By Lizann Lightfoot (and kids)
Military kids are amazing people. They are strong, flexible, and resilient in difficult situations. Many military kids spend about half their childhood with a parent gone for deployments or training. They move every few years, facing new schools, new friends, and a new neighborhood each time.
Everyone in the military community could learn something from military kids. So, I decided to interview mine and see what advice they would tell people about the military, moving, and deployments. They had some insightful ideas that were more profound than I expected.
(I have four kids ages three to nine but most of these are from the oldest.)
What can military kids teach us about military life?
1. Once you get used to one spot, you have to move.
Spending two or three years at each location means you are always either getting settled or preparing to leave. This doesn’t just apply to military life. You should always challenge yourself to move to the edge of your comfort zone. Once you get used to a certain job or business responsibility, it’s time to move up to the next one. Life is full of change and adjustment, and that can be a good thing.
2. Soldiers (or Marines, airmen, or sailors) are heroes who fight bad guys and keep us safe.
It would be great if the whole population saw service members in the same heroic light as their own children do. People do not join the military because they love guns and violence. They join to protect us, and military kids can attest to that.
3. Deployments are really hard and sad.
I think any military spouse will agree. Sure, we are all strong individuals who do our best and find ways to get through them. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, it just means we are all being brave and strong.
4. When Dad is gone, we stay up later. Sometimes we get ice cream, too.
It’s important to realize that not everything about deployments is horrible! They offer opportunities to change our routine, try new things, pursue new jobs, degrees, or hobbies. Deployments are what you make of them.
5. It’s fun when you drive to new states!
Military kids develop a sense of adventure at a young age. Every move is a new opportunity. Each duty station is a new town to explore. When the military sends you to the middle of nowhere, you can either spend the whole time complaining, or try to make the most of it.
6. Everyone has to help out, especially if Mom gets sick.
The military community has to support itself. This isn’t always easy when we are juggling our own family responsibilities, but if we all step up then everything works better. If a friend or neighbor’s spouse is deployed, try to offer an occasional helping hand. Bring over a meal, offer to watch their child for an hour, ask if they need help mowing the lawn.
7. You have to respect the flag.
Patriotism is part of military life. Military kids learn early how to stop for colors or retreat, face the flag during the pledge, and stand still for the National Anthem. Some adults could certainly learn from them!
8. If you don’t have any friends, focus on yourself and do your best.
This one impressed me because it is so true. There are times just after a PCS or at the beginning of a deployment where military life is extremely lonely. You can feel very far from family and friends. During those times, my daughter’s advice is to take care of yourself. Focus on what you can do and what you want to do, and let the friendships develop in their own time.
9. When you don’t live near family, you have to call or make pictures or visit.
Living far from family means you need to make an extra effort to stay connected. But military kids make it work with technology, cards, and the occasional visit.
10. Always be nice to the new kid because it’s not easy starting at a new school.
Military kids can be the most welcoming and least judgmental people you meet. Every new kid is a potential new friend. If they go to a base school, they are used to friends of mixed ethnic and religious backgrounds. We should all be so accepting of others’ differences.
11. I don’t like deployments, but I do like vacations afterwards.
There’s always a silver lining. Military life has plenty of hardships and challenges, but it gives us all some amazing opportunities, too. Because of the military, our family has lived in Europe and taken a road trip across the US. We should always focus on the opportunities, not the negatives.
12. I love my family. . . and I’m happy I got them.
No matter what we go through, family is always our rock. Whether that is your spouse and kids, your own parents and siblings, your military community, or your group of friends, it is our connection to others that gets us through. Always be grateful for the wonderful people in your life.
Lizann Lightfoot is an associate editor at Military One Click and a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.