“When is daddy coming home?” a five year old me asked. This phrase echoed throughout the various stages of my childhood, not an uncommon phrase for a military child to utter out loud. Growing up within the confines of military service, I had come used to moving every“When is daddy coming home?” a five year old me asked. This phrase echoed throughout the various stages of my childhood, not an uncommon phrase for a military child to utter out loud.
My dad was in the United States Navy from before I was born through half-way into my high school experience. We moved more times than I can count, and lived in a state of uncertainty because of the realization that where we were living would always be temporary. This is the reality of growing up in a military family because the truth is when one person is in the military, the whole family is in the military.
The military family, if distance can be withstood and fidelity maintained, is the strongest unit of family outside a military squad or platoon. Spouses are marked by their loyalty that is rooted in a deep love not only for their spouse and the family they built together but for the country they serve. With my dad deployed as much as he was, it was left to my mother to be the back bone of the family – to be both mother and father when there was only one person there to parent. Military wives are touted to be tough as nails women, mostly because they have to be; my mother was no exception to this rule. She kept the house clean, her kids in line, and made sure that our entire world wouldn’t fall apart. While my father sacrificed time away from home to serve, my mother sacrificed too and all without making my sister and I ever thinking there was anything different about the lifestyle we were living.
It never dawned on me how different growing up military was until my dad finally retired. We moved to a small town in Illinois where people had grown up with each other and gone to school with each other for as long as they could remember. Sure, I had friends that I maintained through my formative years but we would ebb and flow through each other’s lives. It wasn’t like the kids in that small town. The only friend who was a constant in my life was my sister. Growing up, we were all each other really had, the only playmate we couldn’t get rid of and wasn’t temporary.
That feeling of everything but family being temporary still exists within me to this day. Growing up within the confines of military service, I had become used to moving every two to three years. I had become used to the uncertainty and even secretly thrilled by the prospect of a new place and new people. I became uncomfortable with monotony and would feel suffocated by it. This need for change and adventure still is within me today. Living in one spot for too long still make me feels claustrophobic, and the fact that I have literally lived in the same place for almost a decade is nothing short of a miracle. My friends that have been with me from the beginning of my living in Phoenix often joke about how often I say I am moving only to have remained in the same apartment in the same town. But still, that thrill for the uncertainty was something growing up military instilled in me.
Growing up military is something I would never trade anything in the world. I have travelled more than some people will in their lifetime and living in a state of uncertainty has made me more tolerant and resilient to the adversity of life. But while I have a strong affinity for military family life, I recognize the sacrifices that my sister and I endured as a result of the lifestyle: less time with our dad, the instability of being uprooted and moved frequently, constantly being the new girl and trying to gain a sense of belonging, and the seemingly never-ending stream of goodbyes. If we didn’t grow up having our family, my childhood would have been much lonelier than it was.
Today is Veterans’ Day; today is a day I probably hold dearly to my heart than most as we honor the men and women of service and the sacrifice they give to protect us daily. I know what they give up, and I am so grateful to their sacrifice. But I don’t think Veterans’ Day is just about their sacrifice but also the sacrifice of their families. When one person is in the military, the whole family is in the military. So yes, honor the men and women of our military but make sure you take a minute to think about and honor their families too and the sacrifice they make too.