttle Atlantis on a nine-day mission to study the Earth's atmosphere.
He took off on his final space mission on Feb. 3, 1994, when he commanded a crew of six aboard Discovery. This was the first joint U.S.-Russian space shuttle mission involving the participation of a Russian cosmonaut as a mission-specialist crewmember.
Just as his career journey took him beyond his surroundings, Bolden said, "we must find ways to free up time so that military children can expand their horizons." He said military children are good and smart, often smarter than some of their classmates.
"But that's not their fault, and there's nothing wrong with that," Bolden noted. "Many of them will become our nation's and our world's leaders. So it's important that we allow them to be educated in the best way possible."