Dunfords, students discuss leadership, civic responsibility, military life
WASHINGTON -- Seventeen-year-old Kenneth Hannah of Killeen, Texas, has a lifetime of lessons from being a military child and shares those lessons with other young people to help them on their journey.
From being resilient during his parents’ Army deployments, to making new friends in the 10 different schools he attended, he says his experiences taught him to be resilient. Hannah describes military children as independent, resilient and persevering.
"It taught me to stay strong for myself and for my family,” he said, highlighting how he used the opportunities for change to meet new friends, while making sure he remained in touch with the friends he already had.
The high school senior, who is in the leadership academy at his school, is part of the Student 2 Student program with the non-profit Military Child Education Coalition. The S2S program is a school-sponsored program for civilian and military students, designed to help support students relocating to or from the school.
Hannah was among the students from around the country gathered here for a three-day national training seminar with the Military Child Education Coalition.
Lessons from the Dunfords
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, and his wife, Ellyn Dunford, joined more than 100 S2S students today at the conference for a conversation on leadership, civic responsibility and the challenges of military life.
The discussion was tailored around three books selected by Ellyn Dunford: “Ladies of Liberty” by Cokie Roberts, “Better” by Atul Gawande, and “Martha Washington” by Patricia Brady. The students were assigned to read one of them.
The chairman thanked the students for all they have done in support of transitioning students, saying other children are benefiting from their leadership and mentorship.
The Dunfords have been married for more than 30 years and raised three children amid the frequent moves, deployments and other challenges of military life. They shared their story and talked about the sacrifices made by military families, while underscoring the importance of supporting others and contributing to society.
“One of the most rewarding parts of serving in uniform, or I think being a part of the education profession, is you're part of something that's greater than yourself," the general said.
"You have by definition given of your time and energy for a greater good than yourself,” he said. “It's actually, I think, the most rewarding thing in life.”
Making a Difference
Inspiration can be found all around you, the Dunfords said.
"I think the best way to learn is to be aware of what's going on around you," Ellyn Dunford said. Using a phrase from children's television personality Fred Rogers, she recommended they "look for the helpers," people who are making a difference and improving society and the world.
Citizens have a responsibility to improve their community, the chairman said.
“To me, being a citizen is being engaged, being involved, having a stake in your local community and in your country, and then doing something personally for your community," he said.
The Dunfords stressed the importance of learning from history, warning that to do otherwise will lead to repeating past mistakes.