Ft. Bragg Kids Get Time Off for Troops' Homecoming

Samantha Ciancaglini i i

Samantha Ciancaglini holds up a sign for her stepfather, Sgt. Jeffrey Ciancaglini, as he returns to Fort Bragg after a deployment in Iraq. Catherine Welch, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Catherine Welch, NPR
Samantha Ciancaglini

Samantha Ciancaglini holds up a sign for her stepfather, Sgt. Jeffrey Ciancaglini, as he returns to Fort Bragg after a deployment in Iraq.

Catherine Welch, NPR

The school districts around Fort Bragg in North Carolina are working together to give students time off when their loved ones return from war.

When soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division returned to Fort Bragg from their deployment last month, some parents were saved from having to decide whether to pull their children out of class when the arrival was rescheduled. The soldiers were initially expected to land on a regular school day, but because of flight delays, they ended up returning home on Presidents Day, a school holiday

Carolyn Ciancaglini, whose husband has been away for 15 months, says it would have been a tough call whether to keep her 15-year-old daughter, Samantha, out of school.

"She's very academic and has awesome grades, and my husband and I discussed it, and he didn't want her to be stressed," Ciancaglini says.

Neither do top officials at Fort Bragg.

Students with a parent deployed can now take off five consecutive days without penalty. Fort Bragg's garrison commander, Col. David Fox, says the nearly dozen school districts orbiting the massive Army base were more than willing to give children that extra week.

That isn't surprising to Mary Keller, director of the Military Child Education Coalition. She says five years into the war, every military base is now working with schools in some capacity to help the nearly 1 million students who have parents on active duty.

"What's happened with the multiple deployments and separations, and really extended deployments, too, is even a finer attunement that a military child and their family need that community home front, and that home front for a child is really their school," Keller says.

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