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Dear Fellow Military Child (2nd Place)

The following essay is the second place winner of our 2024 Month of the Military Child Writing Contest. The theme was to write a letter to the military teen community. Congratulations to Charlotte W.!

Dear fellow military child,

So you are becoming a military child, huh? Don’t worry it may seem crazy right now but my goal in this letter is to help your chaotic life settle down a little bit. So read along, and, even if you are an experienced military child, there is always more to learn. (Let’s be honest, even I don’t know everything)

My name is Charlotte and my dad is a Major in the Air Force, currently working as an Instructor Pilot for the 491st Attack Squadron. (The titles in the military are crazy!) My dad joined the Air Force when I was five. Almost ten years later and we’ve moved out of state 6 times and I’ve been to 2 other countries! Along the way I think I’ve learned a lot and I am excited to share it with you today. (I’ll try to make it entertaining)

First of all, what you're gonna get out of this letter depends on when you and your family started on this journey. I didn’t just want to cover a certain part of being a military child, so I will do my best to guide you from beginning to where you are now, and cover all the topics. Along the way you will grow your own knowledge too, and maybe end up writing a letter to someone else, just like me.

1. First things first: Imagine you were told one day that your parents got a new job and you’ll be moving soon. (If you're reading this, this has probably already happened) What would your reaction be? I want to start by saying that feeling:

● Angry

● Sad

● Nervous

● Confused

● Excited

● Bittersweet

Or anything else is completely normal. (Anyone who says they “didn’t care” is lying) If anything you will feel something during this time. I mean, c’mon. You are moving somewhere completely different, or your parent is deploying, or you have to start attending a after school program, or other new things and you are going to feel emotions that might be new, or scary. (I know, I’m starting to sound like your counselor, but I’m right.) You can help yourself by talking to a friend, teacher, or even just writing it down. People are there to listen to you and help you.

2. Deploying: Depending on which branch of the Military your family member has joined, deploying will happen more or less and may be called different things. For example, the Navy deploys the most over all and the Coast Guard does the least. Whether your loved one will deploy for a year, or TDY for 2 weeks, it's gonna be hard, and harder the longer they're gone. Here are some important things to remember.

● You are not alone, reach out, talk, write. Don’t bottle up your feelings.

● Stay in touch, I know it’s not the same okay? But it's something, and it will help. Plus, the person who is deployed will want to talk.

● Do something to distract yourself, pick up a hobby, join a club, chat with friends.

● Finally, don’t let yourself be sad forever. You WILL miss them, but sitting around moping will make it worse. You’ll get through this.

3. Moving: This is a big one and will definitely be a part of your life. It’s hard to really talk about moving as one big topic because there are many different ways/reasons. For example, Every time I have moved it has been to a different state. For some, it may be out of the country. Also how often you move depends on your branch of military and position of your family. But no matter what, moving is hard. Even if you're moving out of a place you don’t like, actually moving is hard. Packing up, Hours in the car, and getting to your new house. My advice is to focus on the positive. I know that seems hard, ESPECIALLY when you move away from friends or family You might be thinking that there is no “positive” to your problem. Listen, it doesn’t have to be some huge positive, it can simply be that the sun was shining today, or you liked what you had for lunch. Honestly there is so much more to moving but 1. I can’t fit it all in one letter, 2. A lot you have to learn on your own! Everyone's experiences are different. Just remember there are fun times for as many as there are difficult and to look at the positive.

4. Being the new kid: This is a big one. Let me go ahead and state the obvious, it's gonna be hard, annoying, and sometimes scary. I have some tips! P.S I’m in 8th grade and have been to 11 different schools, so... you can trust me. P.P.S I know, I know, I’m using the bullet points again.

● First of all, First impressions count. I’m not saying suit and tie business meetings, but be prepared, be nice, and the hardest one to do is TALK TO PEOPLE. You will gain friends much quicker than sitting there quiet and hidden behind a hoodie.

● You’re (unless you have a crazy good sense of navigation) gonna get turned around, especially if it is a big school or the middle of the year and everyone else knows where they're going. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, I find that teachers that stand outside of their classrooms are lots of help.

● Let's be honest, depending on where you move, people are going to either understand or not. For example if you go to school on base they DEFINITELY are going to understand. Right now my family is stationed in a small town and no one (and I mean no one) is from out of state. You have to let it go that people just don’t get it sometimes. This is one of the things that bothers me the most when I talk about moving and military life. One time I mentioned I moved across the country (twice) and someone said that they moved once (from down the street) and that it was really stressful. You just have to let it go and remember everyone's experiences are different.

Lastly, you may be thinking why did I need to hear that last blurb? Well, It leads me to my final point (and probably the most important) YOU HAVE A COMMUNITY. Having a military community that knows what you are going through, and can give you even more advice than what is in this letter (I was limited to 1500 words...) Is SO important. Even if you don’t have a face to face relationship with fellow military children (that’s you) there are so many programs that you can meet or write to other military kids. It might take some time but I have no doubt you will find someone.

Sorry, I know I said that was the last paragraph but I almost forgot one more thing you can think about when you're feeling mixed about this whole thing. Your loved one is serving in the military to PROTECT OUR COUNTRY! Don’t ever think you shouldn't be proud too, they couldn’t do it without your willingness and support. You got this! Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope you learned something that will help you in the future.

With gratitude and well wishes,

-Charlotte W.


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