It isn’t an easy life to live, being a military child. And while there’s plenty of articles and entire organizations dedicated to making that life better or making up for all the hardships, there are plenty of silver linings too.
Military families worldwide can all take a minute to feel good about the hidden gifts, they’re giving to their children simply by being part of the service community.
Noah Strasbaugh, son of U.S. Air Force Maj. Steven Strasbaugh, 351st Air Refueling Squadron assistant director of operations, sprays his dad with water in celebration of his “fini-flight” at RAF Mildenhall, England, Feb. 28, 2019. Dating back to World War II, the U.S. military has celebrated pilots’ and other experienced officers’ final flights either at their current unit or their career. U.S. Air Force/Emerson Nuñez
1. The gift of time
Entire lives are spent wasting time. It would be fair to say that generally speaking, most Americans and especially American children are too busy running from thing to thing to value the simple gift of time together. When someone is in your life every day, it’s nearly impossible to step back and see just how important, irreplaceable and invaluable they are to you.
This is not the case for military families. Deployments, TDYs, and school after school result in long periods of time reflecting upon relationships. All that time apart strengthens bonds and makes playing catch in the backyard a memory they’ll cherish forever. At an early age, military children get how important time together is, and are far less likely to waste it.
A student with Mokapu Elementary School performs a traditional Hawaiian dance during the school’s May Day celebration, Marine Corps Base Hawaii. U.S. Marine Corps/Zachary Orr
2. The gift of culture
Almost everything written about moving constantly across the world with children is negative because it leaves out one major perk — experiencing culture. International culture, customs, and respect are concepts which remain foreign to those who live their entire lives in one place. When children live globally from a young age, many of life’s barriers fade away.
Military children will grow up accustomed to foreign languages, an openness to international cuisine, and the unique perspective to see the world’s commonalities from firsthand experience. If nothing else, they will grow up knowing exactly what’s out there and be unafraid to live their own lives anywhere on the map.
A Gold Star child and her mentor pose for a photo during the 21st annual TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors, in Arlington, Va., May 22, 2015. Gen. Dempsey addressed surviving family members of fallen service members from both behind a podium and behind a microphone as he sang a few songs. DoD photo/Daniel Hinton
3. The gift of family
Nope, that wasn’t a typo. Military children will grow up with the gift of family…the military community. The old saying that “you don’t get to choose your family” is only half true. While we have no control over who we’re directly related to, we can choose the people we trust, love and create unbreakable bonds with.
Military families spend years and even decades apart from blood relatives, but over time realize that experiences like deployments, loss and PCS moves forge ties just as strong. Growing up in the military provides a constantly cycle of opportunity to meet wonderful people from all over the world and the looming threat of separation to bring you closer to them.
Just as service members feel a lifelong bond to those they served with, military children feel uniquely tied to the people that stepped up and stepped in when their family was away. No one knows what they went through better than the ones who lived it right alongside them.
Students at Lackland Independent School District march and cheer during the PurpleUp! Parade April 12, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. The parade was held in honor of the Month of the Military Child. April was designated as the Month of the Military Child in 1986 to recognize the sacrifices children in military families make along with the challenges they face. U.S. Air Force/Krystal Wright
4. The gift of turning the page
Something about childhood adults often forget was the deep desire to just start over when tween social life took a nosedive into the embarrassing with one fatal mishap- like the accidental fart in math class which forever brands you as “tooter.”
Enter the sweet gift of moving every few years. Did you get labeled something awful? There’s a move for that. Did rumor have it that your breath smells like the hot stench of death? Don’t live with it, just pick up and move! Dear children, we are giving you the sweet gift of reinventing yourselves every few years. A gift that allows you to boldly try new haircuts, new clothing styles, and hell, even a few weird accents after that CONUS move back to the states.
All things considered; military parents can rest easy tonight knowing that they aren’t completely screwing up their kid’s lives.