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Month of the Military Child

 

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“I do not believe, and have not believed for quite some time, that there are many issues more important to the future of our armed forces — indeed to the future of our country — than those confronting military children today.”

 ~Deborah Mullen, wife of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

There are 1.7 million American children and youth under 18 with a parent serving in the military.   900,000 of those children have seen one or both of their parents deployed multiple times.  These military brats endure incredible sacrifices to live an unpredictable and challenging lifestyle.  That’s why every April; the military community celebrates the Month of the Military Child. This is our chance to honor these true heroes.

I have two military brats of my own.  At ages 3 and 7, they are just starting to understand the implications of their daddy’s job.  They know he frequently “goes on trips.”  They know he works late.  They know that a lot of times they have to depend on me to be both mom and dad.  But they don’t really comprehend it all.  They’re too young to understand why we live the way we do. 

That lack of understanding is both good and bad.  It’s bad, of course, because we have no way of explaining to the kids why their dad disappears.  What do you say to a 7-year-old boy who desperately wants his dad to be there for his first baseball practice of the season?  What do you say to a 3-year-old girl who repeatedly screams, “I want my daddy back” every time she’s tired or upset?   Telling them that their father is a hero, that he is performing an important job for our country offers absolutely no solace in those heartbreaking moments.

But that lack of understanding is good in a way because they haven’t yet figured out that they are different than anyone else.  For instance, the other day I sat down with my 7-year-old son to talk to him about how he feels about being a military brat, and he looked utterly confused.  I listed off several ways his life may be different than most kids and asked how he felt about those differences.  Again, confusion.  Finally I said, “Do you know that most daddies don’t wear camouflage uniforms to work?”  He had no idea.

Sometimes I feel guilty for turning my children into military brats.  They didn’t ask for this life. They didn’t have a choice.  This is the only life they know, a life of moving around the world, having to change schools and make new friends, and often living without one of the most loved and influential people in their world.  I worry about them, about how they’ll be affected by military life as they grow older.  Will they rebel and misbehave?  Or will they join the military themselves?  Will they resent us as parents?  Or will they appreciate the experiences military life has offered them?  Will they hate us?  Or will they one day understand?  It’s impossible to know.  In the meantime, my husband and I simply try to be the best parents we can be despite our unique circumstances.

So as we celebrate the Month of the Military Child, give some extra thought to our country’s military brats, those brave, resilient children who silently serve our country too.  If you have military brats of your own, give them a few extra hugs and I love you’s.  If you don’t have military brats, find someone who does and thank them for the important, yet often forgotten, role they play in the military community.

About the Author…..

Wife on the Roller Coaster is a proud military spouse. During her nine-year marriage to the military, she has lived in seven different houses, endured three PCS moves (one of which was overseas), and conquered two deployments, all the while somehow maintaining her sense of humor and her sanity. She is a mother of two, a freelance writer, and a kindergarten teacher. She blogs about her life as a military spouse at Riding the Roller Coaster.

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7 thoughts on “Month of the Military Child”

  1. Welcome to the HUN Wife! It is an honor having you apart of our team, great article and can’t wait to read more from you!

  2. What a great piece. It captures exactly what anyone involved with the military experiences on a daily basis. Can’t wait to read more from “Wife!”

  3. What a great piece! My son is only 1, so I haven’t had to deal with the turmoil that is bound to come up. Although my Dad is a retired colonel, I had roots thanks to a divorce & my mom’s fully custody. However, I always, always, always wanted wings. I try to look at my baby military brat and hope he can appreciate the wings we are going to be able to give him thanks to his Dad’s service.

  4. A good post with some insight on the military child…I have been a military child (dad is retired AF…we moved every 2 years), and then married a military man (moved every 3 years). I must say, that I loved each and every place and the time spent wherever I have lived (about 4 duty stations outside the continental U.S. and 8 states, some reassignments to the same state-so that means more moves than the 12 listed).

    It really helps to have a strong support group of family, friends and that we lived in a military community where others were also in the same “boat” and could relate…that a deployed father or mother was not unusual… & It helped us as a family, that we have a strong Christian faith that we could lean on when there have been challenges along the way, when we were not living near our extended families…like our son’s challenges of the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, when we had just moved to our assignment in Georgia (family in Hawaii, Wisconsin and our two daughters in college in KY)… or my hubby’s many deployments, missing out on birthdays, graduations, and other special events…

    Now my hubby is retired Army…and I must say that our children have flourished and accomplished and continue to do great things…they have had experiences that some may not have had…we are blessed that they have learned to be “semper Gumby” aka flexible…and adaptable…had an ease to make friends, knowing how it was to be the “new Kid”…it amazes and blesses me that as mobile as we were, they had the opportunities like being college homecoming queens, Kentucky Derby princess, DC interns, trips representing in Orlando, the White House, mission trips.

    Again this was a great post to share to those that are not or had not had the experiences of a military family. Definitely a big thank you to all those serving and their families.

    Blessings & Aloha!
    …stopping by from the MWRU…hope you get a chance to visit my place :o)

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