6 Things I Learned Being a Military Child
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Being a military kid was the best thing that ever happened to me.
When someone asks, “Where are you from?”, I brace myself. The answer is never as simple as they expect.
“I was born on an Air Force Base in central California, but I only lived there for a few months before we moved to Maine,” I explain.
“Oh, so you grew up on the East Coast?” they ask.
“Well, no not really,” I stammer. “We lived there for about a year, then we moved to New York…then Washington, then Texas, then England, then Illinois, then North Dakota, then Texas again.”
By this point, usually, I’m met with wide eyes and a little bit of confusion.
Most military kids have had this conversation about a hundred times. Military families relocate on average every 2 to 3 years. This is ten times more than civilian families.
And that’s not the only difference. Military kids usually grow up on military bases, hang their pictures on-base housing walls, shop at the commissary, and play with the kids they just met who moved in down the street.
When I have this conversation with people who didn’t grow up in the military, they have different reactions. Some thank me for the way I helped my dad serve his country. Some are confused. Some feel sorry for me.
However, no matter how other people react to the lifestyle in which I grew up, I find myself being wildly thankful for the ways military life shaped me, molded me, and made me who I am today.
Here are a few reasons why I am proud to be a military kid.
- I learned how to be adaptable.
From the beginning, I was a shy, quiet child. While my siblings were outgoing, I struggled with anxiety when it came to socializing in the new places we’d move. However, as I began to grow, I watched myself grow braver with each new address. I learned how to adapt to the lifestyle I was born into, and it created in me the knowledge that I could do things that were difficult, even if they scared me. I have seen this trait move with me throughout adulthood— even when a change takes place, I know that I can find a way to handle it gracefully.
- I saw first-hand the incredible men and women serving our country.
Being a military kid means you’re usually around other military families…especially if you live on base. Now that I’m an adult, I realize how rare and special this is. While many people see military service members as distant members of our Armed Forces, I saw them as the people I babysat for, the people who gave me rides to school, the people who served me cake at Christmas parties. I saw them for who they were— not superheroes, but regular men and women filled with courage and a sense of duty.
- I learned to value the people in my life.
When some people hear you’re a military kid, they are hesitant to grow close to you. “You’re just going to move in a few years. Why would I invest in you?” I heard this several times growing up, and I have a very solid answer: Because when you know that something is temporary, you cherish it with vigor. Military kids know how to be present, to appreciate the people in their lives, to revel in the good times, and to keep those memories forever. Plus, we’re great at visiting and staying in touch!
- I saw how people live all over the country (and beyond).
From birth to graduation, my family followed the usual military family pattern: move every 2-3 years. This meant I grew up in not one, not two, but eight different states and countries over the course of my military kid career. I got to experience life on the east coast, the west coast, the midwest, the south, and even overseas. To this day, I hold these experiences as the most educational and formative pieces of my early life. It is a humbling thing to watch the way people do things differently in different places. I believe it made me more curious, open, and inquisitive as an adult.
- I was raised with a love of country.
When most kids hear that they’re moving overseas, they dream of castles and knights and princesses. However, when my nine-year-old self heard the news, I wept for days. I was probably the most patriotic person I know. “I don’t want to leave America!” I wailed. As we boarded the plane, I whispered the pledge of allegiance. Now that I realize this was a bit dramatic, it does make a point: I grew up learning to love and appreciate the country I was born into. Patriotism pulsed through my veins, and I was taught how to believe in and stand for something bigger than myself.
- I had a strong sense of community.
Living on base is a very special thing. Despite the fact that the population can be transient and people come and go, there is always a sense of togetherness— of being a part of a larger military family. Even when my dad was deployed, other families stepped in to help. We did the same when other families had needs we could meet.
Military kids are worth celebrating.
Needless to say, I now see how incredibly special it was to be a military kid. And I’m thankful when other people recognize it too.
“It is important for us to remember the children of military members that have sacrificed so much,” says Jeremy Lynn, LMSW, Intake Coordinator at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Endeavors, San Antonio.
We may not be on the front lines, but our military kids make up a big part of military life. I’m proud to call myself a member of the larger military family.
The author of this blog was born a self-proclaimed Air Force Brat and still remains proud to call herself a child of the military. Though she is a civilian, she remains a proud supporter of her many family members who are in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Endeavors places a high emphasis on serving military families at our Military Family Clinics in San Antonio, Killeen, and El Paso. These clinics provide high-quality, mental health services for Veterans and military families. Services include: counseling (for individuals, groups, couples, children, and families), medication management, case management and connections to local resources, life skills and wellness groups, specialty workshops, and more.
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.
About The Cohen Veterans Network
The Cohen Veterans Network is a 501(c)(3) national nonprofit, clinically integrated mental health system for post-9/11 veterans and their families. CVN focuses on improving mental health outcomes, with a goal to build a network of outpatient mental health clinics for veterans and their families in high-need communities, in which trained clinicians deliver holistic evidence-based care to treat mental health conditions. Learn more about CVN.