In celebration of the Month of the Military Child, the U.S. Department of Education Student Art Exhibit Program partnered with the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) to host the art exhibit “America’s Children.” The exhibit features some 50 works of visual art and writing from students based around the U.S., including Puerto Rico, and Canada and Germany. Communicating the unique life experiences of military-connected children at the event were Taylor Walton, MCEC Student 2 Student president at Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va.; the Department’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Programs Eric Waldo; Mary Keller, president and CEO of MCEC; Patricia Shinseki, board member of MCEC; and student performers from Mount Vernon High School.
The school’s Marine Corps Jr. ROTC Color Guard began the program by presenting the colors. Quincy Smith, an 11th-grader, sang the Star Spangled Banner. Eric Waldo welcomed the audience and provided context with remarks about the importance of military families to the current administration. He also spoke about the character traits he encountered over and over again visiting students on U.S. military bases worldwide: “Military-connected kids are some of the most impressive, resilient, and incredible kids … they have had a really rich and robust experience dealing with the stresses of their lives and using that experience to make them stronger, make them more able to adapt to the environments they are a part of … I am so fascinated by their experience. Sometimes the cultural or the social and emotional experiences they have will make them so much more successful in their lives.” Mary Keller helped to paint a clear picture about military families, stating, “There are two million kids whose parents are serving and another two million whose parents are post 9/11. The bottom line is, it’s just one story. It’s one child’s story and we want you to share with us the joy of that story.” While there are many military children around the world, the art on display represents individual voices and experiences unique to each student artist.
Oliver McKellips, a 9th-grader, and Marissa Taylor, a 10th-grader, presented the Children’s Ethos for military children.
1. I will always place the mission first.
2. I will never accept defeat.
3. I will never quit.
4. I will never leave a fallen comrade behind.
The “battlefield” on which they perform their mission is the classroom and the community, reaching for excellence in everything they do according to the mandates of that ethos.
Elisa Solomon, a 9th-grader who dreams of attending and graduating from West Point after she completes high school, presented a powerful poem she wrote, “I Know,” and described the inspiration for her poetry: “My parents serving in the Army has impacted my poetry. Poetry is a way to release my emotions when my father is deployed. Poetry is a gift and I have been involved in poetry for four to five years.”
Here is an excerpt from “I Know.”
I know what it feels like to move again and again, I know what it is like to see the brown cardboard boxes
I know what it is like to have to adapt to a new environment, and I know what it is like to see loved ones
dream of retirement.
I know what it’s like to have to make new friends, just so you can leave them before the year ends. […]
I‘ve seen the sense of relief in my mom’s eyes, the gentle exhale, the soothing sigh. And I often wonder
how we did it, and then I remember we’re military, we push through it.
The program ended with a moving bagpipe performance of “Soldiers Return” and “Amazing Grace” by 12th-grade student Logan Beveridge, who was inspired to learn to play the bagpipes after hearing them at his grandfather’s funeral as a part of the burial ceremony.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a few of the students provided insights on their life experiences as military children.
Taylor Walton, 12th grade: “I started moving when I was 12 years old. At first it was easy to understand other military students until I moved from Louisiana [he had always lived in the South] to Nebraska. After Nebraska I moved to Florida. When my dad was deployed to Iraq I had to fill in for him and start to help my mom around the house.”
Logan Beveridge, 12th grade: “When my parent was deployed to Germany I started playing the bagpipes and I have continued to learn and to show this skill off as a military child.”
Allison Kline, 12th grade: “My mom just joined the military five years ago. Having lived both in the civilian and the military worlds has made me realize that the lifestyles are very different. I would like to be an army officer and work in medicine.”
Danielle Leon, 10th Danielle Leon, 10th grade: “I get to be a part of different cultures and meet new people. While my dad was stationed in Japan, I started learning Japanese language. I would like to take Japanese classes again.”
The day after the opening, part of the exhibit moved to Vice President and Dr. Biden’s home at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., and the rest moved to the Department of Defense Education Activity headquarters in D.C.
Click here to view photos from the event.
Chareese Ross is an Information Resource Specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach and is on temporary assignment with the Student Art Exhibit Program.