4/22/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
We call them brats, dependents and family members. They determine the size of our quarters and one's priority to even live in government housing. They are uprooted, transplanted, partake in sponsored activities and are the responsibility of the service member. They did not enlist nor were they drafted. They were born into the military. I was one, and now I have one of my own -
a military child.
Some aspects of being a military child are enduring. Living in government housing, hanging out at the base swimming pool, attending unit organization days and the much awaited 10th birthday and being issued the coveted government ID card are all fond memories. Military kids even pick up the lexicon of their parents, acronyms such as "NCO", "PCS", "TDY" and "POV" are learned by preschool.
In fact, if a family remains in any location longer than two years, children demonstrate symptoms of "we need to move" fever. Military families execute moves with the precision of a drill team. Kids pack their rooms, know what to carry and what to store. I always thought of moves as vacation time. The family was together for a while heading to parts unknown. Yes, there are many fond memories of growing up and raising a child in the military.
There have always been challenges: leaving friends, being the new "military kid" in school and joining sports teams, music programs and other activities means proving once again one's capabilities and talents. Our military kids, however, are resilient. They learn to make friends fast. They adjust to new and strange surroundings quickly. Military kids adapt and overcome. These traits become part of their character, and it becomes who they are. Military kids today do experience many of the same moments I did, but one thing has changed - the cost of serving. (I use the word serving to underscore the fact that military children do serve - they certainly sacrifice for their country.)
For all the good that the military life offers, the potential cost of being a part of this lifestyle in today's world has certainly risen. Repeated deployments of a parent - and today - more frequently, both parents, shake a child's world. To a child, a family care plan (used in the event of both service parents being deployed) is a long, frightening stay with people other than their mom and dad. Sadly, sometimes parents do not come home from deployment. Military children sitting in the front row of a memorial service, unsure of what is taking place, know something is wrong. Their lives are forever changed in the service of their country.
Our nation does well at telling people in uniform "thank you." When was the last time you told a military child "thank you?" If you are the parent of a military child, stop and give them a hug for what they do. If you are but a passerby, smile and tell a military child "thank you," for they also serve.