Danger, pride, and sacrifice are three words that encompass a soldier’s life. In the spirit of the Fourth of July, we felt it was important to re-visit military family life to gain a perspective rarely discussed. We asked: what is it like being a child of a soldier? The children I talked to all explained the dangers, the pride, and the sacrifice, but the appreciation for their fathers overshadowed the anxiety that can come from being apart from a loved one.
This last semester, I was lucky enough to be a teacher to some amazing young adults. One of my students really excelled. She would finish her homework way before it was due; she would ask questions until she understood what was expected; and she had an excellent intrinsic motivation for a young person. She would speak often of her father and the military, and right before she graduated, I was able to ask her a few questions about being the child of a soldier.
Carissa’s father has been deployed six times. Each deployment, she explains, can be a stressful time. When I asked Carissa what was the hardest part about being the child of a soldier, she said, “I think [our] sense of safety is sacrificed. When my dad is at home, I feel safer, but it’s the other way around when he’s gone.”
Carissa stood out in my classes because of her work ethic, and in our interview she mentioned that she attributes this type of living to her father. She said she has always been proud to be a daughter of a soldier, and the fact that her father is in the service, affected how she was raised. Now that she has graduated (early I might add), she said she appreciated the strict expectations of her parents. As a mom, it would be amazing to hear my children say they gained attributes like grit and respect from me. What a great benefit of being a child of a soldier.
Another student I had the privilege of teaching is Natalee. I am so inspired by students like her. She was a staff member for my children at their elementary school; she is an intelligent human; and she writes her own blog. I came across one of her articles around Memorial Day, and her words really stuck with me. In her post, What it is Like to Have Someone You Love in the Military, she gave such a fresh perspective. “This isn’t one of those sad posts; I don’t think that I’ve been robbed of any time with my dad, in fact just the opposite. I cherish every second more than I probably would if he was around 24/7. You learn to let the little things go…” In this post, she addresses the pride she felt when her dad would come pick her up in his uniform. The balance she has struck with understanding and sacrifice is impressive.
The title of this post is a bit misleading. Because I am a teacher, two of my subjects were former students. However, one of the children of a soldier that I interviewed is my friend, Kim. She has been a mother, a wife, and a daughter of soldiers. Kim has experienced so many different angles of the military, one would think that she would have had enough. However, I have found in my conversations with Kim, that it’s actually the opposite.
Just like my former students, Kim has the pride and appreciation that come with being a child of a soldier. Her perspective is a bit different from Natalee and Carissa’s because she was traveling from country to country, as a child, when there was no such thing as social media to help her stay in contact with friends and family. Kim has lived all over the world because of her father’s military career. She was born in Texas, and her siblings were born in Germany, Japan, Virginia, and Kentucky. Kim said that her family traveled anywhere her father was deployed so they could stay together except for one time. “He did join the National Guard after he was no longer in active duty. The times he left for that we were not able to go. I believe this was probably more difficult for me and my family because we were able to be with him so much before. Our family never felt the same without him there. Your days are spent waiting for him to come home.”
She explained that her family took advantage of the relocation services, the family advocacy programs, and deployment services. As a child, her favorite benefits that the military provided were the ones centered around youth and morale. These gave Kim and her family support when her father was deployed and offered fun activities for the kids to enjoy.
When I asked Kim what some of the advantages were to being in a military family, she defined appreciation for what it is soldiers are protecting. “In my opinion, the military is [one of] the only lifestyles that will constantly remind you what the sacrifices are for and how proud they are to be a part of it.” She add that other benefits include being able to see different parts of the country and meeting new people.
Finally, I asked Carissa and Kim what they wished others knew about this type of life. Kim described it well, “That it is a hard life for all family members. Very rarely are you stationed near your extended family members; years can go by before you see them. There is always a feeling of disconnect. For the life you’re not experiencing with the missing family and the new one you’re trying to find.” Carissa added, “ I wish people knew the severity of what the soldiers do. Citizens underestimate what soldiers and their families sacrifice for their freedom.”
These women gave great insight. It’s a privilege to live in this country, and no one really understands the sacrifice like the families of soldiers. Please send us your stories about the soldiers in your lives to firstname.lastname@example.org or share this article with someone who can relate. At Family Footnote, we want to wish everyone a very Happy Fourth of July. Thank you for reading!