School honors military families


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Joshua and Jenica Brinn wait for their Military Child certificates at the Eagle River Elementary School assembly last week.

CINTHIA RITCHIE

It isn’t easy being a military child.

You move around a lot, have to make new friends at new schools and don’t have any say in where you might be moving next.

Which is one of the reasons Eagle River Elementary School hosts a Military Child assembly each year.

This year’s assembly took place last week, and students, parents, teachers and military members gathered in the Eagle River Elementary School multi-purpose room. Students sat on the floor as military speakers talked about the trials and triumphs of growing up as a military kid.

“We moved seven times by eighth grade,” Sergeant Jason Person said. “Leaving was always hard.”

But he learned to embrace change, and to accept that while change is always difficult, it becomes easier the more you practice it.

He also learned the value of diversity.

“There were good parts of everywhere I lived, and bad parts. I learned to accept what I didn’t like,” he said.

The benefit of having military children in school is acceptance, he said. You learn to accept them and they learn to accept you and in the process, you all learn more about the world, and yourselves.

 

Recess with a soldier

Eagle River Elementary School includes a substantial military presence.

According to principal Nicole Sommervile, approximately a quarter of the student population comes from a military family background.

“It keeps going up every year,” she said.

The Military Child assembly began about five years ago as a way of honoring military dependents.

According to Sommervile, since military students face situations not conceivable or even apparent to more traditional students, stress levels can be high, especially around deployment times.

Yet most handle the stress better than expected.

“They’ve very adaptable. They do great,” she said.

Sgt. Person, who is part of the partnership between Eagle River Elementary and the 501 Infantry’s recess program, agreed.

Each Friday, infantry personnel head over to the school in full uniform to spend recess with the students.

The infantry members organize games, push the students on swings and talk.

“The soldiers love it,” he said. “The kids love it. They see us as big toys.”

The aim of the program, he said, is to get the kids moving.

“They have their social groups and they get together and talk. We invent games and play tag.”

In the winter, the group leads ski treks and other outdoor activities.

“Sometimes it’s your guys showing the kids how to be a man and play clean,” he said.

The military, he said, is seen in so many different lights, and not all are positive.

“We may wear this uniform and do things that aren’t fun,” he said. “But in the end we’re just people. We have families.”

The recess program helps students to view people in uniform as military personnel yet also individuals who may be moms and dads.

“It shows them that we’re all alike,” he said. “We’re all good people.”

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