The family room was a fortress of sheets anchored to chairs. The attachment points were dressed with slip knots in a make-shift bunker. It was a weekly routine wherever we were stationed. From house to house, my husband set up camp with the kids. Friday nights were their time to “talk story” and my time to keep up with college classes. More than 20 years later, those sleep-outs remain at the top of our children’s most memorable and appreciated experiences.
Growing up military, change is a constant. Adjusting to new schools and neighborhoods and friends takes time … and then, it’s time to do it again. Our kids had weathered six military moves prior to age eighteen, and attended eight different schools. The familiarity of moving provides strength and resilience, and that comes from watching one’s military parent. There’s no doubt in my mind, our kids learned to “tough it out” from seeing their dad’s commitment to the military and to them. They also learned to accept challenge and occasional failure, but never defeat. “You can do eeeeet” was among the dadisms he drilled; just one of my husband’s quirky phrases.
Growing up military change is a constant. There were a few other unmistakable constants too. No one gets left behind, just like on the battlefield. When our daughter climbed her favorite tree and refused to come down, dad climbed right up after her. He met her right where she was at, loving her through another uprooting. Appreciation for sacrifice and service is a matter of the heart, not a matter of age. Our children served, and are still serving in their own way, in their father’s footsteps. Children are watching and learning, perhaps more than parents realize. There is tremendous value in finding something good in everything. Dad’s orders thrust the kids into new circumstances, repeatedly. And, they vicariously gained the gifts of adaptability, worldliness and patriotism. Being a “brat” has its perks.
Above all else, the constant was love. Our kids’ surroundings changed often but love carried them through it all. To all the military dads out there, thank you. Thank you for being steady and strong in your love of family. Your stories, camp outs, tree climbs, wave catching, service before self, and more, will stay etched in your children’s hearts. No matter what is lost in one move after another, your love will carry them like wind beneath their wings. Blessings to you this Father’s Day, and beyond.
Military brats — what gifts did Dad etch into your heart?