April is Month of the Military Child, and all month long I’ve read articles and watched outstanding public service announcements celebrating the resilience of military kids. More often than not, I get a little emotional because this is the story of my girls. My oldest is 6 and is about to make her fifth move. My youngest is 3 and has already lived in 3 different states. Although many of my civilian friends shake their head in disbelief at those statistics, I see them as a badge of honor for my girls. I know from my own story that as difficult as this life can be, it is richly rewarding.
Long before I was a military spouse, I was a military kid. My birth certificate records my birth overseas in an Army hospital. By Kindergarten, I’d lived in two foreign countries, two states, and the District of Columbia. I attended three different second grades (VA, AZ, and UT), two high schools (overseas and in the States,) and my move to Charlottesville for college was my 11th move in 18 years.
From an early age, I have vivid memories of helping my mom pack my Dad’s suitcase, taking it to him at work, and waving goodbye for weeks or months at a time. Long before the internet and cell phones, in the era of written letters, my Mom often didn’t even have an address for care packages. She had a number to his office. If she needed him, she could call there and they’d find him for us.
My stories aren’t exceptional, they’re representative of the life of America’s military kids – for at least three generations. I know because my girls are the third generation of Air Force kids. My mom was born while her Dad was flying in Korean War, then spent her childhood moving across the country and around the world, including three different high schools. She met my Dad while she was in college and agreed to follow him across the country and around the world, too. Long before she was 50, she’d moved 26 times.
Because I have the benefit of looking at three generations of service, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that while military kids experience unique challenges, we receive rich rewards. Frequent moves expose military kids to more of the world, expanding our horizons and opening our eyes to the sea of opportunities when we become adults. At an early age military kids learn the value of service and the meaning of sacrifice, preparing us to not only survive, but thrive in the face of great difficulty or deep grief. And nothing will teach the you value of friendship than saying goodbye to your best friends over and over again.
For me, being a military kid taught me to live what I believe long before I had the words to explain the concept. Years later, as I’ve wrestled to find my own stride as military spouse mothering my own military kids, I’m beginning to understand the power of living what I believe rather than believing what I live.
If I’m believing what I live, frequent moves and constant transition means I’m homeless and without roots. But from an early age, I learned that “home is where our people are” and that my roots weren’t in any one location.
Being “home” has less to do with the structure and the stuff inside the house and everything to do with the people. Living what I believe means I can be “at home” in the bayous of Louisiana, the Badlands of South Dakota, or the cornfields of Missouri.
Much as I still say, “Virginia,” whenever anyone asks where I’m from, my roots aren’t in Charlottesville or the outskirts of Washington, D.C. Living what I believe means my roots are in an identity that transcends time and space. When you get right down to it, I’m a military kid who grew up and became a military spouse. But before even that, I’m a child of God – blessed, chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, forgiven, and loved – and my identity is rooted first in foremost in the faith that grows from those roots.
More and more I’m realizing that the privilege of this military life is that it asks me to physically live what I believe. I know from my limited gardening experience that if a plant has good roots, it will be better equipped to be transplanted. Moreover, good roots produce good growth and yields more fruit. I believe that is true in life, too.
Living what I believe teaches me to tend to my roots.
And I know that if my girls have good roots, they can be transplanted wherever the Air Force sends us, and they will thrive.
How are your roots? Matthew 13: 3-9, 18-23; Psalm 1; Eph 1: 3-14; Eph 3:17; Col 2: 6-7