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VA Secretary Challenges Fort Meade Students to Achieve

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2009 – Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki visited Meade High School on Fort George G. Meade, Md., yesterday to challenge more than 700 students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning.

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Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki addresses Meade High School students at Fort George G. Meade, Md., as part of the “My Education, My Future” back-to-school initiative, Sept. 8, 2009. VA photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Shinseki joined President Barack Obama and other Cabinet members in reaching out to America’s youth through “My Education, My Future” events. Obama visited Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., where he presented a virtual address to students across the country.

Meanwhile, the VA secretary told the Meade High School students, many of them children of troops at Fort Meade, that he wants to see them succeed and that the country’s future depends on their success.

“We are committed to helping you achieve greatness for yourselves, your communities and the nation by encouraging each of you to set and achieve the highest educational goals,” he said. “America will not succeed in the 21st century unless we do a far better job of educating you, our sons and daughters.”

Shinseki also encouraged the students to consider a path of volunteerism. He noted that more than 20,000 young people volunteer their time to more than 160 VA facilities across the nation.

“Volunteering at a VA medical facility is a learning experience in as many ways as it is a giving experience," he told the students. “Veterans enjoy the company and care young volunteers provide.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates observed the White House back-to-school initiative in a quieter manner. He traveled to Fort Belvoir, Va., to meet with about a dozen military parents and talk about the challenges military children face in the education system.

Gates noted that 44 percent of active-duty servicemembers have children, about two-thirds of them under age 11. Of the 1.2 million military children, only about 85,000 attend Defense Department schools. The rest attend public schools -- where he conceded that their nonmilitary schoolmates often don’t understand or relate to their lifestyle and the difficulties they face, and staffs too often aren’t equipped to offer the support they need.

The defense secretary told reporters after his Fort Belvoir visit that he planned to return to the Pentagon with a list of issues to look into to help improve support for military families and their children.

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Robert M. Gates
Eric K. Shinseki

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Department of Veterans Affairs

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