I’ve been an army brat since before I was born. As you can imagine, the military has been a very significant part of my life. Actually, I don’t think I can even say that it was “part of my life” instead, it was my life. I’ve moved all over, lived in a different country, said goodbye to friends… but I never realized how different my childhood was until I ventured off to college and was exposed to a large group of non-military kids.
There are some characteristics of military children that you just can’t deny are different from normal kids. This life style is hard and grueling but I don’t know a single one of us that would change their experience for the world.
That’s probably one of our finest traits, we truly appreciate what we have. When your entire life gets up-rooted every few years, you really find the things that you’re thankful for. The opportunity to travel, the few times my father got to see me run in high school cross country races, my brother, Joe, who got me through everything, and the strength of my mother who raised me in a loving environment, even when she was on her own majority of the time, are a few things I truly appreciate that a lot of other children take for granted.
When I was really little, my Dad decided became a member of the special forces and became ranger certified. With this honor came the price of his absence from my life. He missed my first 8 birthdays, countless first days of school, and a lot of other things in my childhood. But every time he came home, it was the best thing in the world. Even as an infant, I knew how special it was when he came home. My Mom always tells a story of when he came home from a long deployment and as he held me, I’d stare into his eyes, then rest my head on his shoulder and giggle for a minute, then look back up at him.
I just remember every waking moment with him being the highlight of my day. My Dad was a jump master, he helped tell his soldiers when to jump out of airplanes and helicopters with their parachutes and he would have to practice his commands at home. To spend extra time with us, he taught me and my little brother the commands and we pretended to be his little jump crew. During the time we had my brother Dad and I would do push ups, learn defense moves, and go play on the base training obstacle courses. We’d camp out and eat Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), those little bags of military food you see in the movies and we loved every second of it.
Although we had fun with the military life, it was really hard to keep a grip on things. I literally moved every 1-2 years. One time it got so bad that as we pulled up to a new house, my brother (in first grade) looked over at me and said, “Don’t make any friends, Margaret. We aren’t here long enough.” We also lived in some pretty less-than-stellar base housing. In Ft. Leavenworth Kansas my Mom cried on the spot when she saw our living quarters. But because of these experiences, I learned to appreciate what I have. I’m so easy going now. As long as there’s a roof over my head, I consider a place liveable and I’ll find a way to make it home.
Once I hit the 5th grade, my Dad decided that he needed to settle down to be a bigger part of our lives. He moved from special forces to being a comptroller. Who knew then that he’d wind up deployed twice to Iraq and being away from us almost more than when he was one of the special forces elite. The years he went to war took a toll on all of us incredibly. But in the end, we pulled through together, as a family.
Now that I live in a different country than my parents, even though my Dad is recently retired, I can’t help but to look back on all of these moments and realize that they prepared me for anything that’s going to challenge me in life. I have the ability to adapt and deal with a lot of different situations quickly and that helps me every day here at school. It’s definitely hard, but coming from this lifestyle I really know what home means. Home is not a house, a name, a bedroom, a neighborhood, not even the high school you graduated from, its where your family is, the people who love you and care about you more than anything.
This is the month of the military child and I just had to get a little bit of my story out there. This isn’t even the half of it, but there’s no way I can explain it all. It’s just something that only other military brats can truly understand. Families serve along with our soldiers, we suffer with them, we laugh with them, the military is a family commitment and anyone who says otherwise, needs to open their eyes to the world in front of them. Support our troops and their families.
Here’s a video of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden discussing the month of the military child.