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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
December 5, 2007

Mrs. Bush's Remarks in a Roundtable Discussion on the Special Needs of Military Youth and Families
Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland


10:52 A.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Okay, let's all have a seat. And I just want to thank you. I want to thank everyone who's here today, both helping on the panel, and everyone in the audience. This is a good time of year to talk about what Americans can do to help military kids, especially the ones whose parents are deployed over the holidays, the children who are going to be missing their mom or dad or both over the holidays. It's especially sad time for military children to not have their loved one at home with them for the special holiday time.

So I want to thank you all very much. I want to thank everybody here at Andrews. You know, this, of course, is the base that we go to the most, mainly in and out of Andrews, as you all know. I think the President went off this morning to Nebraska from here. But I've seldom had a chance to really get to stay at Andrews for a while and see some things. And I want to tell you how very impressed I am with this youth center.

It's terrific looking, for one thing. I think it's so colorful and fun and very attractive for children. But I also know the services that are provided here are also very necessary. And I want to thank all the people that have already given me the tour and told me about the Critter Room -- for instance, Miss Debbie -- where children get to have all those animals to study and do all their science experiments and have a really fun time there, learning science while they are here, both after school and before school, before they go on to their school.

Andrews hosts more than 20,000 active-duty military people -- civilian, employees, contractors and family members. And I want to thank everybody that works at Andrews Air Force Base for what you do for our country. I want to thank you for your service, both to the President and me, and to our whole country. Thank you very much for that.

I also want to introduce a special guest who is with us. He's on the front row right here, Mr. Dan Gade. Dan is a 1997 graduate of the military academy. He commanded a tank company in Iraq where he was wounded and decorated for valor. And now he serves in the President's administration on the Domestic Policy Council, where he's helping advise us on veterans' and military health care and disability policy. And I want to thank you very much, Dan. Thank you for that. (Applause.)

And we're here, of course, today, and we hope that the press hears this as well, to talk about the special needs of America's military children. And I want to thank Leslye Arsht and Barbara Thompson, both from the Office of Military Community and Family Policy at DOD, for helping us convene this table of experts in working with children.

In a minute, Dr. Stephen Cozza, a professor at the Uniformed Services University will talk to us about the effects of a parent's deployment on military children and what we can do to help -- all of us, both civilian and military -- to help our military youth.

President Bush, in his 2005 State of the Union address, announced the Helping America's Youth project, and he asked me to lead it. And since then I've visited schools and after-school programs all over the country, talking with children and with the adults who are so important to their lives. We know that if children have caring adults in their lives, they're more likely to make wise decisions for their own lives, the children are. And when your parents are deployed, it's really important that other caring adults have an opportunity to step in and help young people while their parents are away. And I know that's what many of you do, everybody that I'm talking to in this crowd, as well as all the people who -- that we'll hear from in a minute in the panel. And I want to thank you for that.

I've seen all the terrific things that are offered to young people here, from sports programs -- one of the great programs I heard about was the Honorary Coach, where each one of the sports teams can designate an honorary coach, a deployed service member, a lot of times a parent of one of the young people on the team. They send the deployed honorary coach their Honorary Coach t-shirts, and then they also write them letters and send them goodies. And it's a way for parents who can't be the real coach because they're deployed overseas to be able to stay in contact with their children and their children's sports teams and to know what's happening with their children.

I know the special resiliency that military children develop over their childhood because of having to move so often with their parents who are serving in the military, as well as, of course, having to deal with both the fear and the pride that they have because their parents are deployed at different parts of their childhood.

So I want to thank everyone here for every single thing you do, especially for what you do over the holiday season. I want to encourage Americans who hear about this through the media to also be especially aware during the holiday season of what they can do for military children whose parents are deployed.

So thanks, everybody. Now we're ready to start the roundtable. I want to thank everyone that's here with me, and we'll get started.

* * * * *

MRS. BUSH: Well, I want to thank everyone again, especially all of the people on the roundtable for what all -- how you informed us about things that are happening. So I'm interested in one thing: How do you reach out to teachers that would want the LINN training or the other training, teachers who are in regular public schools across the country?

MS. TRAUTMAN: We really try to foster the partnership between the installations, so we usually go through the installation and help them to partner with their supporting school districts.

MRS. BUSH: Local schools.

MS. TRAUTMAN: And it's by invitation. We stand ready and willing to do this any day.

MRS. BUSH: That's great. Another question I have that I think people would be interested to know is, what if you are a member of a family, one of the more isolated families, either a Guard member, where you're a family of a Guard member where you're in a neighborhood where no one else anywhere close to you is serving, or you're a younger parent struggling at home, while your spouse is deployed, with your children. Where should these families reach out? Who should they call? And I want to encourage families to reach out if they need help, to not stay in isolation but to let people know that you're having trouble, maybe trouble controlling your own anger with your children that may be a part of the way you are having trouble dealing with the stress of your loved one being deployed, or the fear of your loved one being gone. What should families do, young families do, to reach out and let people know they need some help? Does anybody know who they would contact?

MS. THOMPSON: We have one program, it's called Military OneSource, which is a 24-7 Internet as well as telephone operation, which allows families to call and reach out and receive counseling support. It's non-medical. It's just slight coaching, problem solving, to get through very difficult times.

And we let that information be known through the National Guard and Reserve family programs, as well as each installation has a family program and a child development program on its installation, so our professionals know about that resource that are available. But it's connecting the family to the resource, which is the greatest challenge.

MRS. BUSH: Sure. Well, I want to encourage any military families who read about this in the newspaper to do that, to reach out if you need help, to let people know you need help. There are all sorts of people, in the military community as well as in towns everywhere across the United States that want to give you whatever sort of help you need. But obviously, there are also trained people who can help you work through the difficulties.

So I want to encourage families, if you're having any sort of problems, to reach out and let people know. It's hard to get help if you don't let people know you need it. So thank you for that one source for people to look.

MR. RICHARDSON: Mrs. Bush, also any Boys and Girls Club in America, 4,000 of them, have their doors open for free services. Go to our website. There's a club locator that will direct you to the nearest club by zip code. And if there happens to be one of the 4,000 communities nearby, walk in, and if there's any issue, have them call me, and I will go down and make sure -- (laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: That's great.

COLONEL BAKER: Also, we have the family assistance centers and the child and youth coordinators in the National Guard that are community-based, and they can reach out to connect to Military OneSource and to the other resources that exist out there (inaudible) in the National Guard.

ADMIRAL GALLO: Mrs. Bush, we've also encouraged our YMCAs -- they're community-wide, and there's over 2,600 in the states -- to reach out to the Guard and Reserve families in the area, and many of them have.

DR. COZZA: Mrs. Bush, I think in addition to schools, health care providers, pediatricians living in communities where there are not many military children but there are still some, being aware of the needs of military kids since that population is really all across the country at this point.

MRS. BUSH: Absolutely, we need to make sure that -- it would be great if some of you all could speak when they have their big -- the pediatricians, for instance -- have their big conferences, to get the word out to as many doctors around the country and health care providers, to just be aware of what they can do to help military kids -- and families, and mothers and dads. They all need help, not just the children, when you're dealing with the -- all the stress of having a loved one deployed.

Thank you all so much. Thank you, everybody that's out here. I know all of you work with military kids and military families all the time, and I want to thank you for what you do. And I want to thank each of the organizations that are represented here for what you do. Many of these organizations represented help children all over our country, not just military children. But thank you for your special attention to military children.

And I especially want to thank the two military children who spoke to us today. I want to thank you. (Applause.) And Patricia is right, we need to get the word out to children of all of our military families, how we know you do serve also, and the sacrifices you make with your parents gone for a long part of your children. I mean, when you're only five or six years old and your parent is deployed for a year, that's a fifth of your childhood. And we want military kids to know that Americans are aware of that and that we want to be able to step in and help while your parents serve our country.

So thanks, everybody, very much. (Applause.)

END 11:39 A.M. EST

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