“Military kids are resilient.”
“Military kids are strong.”
“Military kids are fearless.”
"...flexible, open-minded, patient, understanding, sympathetic, empathetic, prepared, blessed, spoiled. America’s pride and joy."
I promise, military kids have heard it all. But military kids are also stressed, anxious, unsteady, tired, fighting, breaking. We’re given a bare identity when our parents sign those enlistment papers, and the rest is left for us to build. It’s hard to build from nothing. We’re given the building blocks; a group of friends, a town or city, familiarity. But every few years that familiarity, the things we think we understand about ourselves and the world around us, is stripped from us. We move far away, and we are left to pick up the pieces of ourselves that we can salvage. Then, we start all over again.
The things of familiarity that we can salvage become our roots. People, places, things. Passions, hobbies, best friends, a particular base. Those things matter, they’re important.
It was the first meal I had with our chaplain and his family. It was shortly after we had moved to Korea, and I had fallen into The Pit. A stage described by many military families after a recent move. A season of hatred for your new assignment. This dinner pulled me out of The Pit, and into Adjustment. Instantly, I felt at home. A very strange feeling for any military child. I felt at home because his wife is just like me, a European heart roped into the American military life, and it wasn’t our choice. She married into it, and I was born into it.
From my move from Belgium to Korea, I had kept one single thing closest to my heart, my Third Culture. After spending the majority of my life among Europeans, and I myself being a Dutch-American dual citizen, it was a piece of me that was so ingrained into my personality and culture that you couldn’t rip it away from me. I had the choice to assimilate or... not. This is why the impact of that first dinner was so great. I took it as a sign that I didn’t have to assimilate. That I could grow surrounded by born and raised Americans while maintaining my own Third Culture.
I didn’t have to start all over again, or at least not completely. I took what was familiar, the roots of my past 16 years, and planted them at Camp Humphreys, Korea. And here I will root myself in the familiar, but continue to grow through the influence of all of the temporary people, places, and things around me.
Soon, my familiar will look a bit different. The pieces that I gather here will add to the beautiful and intricate mosaic of my life. The once unfamiliar parts of Korea will turn into my roots, and these roots will be planted in wherever the Army sends us next.