Military Children are Resilient

A servicemember hugging his daughter

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- During the month of April, we honor the military child. Throughout the month, I have taken the time to reflect on just how much we ask of our children. 

Every deployment, temporary duty and permanent change of station has impacted them and forced them to change their routine. At the end of the day our children didn't volunteer to serve, we did. Yet they face the uncertainty that we know exists with military service. Being a dual-military family with two children, I get reminded of these difficult times frequently. 

Separation due to deployments or temporary duty puts a strain on the entire family. Throughout the separation I miss birthdays, sporting events, school activities, family dinners and every holiday that falls within that time frame. My wife has to establish a new routine and then when I return, they are looking at me to adapt to their new way of doing things. Sometimes, we talk about how difficult it is being deployed and rightfully so, but do we consider how difficult it is for those left at home? To me, those left at home definitely have a tougher job. I have had the opportunity to experience both sides of this. 

Moving to a new station brings a myriad of unique challenges that we continue to see and hear even one year after our latest move. Each night my wife and I talk to our children about their day at school. Inevitably, I get reminded that I don't understand some of their problems because I didn't have to go through the same issues. A great part of the misunderstanding is the obvious generation gap, but it really hits home when they talk about their friends, specifically the challenges with making friends or keeping friends due to military moves. 

I grew up in the same town and had the same friends from elementary school through high school, but our military children do not have that luxury. They are asked to pick up and leave everything they know behind and start all over again. Even worse, they are asked to understand and find new friends when the military friends that they just made have to leave for their new journey. This can be extremely challenging for some children and no family is exempt from the unique issues that face our military families. 

The best advice I can pass along to any military family is to communicate. Whether you are preparing for deployment, temporary duty or PCS, let your family know what's happening and allow them the opportunity to be involved in that change from beginning to end. Separation is always difficult, but technology has definitely eased the transition. I remember on my first deployment I had to stand in line for more than an hour just to make a 15-minute phone call. Compared to my most recent deployment where I had internet service in my room and could talk to my family as often as I wanted. Nothing will take the place of being there with friends and family, but technology certainly helps. 

Technology has also helped our children stay in touch with their friends from our last assignment. My daughter uses text messaging or social networking and my son uses online video games to play with his buddies. When communication isn't enough, don't be afraid to ask for help. The Air Force is our family and there are many services available to assist with any challenge you may be facing.

My children are resilient. They withstand every separation or move, we recover as a reunited family, and they grow by experiencing these challenges first hand. Their ability to bounce back is truly inspiring. As military children they get to travel the world while their civilian friends may not. My children have seen and done more in their childhood then I ever did. I understand that it's difficult for children to see beyond the next week, but growing up in a changing environment and understanding that flexibility is key, will serve them greatly as they grow older. 

At the end of the day, our kids did not choose to be military children. So I ask you this--reflect on your family's story, specifically what your children have endured, and after you thank them for being great kids, please thank them for their service to our country.

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Deployment