Military Children Have Wonderful Experiences, but Face Tough Challenges
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Jul. 23, 2004 Opportunities are unbounded for military children who trek the globe seeing different things and experiencing different cultures opportunities other children will never have, according to Air Force Gen. Ralph E. "Ed" Eberhart.
Air Force Gen. Ralph E. "Ed" Eberhart addressed the Military
Child Education Coalition at its annual conference in Colorado Springs, Colo.,
July 21. He heads U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace
Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Photo by Rudi
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Although such opportunities have served military children extremely well, Eberhart said, "It's harder on them than it should be. They have challenges that other children don't have."
That's what the four-star general told nearly 400 educators, administrators, top military leaders, parents and students in a speech at the Military Child Education Coalition sixth annual conference here July 21.
Eberhart heads U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. A command pilot, Eberhart has logged more than 5,000 hours, primarily in fighter and trainer aircraft, including 300 combat missions as a forward air controller during the Vietnam War. He commanded the 363rd Tactical Fighter Wing during Operation Desert Shield in the early 1990s.
"Although we can talk about the past, what's really important is the future," Eberhart said. "And when we talk about the future, there's nothing more important than our children. They're literally and figuratively our future the future of our families, the future of this great nation.
"And that's what you're all about, especially the future of military children," said Eberhart, father of two daughters. "We all know and can tell stories about the wonderful opportunities they've had as they've moved around and seen different things, experienced different cultures."
He said everybody applauds and benefit from everything MCEC does to reduce the many challenges faced by military children. "Not only do you help military children, you help all the children in those schools and all the children they come in contact with because of the things you do," Eberhart told MCEC members.
He emphasized that it's an extremely tough time for military children and they're asking: "When is mommy, when is daddy coming home?
"If you don't think that affects them at school, we're not paying attention," the general said. He said another question children ask is, "When are mommy and daddy leaving again?"
"I would say that that weighs just as heavily on their minds and affects them just as much in everything they do, especially as they try to apply themselves in the classroom," Eberhart noted.
After mommy and daddy come home, the next message the children receive is, "It's time to move," he said.
Nowadays, moving from one assignment to another around the globe isn't as structured and much more difficult than it used to be, the general pointed out.
"When we made those 22 moves, each time we knew that we were going some place where we would be accepted," Eberhart said. "We weren't worried about proving ourselves. Every time we moved, we knew we'd know people there who we've served with before."
All military parents can tell stories about the challenges their children have had, Eberhart noted. He said his daughter Jessica talks about seven schools in the first six grades. And daughter Erica talks about being uprooted between her junior and senior year when she was the captain of the cross-country team, the captain of the swimming team and the captain of the crew team and the president-elect of the student body.
"We took her to a small school where girls don't play varsity sports and they already had a president-elect of the student council," the general noted. "We're very proud of her because she rebounded that year. At the end of that year, in a small school where the majority of the kids had been in K through 12 together, she won the citizenship award."
Eberhart said he and his wife dropped Jessica off at the University of Florida where she didn't know any of the 26,000 kids. "We drove out of the parking lot, got on an airplane and flew to Japan," he said. He added that he had "five different addresses while she was in school on the four-year program."
Using one of his favorite quotes, he said, "No one can tell where their influence stops."
"I think that quote applies to MCEC," Eberhart said. "It applies to each and every one of you. I think this is an organization for eternity and you'll affect our world in ways you've not dreamed of."