As service members engage in America’s longest war, I think about the sacrifice of their children during these times.
Service members are trained for duty at both the home station and downrange. They volunteer to serve this nation and to defend it against domestic and foreign enemies. They sign up for it. Yet, I am reminded of a recent interview with Ken Barnard, co-founder of Patriot Hunts, an organization that offers recreation to Gold Star Family members and wounded warriors. During the interview, Barnard explained how Gold Star youth didn’t sign up for the loss of a parent.
“The Gold Star kids didn’t sign up for anything. Most of them weren’t even born at 9/11,” he said.
They didn’t sign up for losing a seat at the dinner table. They didn’t sign up for not having a parent teach them how to drive, or walk them down the aisle or be the best man at their wedding ceremony, or pass out cigars upon the birth of a grandchild.
April 30 is recognized as National Military Brats Day, designated by Military Brats, Inc., which, according to its website is a nonprofit committed to preserving the culture of those who grew up military. The month was selected in recognition of April as the Month of the Military Child and the 30th as the end of the month, signifying the end of military service as a child.
The military brat’s motto is “Children of the world, blown to all corners of the world, we bloom anywhere!” The dandelion is their symbol.
National Military Brats Day is a symbolic thank you to patriots masquerading as children — those who sacrifice because of the service of a parent or two.
Because my dad was an Army veteran, I was once a military brat. But, in fairness, I remember nothing of those years because I was simply too young. Anything I know of it has been shared in stories from my parents.
Yet, what I know of military brats, I’ve witnessed in my Family or in the Families of people I’ve interviewed over the years. In my own Family, I have watched my military cousins move their children from Texas to Alaska; from North Carolina to Georgia; from Arizona to Fayetteville. I’ve watched these children demonstrate strength and resilience by changing schools, making new friends and learning a new area.
Last year, I interviewed Amy Rowland, a military brat turned Army spouse, who co-invented an app called Play Across America. As a child, moving from duty station to duty station, Rowland said she took comfort in knowing that a favorite TV show could be found no matter where she lived.
She wanted playgrounds to be the same security blanket for children today that a TV show was for her as a military brat. Playgrounds exist regardless of where military parents are assigned, Rowland explained.
Today, military brats in my Family have come to appreciate the immediacy of Facebook’s messenger app, which allows video chat. They’ve also come to appreciate the value of Facetime. For me, there’s joy in getting a Facetime request from a cousin who has moved with military parents from North Carolina to Georgia.
In covering Fort Bragg’s education forum, I’ve learned that school liaison officers work diligently to make transitioning schools easier for military children, often helping them to transfer credits from one school to another.
One of my favorite stories to cover at Fort Bragg has been the Armed Services YMCA Family Fishing Derby held each year at Lake Rim, in Fayetteville. It’s a delight to see children enjoy a day of fishing with their military parents, casting not just a line for today, but memories for tomorrow.
These military children deserve outings with their parents. They deserve military appreciation night at sporting events, discounts at an amusement park to ride a roller coaster because their lives are a roller coaster ride from one place to the next. (Speaking of rides, the Fort Bragg Fair runs today through May 14 and is accessible from Bragg Boulevard via Howell Street).
So, I salute the military children who serve honorably — the parents who nurture them, the schools who teach them, the classmates who welcome them to a new duty station. I salute the military children who learn that roller coasters are fun.
(Note: Visit www.patriothunts.org, http://militarybratsinc.org/national-military-brats-day-initiative/ or https://bragg.armymwr.com/us/bragg/programs/slo-bragg, or www.asymca.org/fort-bragg-home for more information about Patriot Hunts, Military Brats, Inc., school liaison officers or the ASYMCA Family Fishing Derby. For more information about the Play Across America app, review or download it in iTunes App Store).