OneOp brings you an interview with Kellie, a young woman who grew up as a military child. She is currently a college student pursuing a degree in early childhood. Look for Part Two of her interview on July 27. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What are some of your favorite memories of being a military child?
A favorite memory I have is seeing new places. It is so cool to be able to relate to so many places now and claim a little bit of everywhere that I have lived as home. I also loved moving, because you get a new house and room every time. There was always something new to explore, and that’s how I made my memories, just by exploring new places. Everywhere I have lived has become a memory but also has shaped me into who I am today.
What, if anything, was challenging?
The most challenging part about being a military child was not knowing what you were going to find. For instance, every time you moved you found yourself in a new school, with new teachers, new classmates, the list goes on and on. With so much “new” thrown at you all at once, it can be difficult to adjust. I was able to learn how to adjust with practice and it really helped me throughout my college years. My flexibility is one of my strongest leadership traits.
Was your parent deployed while you were a child? How frequently?
I was lucky compared to most military children. My dad is going on 30 years of active duty service but was only deployed one time for six months. It was hard but I am so glad he never had to deploy again.
What did your parent(s) tell you about their deployment?
I remember my parents telling me that my dad would be leaving to go overseas for a few months. They told me what he would be doing so I wasn’t very nervous. I was proud of my dad for serving our country.
How far in advance were you informed?
As soon as my dad knew for sure that he was being deployed, he told all of us. I don’t remember it being a big deal, I just knew it was something he had to do and that he would come back. I know it was something my family expected since he left less than two years after 9/11. At that time so many people were getting deployed.
What would you suggest to other parents that need to prepare their children for an impending deployment?
Make sure you let the children know what is going on. I was lucky enough that my dad was not in battle, so it was much less likely that something would go wrong, and it was easier for my parents to assure me that it was going to be okay. It is a hard situation to explain to children and it is important to let the children know that their parents are serving our country and making it better. My dad is a hero to me, and knowing that made it easier to understand why he was gone.
Be honest with your kids, give them as much time as possible to know a parent is deploying before he/she leaves, and give them comfort, because regardless it is not going to be easy.
What were some of you concerns while your parent was deployed and what strategies did you use to manage these concerns?
I was really young, so it was hard to understand all of the risks. I saw my mom upset sometimes, and didn’t quite understand that because I was so young. I know that my concerns mostly had to do with missing him and not really knowing when he would be back. I tried to think of the positives rather than the negative things that could happen. I was only in 4th grade, but I stayed busy, which made me less worried.
How can parents support their children through all phases of a deployment (pre, during, and post)?
- Honesty is the most important aspect of support. Before a parent leaves, make sure to focus on the time you have with them before they leave, not on the fact that they are leaving.
- While they are gone, don’t hide your feelings from your children, because they are there to comfort you just as much as you are there to comfort them.
- Be open as a family while a parent is deployed and discuss your feelings. Your family is truly your greatest support system.
- When a parent finally comes home, make it a celebration, because as hard as it may have been to be away from each other, the most important thing is that they are home and safe.
Image U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Robert Harclerode) CC by 2.0