I’m sure there are people out there, specifically those not in the military, who see military parents in a negative light. Yes, the military has taken myself and my husband away from our children at times, whether it be for a one-week annual training exercise, or a year-long deployment. Yes, this is hard, for the children and for the parents. But being in the military is one of the best things that I have ever done for myself and for my family.
I have been in the Army Reserves since I was a senior in high school. I’ve attended regular battle assembly weekends that might or might not abide by a normal 9-to-5 work schedule (technically, we could be held for 24 hours a day during duty time). I’ve gone on temporary duty for weeks at a time, locally or even across the country. I was deployed for 18 months when I was 20 years old. I didn’t have children then, but if I did, it would not have stopped me from going. Being in the military is a large part of who I am. While there were times that I grew tired of it, or wished I didn’t have to go to battle assembly, I am nothing but grateful for the opportunities and everything the military has given me and my family.
Both my husband and I have been away from our children on military duty for days, weeks, months, or in my husband’s current situation, a year at a time. This can be difficult, there is no doubt about that. But the challenges that distance and time away put forth — the temporary single parent status, missing out on first steps, birthdays, and baseball games, or your child only knowing you on a computer screen — also bring us closer together. These are the same trials and tribulations that remind us how much we can count on each other, and demonstrate how much each one of us mean to the family.
Having military parents has done amazing things for my children. They’ve grown up seeing mommy and daddy in uniform, going away to serve their country. This has already instilled in my children a sense of patriotism, love, and devotion for their country like nothing else could. With that comes self sacrifice as a deeply embedded quality that my children have and show regularly.
Physical fitness is important to them. Since staying in shape is a requirement of the military, and since our kids witness this lifestyle, and it is only natural for them to follow suite. When all of their friends are inside playing video games, my children are outside enjoying nice weather. A family run or bike ride is not out of the ordinary.
Gender roles have no place in our house. My husband and I are often away at different times, so our children witness each of us pulling the weight of both parents, doing everything that needs to be done from laundry, to cleaning and cooking, to repairs around the house. No job is just a mommy or just a daddy job.
Most importantly, being a military family has made us all very resilient. A military life can be unpredictable, so parents and children have to be ready to switch gears at a moment’s notice. My kids take this in stride, and they are stronger for it. This has made them adaptable to any situation, and boosted their self confidence. My oldest son is already showing strong leadership skills and possesses an amazing work ethic, and I expect nothing less of my baby as he grows up.
The military has provided countless opportunities for my family and brought us endless emotional, physical, and financial gain. Although my spouse and I may miss small precious moments with our children while off doing our duty, we know, and our children know, that being in the military is for the greater good for our family and our country. I really don’t know what better lesson you could teach your children.
The military has made us better parents and has helped my children grow up stronger than most. Maybe our kids will be in the military one day. Maybe they won’t. Either way, right now, we are all in the military as a family. My kids are enjoying their childhood and are gaining valuable lessons to prepare them for becoming our next generation of leaders. I don’t know any nursery school that can compete with that.
Desiree Ahmann is an Iraq war veteran, and is currently an Army career counselor and mother of two, living in Nebraska.