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Navigating Nomadism

This article was sent to us by Katherine T., a 10th grader stationed at the US Embassy in Lithuania. 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!

The United States Department of Defense (DoD) undoubtedly stands as one of the largest and strongest militaries globally. The DoD consists of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Space Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard. Did you know that a service member and their family is required to move every two to four years? Now, to you, this might sound compelling, but it can also have some negative impacts on service members and their families. However, I am among many who believe that changing addresses is also a way to grow and develop socially and mentally.

Piles on piles of packed boxes turned into forts, cramped car rides with belongings wedged between seats, and the feeling as if the airport is their second home are shared experiences among most military brats because most have a handful of moves under their belt. These moves create the ability to adapt, resiliency, and exposure to different lifestyles.

An average military child changes schools six to nine times pre-graduation. With each move, they may feel like the ugly duckling among the swans, constantly re-introducing themselves to strangers who don’t understand their life and not knowing what to answer when asked, “Where are you from?” Unfortunately, a majority of military children have difficulty forming strong friendships with people and places, as they know that they will be leaving them behind soon. This mentality sets hometown kids and military kids apart. Due to this, many argue that derailing your family’s life every few years will result in an unstable environment for your children, but I argue that it is a way we become more resilient.

Being able to re-adjust our lives in a matter of weeks is a unique skill that is cemented within us from a young age. While others may take years to develop a sense of comfort in an unfamiliar place, we are able to adapt and overcome challenges that civilian children might never have to face. These challenges include moving, leaving friends, and our parents deploying - certainties in this life allowing us to experience a need to adapt our mindset and be stronger.

In 2022, a study was conducted by Dr. Nimisha Beri on military brats, her results concluded that, “Military families had a higher level of resilience compared to students from non-military families." This suggests that our self-resilience is strengthened throughout our exposure to tough situations, and in turn, we are more prepared to live independently and capable of getting through challenges.

Furthermore, many parents worry about their children’s education, as it is a fundamental building block to a healthy life. There is constant uncertainty about a quality school curriculum and the idea that teachers may not understand the child's life. While these are legitimate concerns, there are also benefits to the constant switching of locations, and while parents are scared that their children aren't learning as much, they are actually learning more.

Summer Teichert, a 14-year-old military teen, concurred in her article that moving has benefits, saying that “moving gives people exposure to cultures and places worldwide that many people may never see or experience…Although relocation is a tough event, moving can provide benefits for the whole family because it develops character through resiliency and creates openness to new experiences and unique aspects of our world.” Essentially, to develop a worldly view, you must expose yourself to a variety of varying viewpoints and lifestyles - exactly what many military children have.

Many other military brats also claim that moving has benefited their school experience, including Katie Baltos, a 13-year-old military brat whose story is mentioned in this article and who agrees that moving has benefited her school life. Specifically, while learning about an ecosystem in class, she was able to develop a quicker understanding than other students, saying, “I had a better understanding of it than most of my class who have never been to a desert.” This reveals that personal experience in a unique place can enhance a child's worldly mindset, rather than learning from a book.

Finally, another stigmatism surrounding military brats is that they have few friends because they are constantly on the move. This is a mistaken belief because children of service members have greater opportunities to encounter more people and thus are likely to make more friends, as opposed to hometown children who are more likely to create stronger bonds due to having had the same clique since kindergarten.

Resistance, experiences, and connections are what military children gain from their nomadic life. While others believe it to be difficult, it is a way of life we live and breathe. The tough opportunities given to us military children push us to become mature, well-rounded adults prepared to face the world.

Yes, military brats are rarely able to answer the question, “Where are you from?” However, this is not the cause of uncertainty and confusion but the effect of inhabiting many places, experiences, and relationships, all of which have molded our perspectives on the world.

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