This post was originally published on April 5th, 2009; we’re republishing it today in honor of the little ones who live this military life right alongside the rest of us!

CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER GELORMINE

My two children are still very young. My little guy knows nothing more of the military other than where we live is exciting because we get to watch (and hear) airplanes as they take off repeatedly throughout the day. Well, that and the fact that for some reason, other men and women seem to be walking around in his daddy’s work clothes!

20 October 2008-1

 My daughter, however, is a little savvier to the military child lifestyle. In her five-and-a-half short years of life, she’s moved with us three times; she’s experienced the pain of separation during her daddy’s deployments and TDY trips; when we moved here she understood what it meant to say good bye – perhaps forever – to the friends she’d made and was leaving behind.

She hasn’t asked us many questions, nor have we divulged much information about what it means to work for the military. She just knows that military families get to move around to different parts of the country and the world, and that sometimes her daddy – and other children’s daddies and mommies – will have to go away for a very long time, while the children stay home and send them letters, cards, and care packages.

The life of military children is unique – they rarely get to know the stability of growing up in one home, or playing hide and seek with the same friends at age six that they’ll attend Prom with when they’re sixteen. Instead, they get to experience the upheaval and change of moving just when they feel as though they’ve finally gotten settled in a new state or country. They may find themselves in a two-parent household but being raised primarily without one parent while he or she is constantly deployed, or TDY, or otherwise traveling for work. They learn to plan ahead – but not too far ahead – because what’s down the road is never certain and always subject to change at a moment’s notice.

Blog pictures
photo courtesy of cadence.org

Military children also have the advantage of learning to be adaptable, independent, and having the understanding that the world is much bigger than they could have understood had they grown up with a more sheltered life. And no matter what age your military children are, they’re not too young for you to express your gratitude to them for their service.

So sometime this month, take the time to tell your children how much you appreciate their sacrifice, their dedication, and their commitment to making your military family work.  Take them out for a pancake breakfast one morning during their spring break; bowl a few frames at your nearest military installation (there are lots of specials going on in their honor this month at Emery Lanes on Kadena) or off base; take them ice skating and to the batting cages; or let them climb to their hearts’ content at Round 1 on one of those inevitable rainy spring days. Make their favorite meal for dinner one night, or grab an ice cream cone and head to the beach to watch the sun set.

But whatever you do, be sure to let your children know how much you appreciate all the ways they contribute to the success of your military family. Help them to understand the honor and privilege that comes along with having a parent serve in the military, and encourage them to wear their pride in their parents’ service – as well as their own.

Related Links:
Kids Serve Too
Month of the Military Child.com
Operation Military Kids
National Military Family Association
Books for Military Children

7 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for caring for military kids! I work with a program called LINKS and we do a class for military kids, ages 8-12, where we play games, do activities, eat yummy snacks and have discussions about all the things military kids go through and how special they are! If you ever want to help with the class, contact Marine Corps Family Team Building! Thanks for your post!

  2. Wow. I never thought of my kids in quite this way before. Thanks for reminding me that they too sacrifice and pay a price for their Dad’s chosen profession. I’m going to go hug them both now!

  3. What a lovely post. As a military brat myself, I try to make the transitions from place to place as smooth as I can for my own military brats because I know this lifestyle is shaping them to handle change. Remembering back to my transitions, its definitely the attitudes of the parents rather than the actual places that make the biggest difference. My mother was great at making us feel both secure and excited. And my father was good about taking us out to explore our new location right away to make us more familiar. Because familiarity is what makes us feel at home.

  4. As a 51 year old who spent his first 18 years as an Army brat and now has a son serving at Kadena you’ve nailed my experiences growing up. Multiple moves across country, being uprooted from schools mid year and entering a new school mid year but I wouldn’t trade my life experiences for a second. Our family is much closer because of the cross country drives, ocean liner trips to/from Hawaii and the tolerance and awareness of others and cultures is irreplaceable in my eyes.

    A huge Thank You to all who are serving (and have served) from a proud Army son and Air Force Dad.

  5. I think it’s a good thing that the kids get some well deserved appreciation for the life style the parents have chosen. It’s a rough life but it can also be a much more rewarding experience for the children in the long run. On the positive side I think kids become better rounded in the long run from having varied experiences growing up.
    I enjoyed the article and very cute pics of the kids by the way 🙂

  6. Thanks for the reminder Heather, I don’t give enough thought to the sacrifices my children make as military dependents. Life certainly isn’t easy for our kids but on the other hand they are blessed with opportunities to experience the world in ways most kids only dream of, and these unique experiences will hopefully equip them with the skills to handle whatever challenges they encounter in life.

    I think I will take your advice and thank my girls by taking them out for a pancake breakfast 🙂

    Jannine

  7. Here I am again. A 49 year old BRAT. Yes, I still proudly consider myself an army BRAT. I always will. I got to experience the world on those moves and through the mothers of my friends who hailed from the most wonderful, far flung places. I can remember looking out the back window of the car and waving goodbye to one or another of my friends or going to the airport to see someone off on more than one occasion.

    I traveled back to Okinawa by myself for the first time in 33 years last July to see it all again, to remind myself why I fell in love with it as an adolescent. I like to talk about it. It was one of those defining experiences. For those three weeks, I was the happiest person on that island. I’d have never have had the pleasure of knowing Okinawa had it not been for my dad’s orders to go there in 1972. I met women and their children on Okinawa who wait from time to time for their spouses while those spouses are deployed, just as I waited with my mother and sister for a year at a time, twice, while my father went away to serve our country.

    I’m experiencing my 16 year old daughter’s high school prom with her at this very moment in time. She’s been invited by a young man she’s gone to school with since she was four years old. I am married to a man whose roots are as deep as they come. Yet, as a mature woman with perspective that comes with a few years, I can say without reservation I never considered my military childhood anything but a blessing and a privilege. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    Thank you, Heather, for this post. It reminded me to reflect and to be thankful. Blessings to those who serve our country, and that includes spouses and children.

    Love and warm greetings and big hugs to my Okinawa friends! Robin

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