It always bothered me when someone thanked me for my service. It happened in every setting: at passport control upon entering the United States, after using my military ID for a discount, or simply if someone found out my dad worked for the Army. It was always “thank you for your service” or “thank you for your family’s service," never “thank you for your father’s service." It bothered me because I don’t really do much; I just PCS when I’m told to, and get to enjoy the comforts of DoD education, Popeyes, and the military lounge at airports. I don’t have to deploy, wake up for PT, or carry out exercises in the field. My sacrifices are minuscule; I don’t serve. Or at least I thought I didn’t.
My mindset changed just a couple of weeks ago, when a friend of mine was watching the sunset with me. We were talking about my struggles adjusting to my new home at Camp Humphreys. She asked me a really interesting question, “Why do you keep moving with your parents, why don’t you just stay somewhere you like?” The answer seemed really obvious to me. I go where my dad goes so he can serve.
Let me expand on that.
On Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, there are a few physiological needs. One of them is “love and belonging." Things like family, intimacy, friendship, and general human connection. A family is a unit; they operate as a team. This type of team doesn’t have substitutes. If one member of the team doesn’t play the game, then more of the stress falls on the other players, most likely the captains of the team.
Let’s recenter this around a family. Not only will more stress fall onto the captains (the parents), so will the emotional toll. Emotional and mental stress is draining, and it appears in physical ways. Less sleep, chronic increased heart rate, lowered performance at work, and less patience are a few of the ways that the stress of me living somewhere else may affect my parents.
Now let's focus on the service member of my family. What happens if these outward expressions of stress start to show? How is my dad going to be able to serve the Army if he can’t do his job properly because of these effects? The simple answer is that he can’t; he won’t be able to serve the US Army as effectively as he could if I decide to move out.
This is where we connect a couple different concepts. I serve by continuing to move with my family, and supporting my dad when he is at home, TDY, deployed, or on a tour. I serve by enabling my dad to efficiently and effectively serve the US Army in Korea in order to protect the people and values of America. A basic civic duty for military kids.
The way we serve is by sacrificing a normal life in order to support the service members of the American military. It’s unique, difficult, and so necessary. Every 1.3 million of us sacrifice, support, and serve in smaller ways that make large impacts.
So that is why I continue to go where the Army sends my dad, and after sixteen years I realize that is the way I serve. It will never be easy, but it will always be needed.