The Heart of the Family
Military kids are amazing! They see and hear things we forget they see and hear. And yet, they have a resolute spirit encompassed by an unwavering strength and love for their parents. They are resilient, but they are still children. They experience their level of emotions and have challenges in learning to deal with those emotions. Thankfully, there are resources to help military children cope and thrive during the challenges of being a military child. As the parents of these great kids, we know the life of a military child is not an easy one, and we honor their service alongside us.
Our story is not a typical one. My husband was in his late twenties when he raised his right hand and took the oath to serve in the military in 2002. When we drove to our first duty station, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, our children Corinne (10) and David (4) were saying goodbye to the only place they had known – Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Our adventure as a military family was just beginning and each of us have such personal stories to tell! Corinne is now 29 and David is 23, but their memories of being military children are so interestingly different. Not just because of their age when our journey began, but their experiences with their friends and the military community were also unique.
Corinne started her 5th grade school year with other military children and was suddenly surrounded by other kids with parents like hers. Our youngest, David, started at a partial daycare and only cared that his dad wore a cool uniform like G.I. Joe. Corinne still recalls when my husband left for Iraq in 2003. David, not so much. But they both share the memory of his absence. They also recall not hearing from him for weeks and then, from time to time, receiving a letter from him. Those letters are still deeply meaningful to them to this day.
Some other fond memories we share is when I had to stop and show my military ID to get on post and even into the commissary and PX. They remember stopping and getting out of the car to salute the flag at the sound of the reveille. And one of their favorite memories is when we would go see a movie on-post, and they would play the national anthem before the movie began. We all stood at attention, and I would fight back the tears.
Corinne was old enough to know what was going on and why her father was gone. For her, the life of a military child left an emotional scar. Time and love have helped heal that scar, but the memories can still be painful. For David, he was so young when Justin started deploying (four long deployments in an eight-year period) that it was just a part of life. Both children are extremely proud of their father and salute his commitment and dedication to serve our country.
I believe military children are the heart of the military family. They serve in their own way. They not only remind us to enjoy life, but they also remind us to be grateful for our freedom. Military children need us to love them right where they are on their often-difficult journey as military children.
Find a way to celebrate your military child during April. If you’re not already doing this, maybe just take a moment and have them write out what it means to them to be a military child. Or encourage them to tell their story, for their stories are special and important.