07/16/10 — Student speaks at military family roundtable session at Pentagon

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Student speaks at military family roundtable session at Pentagon

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 16, 2010 1:46 PM

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Michael Atkins talks about his recent trip to the Pentagon as part of a roundtable discussion on the GI Bill and military families. The Wayne County teen is a member of the governor's commission on volunteers and community service.

Michael Atkins wasn't worried about making his announcement too prematurely.

So during a recent trip to the nation's capital, he revealed to a crowd that he was throwing his name into the race for the White House.

And it didn't seem to matter that he has yet to reach his 20th birthday -- that his particular run at the country's highest seat won't happen until 2028.

"I've always had big ambitions. I don't ever want to compromise my goals for anybody," Atkins said. "And a bunch of people actually came up to me afterward and said they'd vote for me. So, I guess we'll see."

The self-described outspoken Wayne County teen was recently invited to Washington, D.C., to participate in a roundtable discussion at the Pentagon that focused on the GI Bill and how to best provide for military dependents -- topics the young man has become quite well-versed in as the son of a retired Air Force senior master sergeant.

"They thought that me being there, I would be able to represent youth ... really well because I'm so heavily involved in a lot of things," Atkins said. "And I'm pretty outspoken about everything. If there is something that I'm interested in or something that concerns me, I feel like ... there is no reason to not speak from my experiences -- even though I'm only 19 going on 20."

The young man has become known over the years as a staunch advocate for military families, thanks largely to his involvement in various programs designed to support Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and Gov. Beverly Perdue's Commission on Volunteers and Community Service.

And he is also known for speaking his mind -- encouraging others to do more than simply say they support the nation's fighting force, a message he brought with him to Washington.

"It's definitely difficult for military families, especially nowadays (with the armed forces' constant roles in Iraq and Afghanistan), so now is the time to push," Atkins said. "Any person can hang a ribbon in the yard and say, 'I support the troops,' but unless you really know, you have no idea how much that person who is serving is going through and also how much their family is going through."

He knows.

"When my dad came back from the (Persian Gulf War) ... I didn't even know who he was. I didn't even know he was my dad," Atkins said. "For someone who is really young, it's hard to understand. Why does my dad have to leave? ... So, yeah, there are definitely times when it's hard."