This blog post was sent to us by Elena W., a college freshman stationed in Wisconsin. Do you have a story to share with your fellow military teens? Visit our writing page to find out how you can submit to Bloom!
At some point, our parents retire and leave their job with the U.S. military. Whether they were in it for five years or 25 years, it is a difficult life change for the whole family. Moving every few years to suddenly staying in one place can be a struggle for some teens, as switching where you are at any given point is all you’ve ever known. From what I’ve seen, there is lots of advice for current military teens, but there isn’t much for teens who have to enter the new world of life after the military.
I was born into a military family, meaning my parents had already been stationed at a few places before I was born, and they continued to be stationed other places after I was born. I never knew what life was outside of the military. I lived at seven duty stations and attended eight different schools during my dad’s length of service. Things like going to the BX and grocery shopping at the Commissary were all I ever knew. I remember the time I got my first ID card; I was so excited to have one.
The first time I attended a DODEA school was also a highlight of my military life. I was surrounded by kids who all were in the same boat as me. The last school I attended before my dad retired was a public school with no other military kids. I felt like the odd one out, but people thought it was awesome that I lived in Europe. As a result, I connected with a lot of people, but I constantly had to explain that I wasn’t actually born in Europe. I can’t actually explain where I’m from because I never stayed in a place for a long period of time.
When it came time for retirement and leaving for our final spot in the Midwest, tears were shed for many reasons. I was leaving my friends whom I had gotten to know over the past two years, which is always one of the hardest parts for many military teens. I was also sad because I was leaving the only consistency I had: military life. I honestly enjoyed all the time spent packing and unpacking my room and experiencing things that few other kids get to experience.
I came to the realization; however, that I shouldn’t be sad that we were leaving behind the military, because it is never actually left behind. The military is a part of who I am, and I wouldn't be the person I am today without it. All the traveling, connections, and memories are still in me. Just because it isn’t in the present, doesn’t mean that it is completely gone.
Now, I’ve lived in the same place since 2019. I was able to start high school in one place and I finished high school in the same place, which I never thought I could do. Although there aren't a ton of resources for kids after military life, it is important to realize that everything is only as good as you make it. Enjoy the experiences of the military while it's still there for you, and enjoy them when it's not. Find joy in your opportunities - not a lot of kids get to experience them. I wish I could tell my younger self to take it all in more, because now I regret not doing that.
To be honest, us military children are a different breed. My advice for anyone who is leaving the military life or has already left it is to take the experiences you got from being a military brat and apply it to your everyday life. We’ve all had to meet new people and come across so many different experiences. You’re constantly on the edge of your seat as a military kid, and there's still never a dull moment as a retired military brat. Embrace it. You are different in so many good ways. From what I’ve experienced, non-military kids think you’re pretty cool. Life after the military can be scary, but don’t let it keep you away from so many opportunities that come from it.