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Ft. Bragg Kids Get Time Off for Troops' Homecoming

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Ft. Bragg Kids Get Time Off for Troops' Homecoming


Ft. Bragg Kids Get Time Off for Troops' Homecoming

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Cohen.


I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, we know how those high-priced brand new jeans with the well-worn look do get high-priced, but how is it they do get so well-worn?

COHEN: But first, spring break is coming up for many schools, but sometimes school vacations don't come quite soon enough. When mom and dad are soldiers serving overseas and are home for just a short period of time, it's hard to not want to play hooky.

Fort Bragg in North Carolina has been working with surrounding school districts to allow students time off to spend time with their families, which should be good news for the 82nd Airborne Division, which is scheduled to come home over the next few months. The entire division was recently deployed for the first time since World War II. From member station WHQR, Catherine Welch reports.

CATHERINE WELCH: In an enormous airplane hangar, spouses, grandparents, parents and children - lots of children - fill rows of hardwood benches lined up like church pews. They're waiting for a plane full of the 82nd Airborne's Calvary Regiment to land.

Carolyn Ciancaglini and her two teenage daughters are ready to end what has been a 15-month separation from her husband and their step-dad.

Ms. CAROLYN CIANCAGLINI: It's really exciting, and their job is just to keep mom as stress-free as possible.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WELCH: The soldiers are returning on a school holiday, but were initially scheduled to land on a regular school day, and Ciancaglini says it would have been a tough call whether to pull her 15-year-old daughter from school.

Ms. CIANCAGLINI: She's very academic and has really, really awesome grades and GPAs, so my husband and I discussed it and he said he wouldn't want her to feel stressed.

WELCH: Neither did the top officials at Fort Bragg.

Colonel DAVID FOX (U.S. Army): One of the things that we hear all the time is we just want to help. Tell us, the school districts are asking the Army, tell us how we can help, how we can reduce the stress on the families, how we can reduce the stress on the children.

WELCH: That's Fort Bragg's garrison commander, Colonel David Fox, who says students with a parent deployed can now take off five consecutive days without penalty. He says the nearly dozen school districts orbiting this massive Army base were more than willing to give these kids that extra week.

That's not 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 one million students who have parents on active duty.

Ms. MARY KELLER (Military Child Education Coalition): What's happened with the multiple deployments and separations, and really the extended deployments too, is even a finer attunement that the military child and their family really need that community home front, and that home front for a child is really their school.

WELCH: Back in North Carolina, Shannon Sherko(ph) is putting together a PowerPoint presentation for school counselors loaded with information, including a video for military families showing Sesame Street's Elmo grappling with his dad being deployed.

(Soundbite of video)

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) And (unintelligible) do you know what today is?

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As Elmo) Thursday?

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) Well, yes, yes it is Thursday, but it's also that day we talked about, remember? The day I have to go?

Unidentified Man #2: (As Elmo) Oh yeah. Daddy's got to go away for lots and lots of days, right?

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) That's right, son.

WELCH: Sherko is one of North Carolina's four brand-new military liaisons hired by local school districts. Her job is to act as an information clearing house for teachers and school counselors. She says one of the best things a parent can do is to let the school know about an upcoming deployment.

Ms. SHANNON SHERKO (Military Liaison, North Carolina): The more people that know, the less chance that child will have, you know, of developing major issues during the deployment.

WELCH: But the Military Child Education Coalition's Mary Keller says she's only aware of school liaisons for the military in North Carolina and one at the El Paso School District for Fort Hood. Keller says the Army has similar military positions at its bases. The Air Force, Navy and Marines are looking to add school liaisons to all of their installations across the country.

The entire 82nd Airborne Division is expected to be home in the fall, just as the new school year begins. For NPR News, I'm Catherine Welch in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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