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Family Matters Blog: School Means Kids Thrive on Camp Casey

By Heather Forsgren Weaver
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2010 – Heather Forsgren Weaver of American Forces Press Service, is a regular contributor to Family Matters. Heather's been heavily involved in this blog from the start. She edits, helps write and posts content on a daily basis.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Gen. Walter L. "Skip" Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, chats with a student as he signs the ribbon he’ll soon help to cut officially opening the new school on Camp Casey, South Korea, Sept. 15, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Yu Hu Son

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

In this blog, Heather writes about what the opening of a new children's school on Camp Casey, South Korea, means for troops who serve there, within miles of the demilitarized zone.

School Bells Ringing

As school bells began ringing across America signaling the beginning of a new school year, something remarkable happened on Camp Casey, South Korea. School bells rang out there too for the first time in 60 years.

The new school represents a major step in Army Gen. Walter L. "Skip" Sharp's initiative to normalize tours across the Korean peninsula and improve the quality of life for servicemembers and their families, wrote Donna Miles for American Forces Press Service in "New School Signals Commitment to Families, Alliance."

Miles is in South Korea to cover events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school, which will serve students in kindergarten through eighth grade school, took place Wednesday.

The new school "reduces stress on the military," Gen. Sharp told Miles on the helicopter ride to take them to the ceremony. "With families already separated by deployments, why have an unaccompanied tour if you don’t have to?"

Army Staff Sgt. Tim Merkert told Miles he's delighted he was able to bring his wife and his children, who will attend the new school, to Camp Casey.

"It's great, really comforting to still be able to go overseas and not be away from your family," Sgt. Merkert said.

Before the school opened, students on Camp Casey had to ride a bus for more than an hour to attend school on the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan. Christine Meehan told Miles she was happy to not have such a long bus ride every day to school.

"I actually love it here," Hailey Blake, an eighth grader told Miles.

The school is less than 20 miles south of the demilitarized zone and accommodates 363 students, most of them children of 2nd Infantry Division soldiers.

Principal Shelly Kennedy said the new school is already "bursting at the seams" so an addition is planned so that 250 more students can attend school on Camp Casey next year.

One of the perks of being the first students to attend the new school is that Meehan, Blake and their classmates will get to choose their school's mascot and colors, Principal Kennedy told Miles.

One of the teachers once served an unaccompanied tour as an airman. Robert Nicholson told Miles that difference of having families on Camp Casey is evident.

"You see the difference in the kids. They're happy to be here. They're happy to be with their families. The families are very supportive of everything going on here," Nicholson said.

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