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Military Kids: We’re Fine

shelley and brosOnce a military kid, forever a military kid.

My dad had a career in the Air Force, and we all moved around quite a bit when my brothers and I were children.

Now that I am a military spouse myself and raising two military kids, I can’t help but reflect on what being a military kid has meant to my life. I often think it was like a tattoo on my soul—in a good way. I don’t know who I would be without that part of my identity.

Every adult military kid can instantly relate to one another. We do not know how to answer the question “Where are you from?” We have to stop and think if someone asks how many houses we’ve lived in or how many schools we’ve attended. We mark our lives by the city, not necessarily the year, in which something happened. I do this with laughter, not regret. It’s the patchwork that makes up my life, and I am better for it.

I am a researcher with Blue Star Families, and one of my jobs is to analyze the write-in answers on our Military Family Lifestyle Survey. I get to read every answer to the questions we ask about concerns people have when raising military kids and the positive experiences and attributes their kids have due to military life.

When I read those answers about parents’ worries, I wish I could call every parent and say, “Everything is going to be OK.” I grew up with two older brothers. We are all three upstanding citizens. We went to DoD schools in the 1970s, for goodness’ sake. We’re fine. We’re educated.

We are also each fiercely independent. We never feel as if we need to live in the same town as each other because proximity does not equal closeness. We have each other’s backs, even when we are continents away from each other. Our family is our tribe, and home base is our parents’ house (wherever that happens to be). We have learned that being together in one place is a blessing that you can’t always count on, so we make the most of it when we are under one roof.

When I read those answers about the positives parents see in their military children, I want to call those parents and say, “Yes! You are right—I see it too!” According to our survey results last year, parents describe their military kids as resilient, adaptable, flexible, empathetic, respectful, and open-minded. Perhaps more important, families told stories of how their children understand the true meaning of sacrifice, working for the greater good, and having pride in our country.

It’s true. This life is one of great dignity and pride, but also of sacrifice. When my kids have to start from scratch every three years in a new home, a new school, and a new city, it breaks my heart. I’ve been there, and I know how excruciating it can be. I’ve been the new person in town 17 times now, and it is much worse watching your child go through it.

But they also know why we do it. They know that Daddy committed to the Coast Guard because he wants to help people. They know everyone who wears the uniform in any military service made the same pledge. They know real-life heroes, not just stories about heroism. They look patriotism in the eye every day. It’s not an abstract concept; it’s daily life for them.

And they know they are an essential part of the great support system that holds service members up. What better than to grow up knowing you matter that much?

 

military child military kids month of the military child