As I was heading to bed the other night, I stopped by each of my kids' rooms. I found my daughter at her desk and noticed she was teary-eyed. When I asked what was wrong, she at first denied it, then her own tears betrayed her. I hugged my daughter and waited to hear what had caused her to be so sad. She explained to me that she just found out that her friends are moving. I knew they were moving, and had planned numerous slumber parties and get-togethers to help them soak up all the time they could together.
As I was heading to bed the other night, I stopped by each of my kids’ rooms. I found my daughter at her desk and noticed she was teary-eyed. When I asked what was wrong, she at first denied it, then her own tears betrayed her. I hugged my daughter and waited to hear what had caused her to be so sad. She explained to me that she just found out that her friends are moving. I knew they were moving, and had planned numerous slumber parties and get-togethers to help them soak up all the time they could together.
Regardless of my good intentions, I couldn’t save her from this pain that military children know so well. It’s often talked about how resilient and strong military children are, but seldom do we actually look at what they go through. My children have been through numerous Christmases without their father. They have lived thousands of miles away from our family, not seeing them for years. They have become friends with other military children, only to have a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) rip them apart.
Growing up, my sister and I knew this pain. Everyone develops their own coping mechanism. My sister would spend every waking moment with her friends before we moved. I would shut down, avoiding my friends and becoming a recluse in a futile attempt to prevent or lessen the pain. Now in adulthood, I catch myself in the same old habits. My best friend and I had the privilege of being stationed together. When my husband received orders, my best friend and I both shut down. It’s not “goodbye;” it’s “see you later.” We know it isn’t forever, as the military has a way of reuniting Families and friends, but it still is incredibly rough.
Knowing this pain myself should’ve made it easier to help my daughter, but in reality, it made it harder. I talked with her about how my friends and I will plan trips together and will keep our friendships going. It’s hard to be apart, but whenever we get back together, it’s like no time has elapsed at all. For her, I am sure these are all empty words, but I know one day she will see.
When we were stationed in Miami, Florida, it took years for me to find good friends to count on. One of those was the Rodriguez Family. Our kids were the same ages, our husbands got along great, and the two of us could laugh for hours. Then, the Rodriguez’s came down on orders to Germany, and our adoptive military Families were torn apart. Six months later, we PCSed to Italy. Being on the other side of the world completely isolated us from our Family and friends back in the US. The time difference made it hard even to have phone calls to home.
It didn’t take us long to map the distance between the Rodriguez Family and us. Six hours to a military family is nothing. On the other side of the world, we planned a road trip that within seconds of being reunited, overwhelmed us with the nostalgia of being home.
The old saying that “home is where the Army sends us” is entirely accurate. It isn’t a location, or even a post; it’s a Family. It’s in the late night conversations of missing Walmart, just because. It’s in the laughter shared between kids who have been apart for months or years, but pick up right where they left off. While my daughter was distraught, I reminded her of being stationed in Italy, and how even then we had Family. The military life is rough, especially as a child, but there are other enormous benefits that we wouldn’t have been provided with any other lifestyle. Her tears stopped, and she steeled herself, ready to make the most of the time they had, while planning for their reunions in the future.