The following article is a collaboration/questionnaire including myself and two of my good friends, Katharina and Elizabeth. I have brought them together to compare three different lifestyles of the military and maybe draw a few lessons from them. To civilians, our world might look bland - we seem to always have a certain type of lifestyle, our dads are represented in a stereotypical style, we are awkward in classes, nervous wrecks, and so on. The military is not like that - there isn't a ‘one size fits all.’ Hopefully, this article will shine some light on the abundance of perspectives represented by our label - military brats.
We are all in eighth grade at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, but have had vastly different paths and experiences that got us here. To avoid confusion, I’ll point out that my name - the person writing this article - is Elisabeth, spelled with an ‘s,’ while my friend’s name - one of the people I’m collaborating with - is spelled with a ‘z.’
I, Elisabeth, did some editing and formatting on a few of the answers, but all with the consent of my friends, determined not to change their answers. For the most part, their answers are completely their writing.
What’s some background information about yourself and your family?
Elisabeth: My dad is currently active duty in the US Army, and my mom is a veteran of the US Army. My family and I just moved to a forever home after living in eight others! This is my family’s third time being stationed here in Kansas, but I’ve also been to Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas. Throughout those places, I’ve attended eight separate schools.
Elizabeth: My dad is retired from serving as a chaplain, first on active duty then for the United States Army Reserves. While in the Reserves, he spent many weekends and months away. Since my dad is a disabled veteran, I have lived in Kansas most of my life. However, I was born in Texas and lived in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado before moving here. Over the course of my education, I have attended two schools - one for elementary and the other for junior high.
Katharina: My name is Katharina and I am from Germany! My dad is currently in the German army - the Bundeswehr. My mom served there, too. I have moved around a lot, including living in Bavaria and Berlin (both in Germany). I will probably move many more times. I have attended eight separate schools, with only the most recent being in the United States.
What is the fondest memory or memories you have about the military?
Elisabeth: This is a hard question. The military has contributed to countless astonishing memories. However, I do think the best memories come from Fort Bliss, Texas. The scenery, and the people, were lovely. The food - pure awesomeness if I do say so myself! What made Fort Bliss special, though, was its unique culture. As I was discovering what it meant to be a young American girl, I was also discovering the mountains, going on adventures in the valleys, and taking in the culture. It was more than I could’ve wished for.
Elizabeth: It is hard to choose because I have so many fun memories of being in a military family. Every year, my dad would come back home from training in the summertime, and he would bring home school supplies the military was giving away. I had a fun time sorting out which ones I liked the most. Also, Fort Leavenworth used to host fun runs, and I had a great time running the 5k or the 3k with my dad, and then walking back to finish the race with my mom and other siblings that chose to walk. But, the overall best part of being in a military family is the new friends you get to meet and make along the way.
Katharina: My two years in America are a very precious memory to me. I have met many awesome people, and I have learned so much. Being a military child is hard sometimes, but it is something I cannot change, and I have learned so many important lessons. When I moved here, I was scared because I didn’t speak English. I met Elizabeth and Elisabeth at the beginning of my second year in the U. S., and they helped me understand their culture and many more things. I will never forget them and my time here in America.
What is the most significant lesson you’ve learned from your military experience?
Elisabeth: The lesson I would say impacts me the most is to look at the positive. This isn’t only learned from being a military child, but the military largely focuses my attention on this. Throughout my childhood, the military has impacted my life in some negative ways, mostly separation from family and friends, plus frustrating encounters with rules and varying ways of life. But, the military also gives me a plethora of positives to look at, and I learned that, sometimes, that’s just what you should do. Look at the positives - they are always there.
Elizabeth: Being a military teen means that there is a surfeit amount of information to learn and apply to your life, you just need to be attentive and open to it. The lesson that stands out to me most is to accept and make the most out of change. Friends come and go, new styles of living are introduced, and just about nothing is ever set in stone. You just have to look on the bright side and be open to new changes.
Katharina: I learned that happiness can be found anywhere if you are willing to find it. I also learned that you shouldn’t get too emotionally attached to things or places. Everything changes and you have to keep going. Yet, you can still be happy anywhere, even if you know it is temporary. You just have to be brave enough to see that and be happy wherever you go.
What is the worst part of being a military teen?
Elisabeth: The worst part of being a military teen is the separations. When I lived in Fort Bliss for over three years, we estimated that my dad was only present for about six months. That hit me hard. There was a morning I vividly remember waking up crying, with only my dad’s voice able to calm me down. I’m also separated from friends, and making new ones is easier said than done. Yet, I persevered. I think, deep down, the separations made me a stronger person today.
Elizabeth: I would say the worst part of being a military teen is when you don’t know anyone, and nobody knows you. The feeling of being alone, and the prospect of being lonely is what scares me when I am thinking about the years to come as a military teen. I worry that nobody will like me when I go to school, or that nobody will even know that I exist. However, I’ve found that people will always be there for me.
Katharina: The worst part is definitely when a family member is deployed. When my dad was deployed, I couldn't see him for a long time. But, I still had my other family members, supporting and loving me through it all.
Do you wish that your lifestyle was different?
Elisabeth: Well, we all have those little things that we wish were a bit different. I wish I was able to keep in contact with a few of my friends from previous places. However, is that hope enough to make me dislike being a military brat? Not at all! Without being a military brat, I wouldn’t have met those people in the first place! Sometimes, I try to imagine what it might be like to be a ‘normal’ kid, but my mind cannot even fathom how much would be different. I appreciate and love this life!
Elizabeth: Oftentimes, I have felt those moments when I wished things were different. I wished that I could have grown up with my friends and not wondered about how long I had with them. I wished that I wouldn’t have to say ‘goodbye’ over and over again. I wished that I wouldn’t have to spend year after year trying to learn everyones’ names while at the same time trying to get them to learn mine. I wished that I could have someone who understood where I was coming from, as not a full military kid or a full normal kid. But now, I am happy with the memories I have made, the people I have met, and the lifestyle I have come to recognize as my own. I have settled into what I can call home, and started a future that I can clearly see ahead of me. I have learned to always keep looking forward.
Katharina: No. I love my life as a military child. I can’t imagine living anywhere for more than 2 or 3 years. I have been to so many places and made many great memories. Of course, I had those moments where I absolutely hated it. I have to say goodbye to friends all the time and never really had a place to call home. I felt very lonely sometimes because no one seemed to understand me. I never knew what my future would be like and I still don’t know, but I learned that I can’t change it and have to keep going.
Overall, we can compare our military life to a game. We all experience the same rules, but the game - our individual life - is slightly different. Also, our lives can throw us curveballs, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the game.