My husband decided to join the Army when he was still a teenager. We decided to get married when we were in our early twenties, both at the start of our careers and adult lives.
These decisions changed our lives. My husband found a calling in the military, a true purpose. We have found continued support and love in each other. These have been some of the best decisions we have ever made—but they’re still very much decisions. We chose each other. We chose this life.
Our children didn’t. Though we consider them lucky to have been born into our family, we know that they didn’t ask for this ever-changing lifestyle. Like so many of America’s two million military-connected kids, they face challenges and hardships that many of their civilian peers don’t.
And they amaze us every day.
April is the Month of the Military Child. It’s all about recognizing the sacrifices made by military children as their parents serve our nation. Our kids didn’t ask for this life, but they sacrifice anyway.
Our son was born on National Airborne Day during his father’s third deployment. He spent the first seven months of his life viewing Daddy through my phone. He lived in three states before he turned one.
Our daughter was born at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the premier hospital for military families. Both Army and Navy medical professionals helped deliver her, including one of my husband’s former West Point classmates. Just before her first birthday, we moved halfway across the country.
Our children are young but they already know how it feels when their friends move away. My husband hasn’t deployed in the past year, but his current position has him traveling for work quite frequently. Our kids know what it’s like to have breakfast as a family of four, only to come home to find themselves a family of three at dinnertime. We talk about Daddy and his work, but they don’t ask when he’ll return. They just trust he will.
Some of their favorite books and shows feature families with extended relatives who are nearby. We just don’t have that luxury. My son regularly asks when his grandparents and cousins are coming to visit him. Even pre-COVID, he didn’t quite accept my explanations for why our family looks a little different than the ones on TV.
Still, our kids surprise us with their strength and resiliency. Neither cried when the Army movers packed up their toys and took them away. When we made it to our newest home after three days on the road, they eagerly explored and immediately claimed this house as theirs. There was no looking back, no wistfulness over what we left behind. Just excitement for our new home, even if it was empty.
Each time the Army calls my husband away, my children adapt. It must be hard for them to have their dad coming and going, but they make the best of it.
They’re young, so we don’t know how our kids will fare with future moves. We don’t know how switching schools, often halfway through the academic year, will affect their education. We don’t know if our children will one day fall in love with an extracurricular or team sport, only to find that it’s unavailable at our next duty station. We don’t know when our next deployment will happen or how it will affect them emotionally.
There’s so much about this military life that we just don’t know.
As a parent, it’s hard knowing that choices we made for ourselves, even for the right reasons, might make life harder for our kids. My husband chose to serve his country. I chose to support him. And our children will face the effects of our decisions as they grow. New schools. New friends. New neighborhoods. Over and over and over. They won’t grow up with grandparents living in the same town, or even within driving distance, like we did. They won’t graduate high school alongside classmates they’ve known since kindergarten, like we did.
But we know this: our kids are loved and happy. And already resilient beyond their years.
They deserve all the stability that we can give them, too. I can’t control when their friends move away—I can’t even control when the Army moves our own family. But my husband and I can promise to always be their safe place, their North Stars, and their home. They are certainly ours.
Our children didn’t choose this life. But we’re so grateful for their sacrifices anyway.
Happy Month of the Military Child, little ones. You make this military life worth living.