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When I tell someone I grew up in a military family, the most common reaction I get is sympathy.
"That must have been terrible, moving around all the time!"
I've always been puzzled by this reaction. I'll admit it wasn't always fun having to uproot myself and start over somewhere new, but I never thought it was something terrible. Now that I'm grown, I live in a medium-sized city that has a good assortment of people from a variety of backgrounds. Those of us who are military brats, however, seem to have a unique perspective.
Whenever my father was reassigned, he and my mother took the opportunity to thoroughly explore our new locations with my younger brother and I. When we could, we drove to each new home, taking circuitous routes that exposed us to almost everything America has to offer: I've walked the black sand beaches of Hawaii and stood staring down at Pilgrim's Rock. I've toured the White House and panned for gold at Sutter's Mill.
In our moves, I've survived hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, and narrowly avoided volcanic eruptions. I've been to Yorktown, Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor, and been humbled at the bravery of people like my father, brother and boyfriend, who have devoted their lives to their country. In the process of doing these things, I made new friends and was lucky enough to be exposed to things I otherwise would never have had the chance to experience.
Life as a brat shaped my character in ways I didn't realize until I got older. American history came alive to me in school because it wasn't just words in a textbook but places I'd seen and experienced with my family. I couldn't wait to get old enough to vote because I'd spent my life watching my father live service to his country, and I wanted to do my part. I'd met so many different people in our moves that I revel in the diversity of America.
Constantly being the new kid in school helped me hone my social skills. I'm a talker by nature (just ask my mother!), but having to make new friends every few years meant that I had to pay attention to my peers and their concerns to fit in. My current job relies heavily on communication, and I work with clients from across the U.S. and from overseas. My experiences of fitting in with new peer groups after our moves means I can usually find something in common with them, which makes working with them easier.
Because of all the opportunities being raised in a military family gave me, I can't help but laugh a little every time I get an expression of sympathy from someone.
"Actually," I tell them, "I loved it!"
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