The month of April has been set aside to acknowledge the sacrifices a military child makes. All I can say is, about darn time.
I grew up an Army brat. My dad is my hero for numerous reasons but the biggest being that he gave up so much time he could have spent with his family so he could provide us with the life he never had. So selfless, so full of love. That is the example my father set for me. But being a child raised in the military is hard, so very hard.
An article a few months back was published in the New York Times that quoted a study that stated military children grow up to become more anxiety and depression prone adults. It is only now that some are taking note that being in the military takes a toll on the soldier, the spouse, and the children. We're all in it together.
I'll share of my memories from my childhood and teenage years:
I remember when the Sarg was called up during Desert Storm. I remember it was snowing as I stood in the driveway of my grandparents' house. I remember Dad picking me up and holding me tight. At the time, I didn't understand what was going on just that Dad was going to be gone for a long time. I remember Grandma placing her hands on my shoulders as I watched Mom get into the Taurus and drive Dad away. I was 4. Many years later, I found a picture that had been published in the local newspaper of all the soldiers that were shipping out. This photo showed my mom and dad, caught by the photographer saying good bye. Mom's eyes hold tears that aren't running down here cheeks yet. Dad is in his BDUs, hair newly buzzed.
I remember when the Sarg completed Air Assault school at Fort Hood and the pain he was in from the blisters turning his feet raw. I remember going to visit him on post, sitting in his office in the hangar, gazing out at the helicopters. I remember Dad placing me in the seat of a Blackhawk, telling me to "look tough" as he took first my picture and then my brother's. I look like I swallowed a really tart lemon instead.
I remember how Dad could not make it to my kindergarten graduation. I remember the card he sent in the mail. It had Snoopy with a graduation gown on the front cover. I remember missing him.
I remember how Dad would dress my brother up in his flight gear after he got home from a long day on post. I remember how he and all the other Army dads on the block would play squirt gun wars with us kids. How we were banned from touching the really big, fancy squirt guns they bought for themselves and we had the little see-through pistols to defend ourselves with. We would run screaming from them and their monstrous weapons, re-grouping to come up with a new plan of attack. Little did we realize that were probably war gaming a new tactic on the other side of the house. Sneaky Dads!
I remember how Dad was gone a lot but if we was home, he always loaded my brother and I up in the back of his truck and drove us to our elementary school to ride our bikes for what felt like hours. I loved it.
I remember how Dad would polish his boots at night and how he would like his coffee made in the morning. How special I felt when he started asking me to help him make his daily cup of Joe.
I remember how lonely my Mom seemed. I remember how all the moms seemed a little lonely too.
I remember the unit Christmas parties with a really horrible portrayal of Santa. I remember one in particular where I was probably on 3 or 4 and I was trying to describe a My Pretty Pony to "Santa" and he just wasn't getting it. I blame that guy for planting seeds of doubt in my mind at such a young age.
I remember when Dad went AGR and suddenly a lot of my friends were civilians with dads that didn't have rank and didn't move around. I thought it was so odd to have a dad who worked at a bank or was a Chemistry teacher.
I remember when Dad had to move away from us. I remember feeling like the house just didn't feel like a home. I remember how we adopted a new routine and found it hard to fit Dad back into it when he came home on weekends.
I remember my senior of high school and the Sarg deployed to Iraq. I remember crying and crying and crying because it just wasn't fair. So many of my friends got to keep their dads and yet mine was always gone and now he would that much further away with the possibility of death on a daily basis. I remember the night I hugged my dad good bye, praying so hard I would see him again. I remember how our eyes met as he walked out the front door and his tears matched my own. I remember being pulled aside by my teachers, being asked if there was anything they could, that they knew where my dad was. I remember how Dad had to make a heart breaking choice: use his two weeks leave to attend the funeral of a sister's husband or attend my high school graduation instead. I felt guilty that he chose me. I felt even more angry that he was forced to make that choice.
I remember coming home for Thanksgiving my freshman year of college and Dad was back from Iraq. I remember seeing him for the first time and feeling my heart break. He was the thinnest I'd ever seen him. His hair was almost completely grey. There were lines on his face that had not been there a year before. I remember wanting to keep him safe, away from harm's away forever.
I remember going to drill at my dad's unit. How every soldier I met told me how wonderful the Sarg was, how I agreed whole heartedly. I remember the pride in his voice as he introduced me as his daughter, SPC Obermier. I remember how called a random SGT into his office because he wanted me to speak Spanish to him because I could.
Do you see what I'm trying to illustrate? It's so hard. It's hard be without a parent so often. It's hard to be so little and not understanding why Dad is gone. It's hard to watch your parent make such difficult choices time and time again. It's hard not to know where your hometown is. It's hard to explain to civilians how you grew up. But I wouldn't change a thing. My memories are precious to me because my dad is precious to me. Yes, I do have anxiety issues and suffer from depression (it's such a pain the arse) but I was raised by a man that loves my mother, my brother, and myself more than anything in the world. I have been speaking in acronyms for over two decades now. I can make friends so easily. I get restless if I don't move from place to place (buying a house was and will continue to be a struggle for me and my tendency to pack everything up after a year or two). I tend not to attach to people because I was so used to my friends moving away.
The life of an Army brat is like no other. We learn the hard way what the meaning of sacrifice is.