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5 Things I Appreciate About Military Families

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I wasn't raised in military family, so all of this Military Appreciation Month stuff was brand-spanking new to me when I married my soldier.

I was glad that Congress set aside a whole month to acknowledge the men and women who serve in our armed forces and the families who support them through their service, often at great personal cost for all.

But I was impressed from the start with the service members, spouses and children I encountered on post and I continue to be impressed, practically every day, 11 years later.

Here are just five things I appreciate about military families:

1. I've never seen a "Carpe Diem" sticker on a military base.

Not once. Not because military families don't understand Latin (Hello? Semper Fidelis??) but because no one needs to remind us to "Seize the day."

(I do see "Semper Gumby" stickers everywhere, though. It's good to be reminded to stay flexible.)

We already seize the day. We know that we will probably only live in this state for a couple of years, so we need to check out that festival this year, not next.

We know that our service member will deploy in a few months, so we need to make that family camping trip happen, like, most ricky tick.

We know that we may never live in the same time zone as this friend again, so we bond tight and we bond quickly, and then we nurture that friendship from a distance, for a lifetime.

We have friends who died much too young. We don't take life for granted. We hug. We hold. We cherish.

Seize the day? We got that.

2. Racism? Huh? Wha?

Military communities are far from perfect, but we're not racists and we are certainly not like so many other members of this country.

When we hear about racial problems in other communities, we suspect that they must just not have anything better to do. We all live together, we all work together and we're fiercely proud that the U.S. military showed the rest of the nation how to integrate.

And if you really want your heart warmed, talk to a military kid about racism. After growing up in multiple states and countries, living side by side with people of all races, they truly cannot comprehend racial prejudice. It just blows their minds -- and I love that.

Hooah! (or Oo-rah!, if you'd prefer.)

3. We see the world as a very small place.

When I was growing up in Tennessee, Hawaii might as well have been another planet. I couldn't fathom how far away it was.

But because of OCONUS assignments, deployments worldwide and friends who move all the time, military families have friends everywhere and tend to have a better understanding of what's going on in the world.

Honestly, the State Department ought to have a fast track recruiting program for military kids.

I recently met a double Air Force mom (she and her husband are both active duty). Her family has lived in England, Australia and Japan, and all over the United States. She said her kids, now teenagers, download Japanese cartoons to watch in Japanese. You know, 'cause they're fluent.

4. We abhor snobbery.

Having to wear your resume on your shirt seems to make for a pretty good equalizer.

It's hard to put on airs when everyone around you knows exactly what you've accomplished and how much you earn.

Sure, stories abound of snobby officers' wives.  But be honest:  Have you actually met many like that?

We all have "a friend" who had such an experience, right? Or maybe it was a friend of a friend. Or a friend of a friend of a friend. ... Face it, those stories are simply urban legends.

The truth is that -- officer or enlisted -- distaste for snobbery is universal in the military community. And that is awesome.

5. We adapt. Instantly.

Last December, a military kid in my son's class had to move from Florida to North Dakota. In December. Imagine the cruelty.

She woke up one morning to a balmy Florida winter and went to bed that night in sub-zero North Dakota. Never mind that a little girl who'd been in Florida for a few years probably didn't even own winter clothes ... sand dunes to snowmen she went, without missing a beat.

I think about that little girl a lot, mostly because I hate cold weather. But military families do stuff like this all the time. We adapt.

We pack up, unpack and hit the ground running. We solo parent for a year and then, in the space of just one day, BAM! We're part of a couple again.

Our service members return from Afghanistan, where people still ride donkeys and squat in the sand to go to the bathroom. Then they land in places like Las Vegas -- where the lights are never off and the fireworks are indoors.

We adapt. All the time.

Semper Gumby, y'all.

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Family and Spouse Rebekah Sanderlin

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Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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