First Lady Jill Biden visits Wright-Patt, promotes military families, children
First Lady Jill Biden is passionate about supporting military families through the myriad of transitions that routinely disrupt their lives — especially children.
April is National Military Child Awareness Month. To kick this off, she visited Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Wednesday afternoon and toured several locations. First stop was Beverly Gardens Elementary in Mad River Local Schools — a Purple Star School.
This program originated in Ohio under Governor Mike DeWine’s leadership.
It’s meant to help schools respond to the educational, social and emotional challenges children in military families experience. They often are forced to move from state to state and from school to school with each deployment of their parent or parents.
The first lady joined second-graders as they played a math game called, the Mystery Number.
“Ready to guess? The mystery number has more than ...” she urged one boy. “Yes, you got the answer — that was great!”
Almost 300 of Beverly Gardens' nearly 400 students are from families stationed at Wright-Patt. Thus, teachers and administrators intentionally create programs addressing the unique educational and social-emotional needs of military youth.
One is called Anchored for Life. Third grade math teacher Amber Farkas says it makes coming to a new school a bit easier.
“It’s a group of fourth grade students and their goal is to make peer to peer connections,” explained Farkas. “When a new family moves in, they give the family a tour and a welcome kit. They also do deployment kits and re-unification kits.”
Biden reflected on the days when her son, Bo, served in the army–and how a teacher helped her grandchildren.
“My son was deployed to Iraq, and I know what happened with my grandchildren and how they felt with their dad being off fighting,” Biden said. “It was a lot for them to handle but their community was so supportive. The teacher in my grandchildren’s school right hung a picture of Bo’s unit outside the door, so every day all the kids would remember that Natalie and Hunter’s daddy was away at war.”
Pete LuPiba is commissioner of the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission. He launched the Purple Star program under the DeWine administration. “We have 481 Purple Star Schools in the Buckeye State,” he told Biden.
To earn this status, schools must have a trained staff liaison who works with military students and families and the teachers who serve them. They must also have a dedicated web page featuring resources specifically for military families, and must host military recognition events.
Forty three states have Purple Star Schools and nationally, more than 200,000 military youth benefit. LuPiba says Ohio is extending similar support to college-age youth. In 2022, Ohio launched a Collegiate Purple Star School Program and now there are 33 in the state.
Dayton Mayor Jeffrey J. Mims Jr. participated in a private meeting between the first lady and several military parents whose children attend Beverly Gardens.
He was impressed with Biden’s compassion for these families and her commitment to urging every community to embrace their children.
“The services that are provided in the schools and in the community help put them in a space where they continue their growth and they don’t feel misaligned or uncared for because of the transition their parents have to make so often,” Mims said.
Biden’s visit is part of her national initiative — called Joining Forces — encouraging Americans to connect military spouses with work and entrepreneurship opportunities, youth with child care and to provide overall emotional support for families and veterans.
She's visited 25 other bases.
The first lady also visited the Museum of the United States Air Force and viewed a mock, in-air demonstration by specialized flight nurses at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine.
As she wrapped up her visit, Biden told the military families she met that she will share their concerns with President Joe Biden. She also highlighted the president’s financial investments for military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors in his fiscal year 2024 budget proposal to Congress.
With around 35,000 military and civilian employees, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the largest single-site employer in Ohio.
Missions focused on equipping and sustaining the Air Force are headquartered here, including Air Force Materiel Command, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and Air Force Research Laboratory.