Member Spotlight - Brigadier General (Ret.) Richard V. Geraci, U.S. Army
No matter how the world changes, certain basic elements of a sound society remain the same. Among the most important of these elements, the education of young people in our communities has and always will be an investment in our future. Education in America today is not limited to academics — our schools provide essential intellectual, physical and emotional development for our children.
Even in the face of changes to our society and daily lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot short-change our children. We cannot fail in our duty of care. We must ensure that the young people in our communities have access to high-quality care and education programs, proper nutrition, and exercise. Their basic needs are non-negotiable.
That is why I was pleased to take part in a virtual Missouri Child Advocacy Day on April 8. I joined participants from across Missouri via Zoom to discuss how it is more important than ever to support Missouri families by advocating for early childhood programs. Although policymakers at the state and federal level will be faced with tough budget choices in the coming months, we have a responsibility to highlight how important funding high-quality early childhood programs is for the futures of our nation’s children and our nation’s national security.
As president of Missouri Military Academy (MMA), I have the privilege of being part of a holistic education system that takes a 360-degree approach to provide a framework for our cadets to reach their full potential. Through academic excellence, physical development, personal motivation, leadership and character development, we work to show cadets what their true potential is and how to take command of their lives.
Every child deserves this opportunity to understand and achieve his or her potential. Watching our young men flourish in their time at the Academy, I am conscious of how many students in our country today lack the basic fundamentals they need for their full development – particularly now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. At MMA, we have been fortunate to remain open for the spring 2020 semester, thanks to timing, coordination with local public health officials, and our academy’s location in rural Missouri. We are maintaining a contained campus and following government guidelines to keep everyone safe. Our cadets are continuing to grow and develop as they should, through instruction in the classroom, fresh and nutritious meals, a structured day that includes physical exercise and adequate sleep, and more.
Every student in America deserves these basics. Without them, they cannot thrive. We must hold ourselves responsible for their development. As schools have pivoted quickly in 2020 to deliver online learning, they have also worked to find ways to help children continue to receive the same resources they get at school. Thanks to the hard work of school nutrition and food service providers, children are able to get meals through distribution sites. Utilizing the model used for summer meal distribution, many schools allow families to pick up meals at school while maintaining safe distancing practices for both students and staff.
Through our Army JROTC Service Learning Project, we have taken pride in continuing to support our local food bank’s Buddy Pack Program. Throughout the school year, MMA cadets normally assemble 500 packs a week to help keep local school children fed over the weekend – those who depend on school breakfast and lunch to meet their nutritional needs during the week. When other schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our cadets stepped up their effort to address food shortages for families – packing 3500 Buddy Packs in two days.
These cadets were doing more than packing bags with food to help feed other kids. They were learning that supporting those in need truly matters and that self-discipline, structure, and goals help us to achieve more.
Mission: Readiness’ work is critical as we continue to grapple with this pandemic, and we must also approach our task with discipline and clear goals. The pandemic has revealed with painful clarity how important education and access to basic resources are. We will see detrimental, long-term effects to our society if we do not address the needs of our children.
Continuing to advocate for our children remains key to ensuring we have a strong national security. There is a lot of work to do, but I am committed to working with each of you to support programs that will help young people stay healthy and well-educated.