April is the month of the military child! Whoot Whoot!
Bring on the parades and confetti, right?....
Well kind of...It is a time that we take a moment to lift these sweet souls, recognize the unique sacrifices they give and heavy burdens they bare each day. Yes there are often parades, rides, carnivals and food, but there are also classes, seminars, and competitions. All in hopes to distract them, lift their hearts and lighten their soul just a little bit at least once a year, because if anyone deserves it, it's them. After all they didn't choose this life.
It's not all doom and gloom, however I am not a going to lie to you and say it's all sunshine rainbows either. We can luck out and go a year or even two with our service member with us and it almost feels like we are a 'normal' family. Then again we can go an equal or longer stretch only seeing him or her a handful of times for a few weeks, maybe a few months total, depending on what their job.
The toughest part as a parent is watching your child go through the ringer with all the ups and downs that come with the life. The constant moving; mommy and/or daddy being gone all the time for training, deployments and/or schools; always being the new kid everywhere we go; and adjusting to new cities, new climates, and new schools. There is both an emotional and physical toll that it takes on them. The anxiety and fear that lingers. We do our best to shield them from it, but eventually they get too big for even our shield to protect them.
Over the last few years of living this life, I have met some of the most amazing kids I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Their...resilience, strength, understanding, compassion, and acceptance has been awe-inspiring to say the VERY least. This life is rough there is no doubt, but those that come out the other side are awesome to behold there is no doubt!
There is another side to this coin though that isn't often talked about. The forgotten ones that are still just as effected...the other military children. National Guard, Reservist and Divorced.
That was me growing up, the divorced military kid.
My parents divorced when I was 5ish. We moved back to my mom's hometown, so my sister and I could have a more 'stable' home. For the next 20 years I watched from the outskirts as my Father continued his Army career. Something I have never stopped admiring him for.
I visited almost every base he was stationed at, had an ID card, and had access to all the 'benefits'. I got that massive gut check when the planes hit the Twin Towers not knowing what that meant for him, but I was still always on the outside. I didn't fully belong in that world the way my step-siblings did. I didn't know what it was like to move constantly or the feeling that came with having to always being the new kid, having to make new friends, and missing out on yet another family gathering. I only had to do that all once growing up.
My experience as a military kid was...disconnected. I didn't belong in the civilian world, but I didn't belong in the military world either. I was both and yet I was neither. I felt utterly alone in my world. Now years later I realize that I am not only one who goes through this experience. Due to the nature of the military life, the divorce rate is incredibly, so there are a LOT of us kids out there who have lived through divorces with parents in the military.
Similar to our experience of the life, is what our National Guardsman, Air Guardsman, and Reservist's children go through. Not of one world, but not fully of the other either.
It took me awhile to own my military child title, because I couldn't shake that feeling of not really being one of 'them'. As I have gotten older and seen how much it has effect how I grew up and who I am today, I realized I can't do anything less. I am a proud military child, raising my own military children!
As well celebrate the month of April, please take minute to talk to the military kids in your life. Old, young, active duty, guard, reserve, retired and divorced. If I have learned anything, it's that one voice, one hand, one hug can be all that it takes to lift a burden and our military kids have very heavy ones.