Throughout the month of April the armed forces celebrates Month of the Military Child. This month-long celebration is an opportunity to recognize military children for surviving and thriving under challenging circumstances and to thank them for their service. This week’s Shipmate of the Week is the 2013 Coast Guard recipient of Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year.
What does your family talk about at the dinner table? Search and rescue, oil spills and natural disasters? If those sound like strange dinner topics they are nothing but the norm for Amanda Wimmersberg. Wimmersberg grew up in a military family, both her parents serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. She was raised hearing about search and rescues cases along the Gulf Coast where her parents were stationed for a period. Sometimes the case had a happy ending and sometimes it did not. But despite the outcomes of cases, she learned a lot about the men and women who serve in the Coast Guard.
"I learned that the Coast Guard has a lot of compassionate people who really care about the public and give everything they have to try to save them,” said Wimmersberg. “I know they take it hard when a case does not end the way they want it to.” Wimmersberg also discovered the important role Coast Guard responders play in oil spills and other natural disasters. Her stepfather was a marine inspector and commanding officer of the Atlantic Strike Team. “This taught me that we really need to be aware of and take care of our environment to prevent careless mistakes from hurting people and marine life,” said Wimmersberg. “I also learned that it’s important to have plans in place in case of disasters such as hurricanes and floods to prevent loss of lives.” It wasn’t just her parents who have taught her about service to both community and nation, however. Both Wimmersberg’s maternal grandparents served in the U.S. Army. Wimmersberg’s grandfather was killed fighting for his country in Vietnam and is a recipient of the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Air Medal. Her grandmother served as a nurse and tells stories of how the military gave her the chance to see places she would never have had a chance to see as a poor farm kid from Ohio; she was stationed in Japan which was her favorite place.
“A lot has changed for military women since she was in the service, and I realize that women like my grandma were important in opening doors for future women in the military,” Wimmersberg’s. “I know that each service has a different job to do and that we have some of the best people in the military protecting our nation.” Like many children whose parents are in the military, Wimmersberg says the hardest part about growing up as a military child is the constant moving and “not having a permanent place to call home.” Instead of seeing this as a negative, however, Wimmersberg saw each move and each town as opportunities to grow. “Often times in school when we talk about a particular historical event, I can say ‘I lived there.’ I have seen Plymouth Rock when we lived in Boston, and I have been to where Lewis and Clark launched their westward expedition when we lived in St. Louis,” said Wimmersberg. “I realize I have seen things that others may never get to. I have also met many friends from places I have lived and got to enjoy the diversity of different regions of the U.S.,” added Wimmersberg.
Despite endless moves, Wimmersberg has excelled and is a gifted and talented high school senior who is captain of the varsity soccer and track teams while still maintaining a 4.0 GPA. She is also a member of the peer leadership program at her school, which helps freshman acclimate to their new school by providing an older student to talk to about problems and make sure they aren’t getting bullied. With the constant moves and all of her experiences added together, Wimmersberg has some advice to share with her fellow military children: find your “something.” For Wimmersberg it was athletics, but for other children it could be any activity where you fit in. “I have always had sports to help me make friends and cope with new surroundings. That was my ‘something’ I would take with me whenever we moved,” said Wimmersberg. “I would advise other military kids to find their ‘something,’ whether it be sports, acting or singing.” But it’s not just the children she has advice for; it’s the parents too! One of the most important elements of Wimmersberg’s life as she grew up in the military was meeting new people and making friends. She encourages parents to keep an eye on their children to make sure they maintain friendships. “Sometimes parents don’t like living on military bases or among other military families, but doing so can be a big help to kids who are looking for others in the same situation they are in. Parents should nudge their kids into finding something they like to do to keep them occupied so they don’t focus on the negative,” said Wimmersberg. “Parents need to make sure their child starts to feel comfortable in their environment and if they don’t they need to seek out resources to help them.” Her resiliency and ability to honor her family’s legacy of service are truly what being a military child is all about.