1. President Honors Military Spouses at White House Event:President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates paid tribute onMay 6th to about 1,100 military spouses who gathered for a MilitarySpouse Day celebration at the White House. NMFA members joined othermetropolitan Washington DC military spouses for the occasion on theSouth Lawn, which also served to honor outstanding military familymember volunteers.
President Bush thanked military spouses who stand behind their lovedones serving the country during wartime. "Whether you signed up formilitary life at the recruiting station or at the altar rail, eachperson -- each person's a volunteer," he said. "And when you marriedyour soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman, you becamemore than just part of a family. You became part of our nation'smilitary family."
The life of a military family is no easy calling, the Presidentsaid. It involves frequent moves, living far from extended families,and saying goodbye to a spouse who goes off to serve on the front linesin the battle to secure the United States and spread freedom.
"Being left behind when a loved one goes to war has got to be one ofthe hardest jobs in the United States military," President Bush said,noting the challenges of holding down the home front while praying fora loved one's safe return.
"In carrying out the burdens, you're serving our country, and itsnoble service, and it's necessary service," he said. "The United Statesof America owes you a huge debt of gratitude. And so, on behalf of ourpeople, thank you for what you're doing."
President Bush said he's impressed during his visits to militarybases to see how military families take care of each other. "What Ifound is that there's always a close-knit community, people who aresharing a special bond and people who take time to look out afterpeople," he said. "It's been an amazing experience to see the fabric ofour military communities firsthand."
Secretary Gates said he makes it a point during his visits tomilitary facilities to meet with families of deployed troops, mostrecently last week at Fort Bliss, Texas. "I'm always tremendouslyimpressed by your sacrifice, resilience and fortitude," he said.
At the White House Celebration, both President Bush and SecretaryGates touched on enhancing benefits for military families. ThePresident said that he hoped Congress would move quickly to passlegislation that would expand child care, create new authorities toappoint qualified spouses into civil service jobs and provideeducational opportunities and job training for military spouses. Butthe President drew cheers when he spoke about the initiative to allowservice members to transfer GI Bill benefits to their spouses andchildren. He said "This legislation is moving. I hope to be able tosign it as soon as possible. It is the absolute right thing to do. Itshould send a clear message that we care for you, we respect you and welove you." Secretary Gates explained he had heard from spouses at Ft.Hood, Texas how important the transferability of benefits was tomilitary families and he urged the President to propose legislation.
NMFA has long supported enhancing education benefits for militaryspouses. These can include the transfer of GI Bill benefits, tuitionassistance for spouses and expanded educational opportunities and jobtraining, and eligibility for in-state tuition. The present MontgomeryGI Bill allows some service members in specific career fields totransfer a portion of their benefit to spouses in lieu of a portion ofa reenlistment bonus. There are several bills in both the House andSenate that promote enhancements to the GI Bill. Several call for thetransfer of benefits. NMFA hopes the final crafting of legislation willrecognize the sacrifices that military families make in support oftheir service member and the importance of education in recruiting andretaining service members and families. (Source: www.defenselink.mil/utility/printitem.aspx?print=http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=49791
2. New Video Explains Interstate Compact:For those of you who have been trying to spread the word in your stateabout the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for MilitaryChildren, there is now a video to help you reach out to state and localleaders and to military families. The Council of State Governments,with the assistance of DoD, NMFA, and other organizations, has prepareda video to explain the importance of the compact and provide backgroundinformation on interstate compacts to state legislators.
NMFA is pleased that three states, Kentucky, Kansas, and Arizonahave already enacted the compact into state law and pledged theirstate's participation. However, the compact does not go into effectuntil 10 states have done the same. That is why NMFA is asking for yourhelp to share this video with community and state leaders, militaryleaders, and military families. Please join us in spreading the wordabout the importance of this compact for military families!
To view the video, go to: http://www.csg.org/programs/ncic/MilitaryChildrenCompactVideo.aspx; or for more information on the compact, go to: http://www.csg.org/programs/ncic/EducatingMilitaryChildrenCompact.aspx
Please contact NMFA Deputy Director of Government Relations, Candace Wheeler at email@example.com to keep her informed about activities in your state regarding the compact. 3. Senate Passes Veterans' Benefit Legislation:The "Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007" (S. 1315) was passedby the Senate last month. S. 1315 will enhance veterans' insurance andhousing benefits and improve benefits and services for service memberstransitioning from active duty to veteran status, along with otherbenefits. Some of the improvements are:
- Includes Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) under Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI),
- Increases supplemental service disabled veterans' insurance for totally disabled veterans from $20,000 to $30,000,
- Providesa retroactive traumatic injury coverage under SGLI for service memberswho received such an injury between 10/7/2001 and 12/1/2005,
- Allows SGLI payment to distinguish between the severity of loss of a dominant hand and a non-dominant hand,
- Allows for specially adaptive housing benefits and assistance for:
- service members and veterans who reside outside of the United States,
- disabled service members residing temporarily in housing owned by a family member, and
- disabled veterans whose disability is due to severe burn injury,
- Establishesan annual cost-of-living adjustment, by the same percentage asincreases under Title II of the Social Security Act, for the temporarypayment of DIC (dependency and indemnity compensation), and
- Directs the Comptroller General to report to the Veterans' and Appropriation Committees on the adequacy of the DIC.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated implementation wouldresult in discretionary outlays of $178 million in 2008 and $1 billionover 2008 to 2012. For the CBO's cost estimate go to: http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/85xx/doc8580/s1315revised.pdf
4. Second Annual GI Film Festival Opens:Honor the American GI at the 2nd Annual GI Film Festival featuring fanfavorites, world premiers, and Hollywood stars. Be part of thecelebration May 14th through 18th at the Carnegie Institution inWashington, DC. For ticket information and show times, visit http://www.gifilmfestival.com/.
Military families may check out the free events at Bolling Air Force Base on Thursday, May 15th!
5. AAFES Sponsors Contest Saluting Military Spouses:The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is sponsoring a PatriotFamily Salutes the Military Spouse Calendar contest from May 11- July28. Entrants are invited to nominate a military spouse by writing anessay of 300 words or less explaining what the nominee has done tosupport the military community during a deployment.
Twelve winners will receive a $500 AAFES shopping spree and havetheir essays published, along with their photos, in a Military Spousecalendar that will be available at all AAFES BXs/PXs in early November.
A complete description of the Military Spouse contest rules can be found online at AAFES.com http://www.aafes.com/Patriot_Family/videocontest.asp.The contest is open to all authorized exchange shoppers. Entries mustbe postmarked or emailed to Patriot Family at aafes.com no later thanJuly 28,2008. No purchase is necessary to win.
6. Summer Workshop Registration Now Open To Teachers:The U.S. Department of Education is once again offering free summerworkshops for teachers and educators. As part of the Department'sTeacher-to-Teacher (T2T) Initiative, these workshops are designed tohelp teachers improve student achievement by supporting theirprofessional development and keeping them informed about the lateststrategies and research that helps students meet high standards.
First offered in 2004, more than 20,000 educators have participatedin the workshops, held in more than 50 cities across the country. Thisyear, the workshops will be offered in 12 cities across the U.S. andare co-hosted by the United States Mint, Federal AviationAdministration (FAA), National Park Service (NPS), National Aeronauticsand Space Administration (NASA), Department of Defense EducationActivity (DODEA), and Department of Energy (DOE).
For more information or to register for the workshops, contact Stephanie Babyak or Jane Glickman (202) 401-1576 or go to: www.ed.gov/teacherinitiative. 7. European PTA Celebrates Golden Jubilee:In February of 1958, the PTA national organization added its 52ndbranch - the European Congress of American Parents, Teachers, andStudents. The newest congress represented the schools for Americandependants in Germany, France, England, Italy, French Morocco, andTurkey. These schools provided education for some 60,000 army, airforce, and navy personnel, plus those of American civilians living onmilitary bases in the areas.
Today, the European PTA is the strongest European organizationworking exclusively on behalf of children and youth of schoolsoperating under the U.S. Department of Defense and its Department ofDefense Education Activity (DoDEA). Over 56 of these 99 schools areregistered with European PTA and they boast over 8,000 individual PTAmembers. European PTA continues to:
- Advocate for interests that improve the education of children at American schools in Europe,
- Trainlocal school PTA leaders at installations within all of the UnitedStates European Command, to include USAREUR, USAFE, and USNAVEUR,
- Represent common interests of local schools to DoDEA, the National PTA, and to United States Congress,
- Conduct activities and events that complement the overall DoDEA educational program.
Special events in celebration of this milestone are plannedthroughout the week. For details on specific locations visit theEuropean PTA website at: http://www.europeanpta.org/index.html
8. Marine Parents United Announces Summer Conference:Marine Parents United, a 501(c)3 charitable organization that wasformed originally to educate, uplift, inspire, and support Marineparents is preparing to host its fifth annual conference in Chantilly,Virginia this July.
MPU began as a grassroots organization by Marine moms across theUnited States. It sprang from an online yahoo chat group called MarineMoms and Dads Online: firstname.lastname@example.org.When their children signed up for the Marines, they were looking forany and all information about the Marines. To many, it was a surpriseand a shock that their kids joined. They were hungry for informationand support. MPU was born in the hearts of these four Marine Moms.
The MPU mission is to help Marines and their families. In the pastfive years MPU has broadened to include other family members andmembers from families of all branches of service. For more informationabout the conference, visit http://www.marineparentsunited.com/