Photo 1: The ant sits on my family's front porch - a soldier proudly holding the flag. Photo 2: The second photo shows the scene out the front door of my old home; it shows a scene all too familiar to most military kids. The last photo is one my dad took while he was in Afghanistan. He sent home a photo every day.
1. IT’S NOT AS BAD AS IT SEEMS.
According to a survey conducted by the National Military Family Association last year, 87% of the military teens who responded have low to moderate mental well-being. While I do acknowledge that military life comes with its fair share of challenges, I also acknowledge it comes with its fair share of joy! My military lifestyle brings more good memories than bad ones!
Yes, my dad has been deployed many times. I’ve prayed for his safety. I’ve moved away from best friends. I've struggled to create the identity I want. However, the military lifestyle isn’t only composed of those difficulties. I get to live in a unique, ever-changing community, attend the best school district in Kansas - which is on a military base - and have connections all around the world. If we vacationed in Europe, my dad knows plenty of people in all different countries who are willing to let us stay with them. Everyone I know has countless amazing stories to share.
2. BY NOW, I AM USED TO IT.
I cannot fathom a life where I don’t move every few years, where I’m not constantly meeting new people and going different places, where my experiences are not so diverse. Growing up in the military lifestyle is who I am. After 14 years of this lifestyle, moving eight times, going through my dad being deployed four times, this is all I know. Would I want a normal life? Not really. I love the keep-you-on-your toes lifestyle. It isn’t, for lack of a better word, boring. So much keeps changing, and the wheels never stop turning. Even if I might not want to move, I can’t say ‘no.’
I am a person who knows dozens of people from all over Europe; I am a person who has seen a lot of the USA; I am a not person defined by change but, rather, I live a life enhanced by change.
3. MOVING DOESN’T TOTALLY SUCK.
Lo and behold, there are some pros! Though I may not remember a few of the places I’ve lived, every place introduced me to a new culture. Believe it or not, I used to have a Southern Georgian accent. The friendliest and nicest people are in El Paso. Although I have to admit, the Midwestern feel is quite nice. Moving here put me right in the middle of a wonderful community.
It is difficult to move away from best friends, but that just means I can make more. Additionally, it is just a wonderful moment when you see someone you haven’t seen for years and ‘click.’ So many years, gone in an instant. Through all the time apart, we remember what it was like before.
4. EXPERIENCES ARE UNLIMITED.
Did you know that a saber cuts my birthday cakes? Can anyone else declare that two weeks after their dad got home from a deployment, they PCS’d? What about going backstage at an airshow, reading a book while relaxing on a tank, or seeing Santa being ushered to a battalion Christmas party where his sleigh was a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, his reindeer was an Abrams Tank, and his elves were a rifle squad? Those experiences, and infinitely more, are due to being a military brat.
Being a military teen gives me a unique perspective on the world. I have so many different viewpoints to look at from best friends who’ve been all over the world. I have a unique, ever-changing opinion of the world.
5. WE STICK TOGETHER AND DON’T FORGET ONE ANOTHER.
I have a friend whom I knew for one year, but we have been emailing back and forth for three and a half years now. I can talk to her about anything. When I was four, I had a best friend who lived across the street. After several years apart, our families met up and it was like we never were apart. Those are just two examples; because of the military, I have countless more. I love it!
The Army feels like a small community. Everywhere I go, there are friends from past places. Or there are friends passing through. Sometimes, we follow people around while moving, ending up in the same area over and over. It is awesome, though slightly confusing at the same time, to keep in touch and stay together.
6. I WILL ALWAYS BE A MILITARY BRAT
Recently, my family and I moved into our first forever home. I thought that was the first step to disconnecting from the military. I was beside myself - I didn’t want to leave. But, instead, I discovered the exact opposite.
To help us move, our military friends and community came together - contributing to the many back-and-forth loads. I’m grateful when I spend time on-post and with my ex-neighbors, more so than when I lived there. I also realized that my experiences and memories will never disappear. They are what makes me who I am - a military brat and a daughter of the military.