By Laurel Copes
Growing up in a military family has dramatically influenced my perspective on the idea of home. I spent all of my formative years viewing my house, friends, and community as transitory parts of my life. It was Fort Campbell this year and Fort Huachuca the next. For a long time I hated living this way. I longed for stability and comfort and ignored the many blessings that the frequent moves brought me. However, as I enter into the last years of my time as a military dependent, I am beginning to realize that a permanent home has never been what I needed and is no longer what I want. I would not be the person that I am without the things that I experienced as a military child, and I am so thankful for the lessons that I learned along the way.
When you move every few years, you get the chance to experience new cultures all the time. One of the greatest gifts that living life as an Army kid has given me is the opportunity to be a part of so many varied and dynamic communities. I learned early on that the world is vast and so full of people who live differently from me. Being friends with people from every background and religion has taught me to see the full value of experiences separate from my own. This is especially true when you move abroad. There is nothing like walking down the street in a country you’ve never been to with a language you’ve never spoken to put you in your place. After a while you become accustomed to your new location, absorbing parts of their culture and creating a place for yourself in their community.
This part of military life taught me how to value my time and work for my friendships. It can be hard to create new relationships just to have to end them later on, but every person I’ve invested myself in has been worth the chance that they would fade out of my life after I moved. I am grateful for everything that the people I surrounded myself with at each new place taught me and contributed to my life. When you know that the time you have with people you really love is limited, you learn to live in the moment and focus on the things that really matter.
Fortunately for me, there are three people who I have never had to leave because of a move. My family has been the one constant part of my time as an Army brat. Our ever-changing environment forced us towards each other because sometimes we were the only people around that we could trust. I have loved being best friends, travelers and explorers with my dad, mom, and brother and having them play roles in my life that they might not have been able to any other way. The military is not conducive to traditional family life, but at least in my family it allowed us to create something even better.
There are some obvious downsides to military life, but even those have had some positive outcomes for me. The deployments my dad has been a part of taught me to be resilient and responsible. Leaving people that I cared about showed me that real love takes work and that some people aren’t meant to be in your life forever. Most of all, this semi-nomadic lifestyle has shown me that home is what you make it, and for me that means always learning, growing, and exploring.
Originally published on The Odyssey Online. (https://www.theodysseyonline.com/military-kid-taught)
Edited by London Koffler