Interview with a Military Teen

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I’m very excited to have a friend of mine from church and the same base as me talk with you on my blog. She is a wonderful girl and a great example of what I’d like my military kids to grow up as! I hope you enjoy her advice and unique perspective and that it helps you with your military kids too!

Hello!  I’m Emily Rachelle from Blog of a (Maybe) Teen Author.  I’ve grown up a military brat and older sister to three brothers.  My dad’s been in the Air Force for over twenty years.  His first assignment was Minot, North Dakota.  While visiting home he met my mom; they married in time for the next assignment, Panama, where I was eventually born.  (Shout-out to dual citizens!)

After that, we moved to Germany, where Eddie and Jon were born.  Then it was South Dakota, birthplace of Nicholas.  A special assignment in New York followed that; it was the only time my family has lived off-base, and it was definitely an interesting experience.  Think old, leaky plumbing, a permanently flooded basement, mice infestation followed by the snakes that came to eat them, and wasps trapped between the original farmhouse and an added room…

Anyway, we moved from New York to Okinawa, Japan, one of the most sought-after assignments and one that I have a lot of regrets from.  I left that place a stretched, grown, and different person to move to our current location in Georgia, only a few minutes’ walk from Kathryn’s house!

How did you deal with deployments as you got older?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this question – my dad’s only had one deployment.  I was ten at the time and it was a full year assignment.

What would you tell younger military kids?
1.) About deployment: it’s not as scary as you think.  Now, my dad’s “deployment” was actually a special assignment to Korea, but it affected my family pretty much like a deployment.  At the time, when I thought of deployment I thought of tents and bullets and danger.  While it is sometimes like that, your parent is safer than you think.  There’s no need to be scared.  One thing I regret about my dad’s deployment is that I didn’t stay in touch well.  I wish I had written letters and taken initiative to talk to him more while he was gone.

Oh, two more things: do not watch family-focused movies, at least not during the first part of the deployment, especially those concerning your particular relationship with the deployer.  (Example: The Little Princess for daughters of deployed dads.)  Also, if you’re going somewhere the day the deployer leaves (let’s say, church service) don’t cancel and stay home, but don’t expect to act normal either.  You’ll most likely bawl and have to slip out and feel embarrassed, but it’s better to be surrounded by nice loving friends than be embarrassed to be home with all the family except the deployee and feel depressed.

2.) About military-brat-life in general: learn to embrace change.  You’ll waste away and then regret your entire childhood if you spend it wishing you could grow up in one place, or have certain pets that aren’t allowed on base, or go back to the last place you lived.  You have to learn to appreciate the benefits of moving around.  When you’re older, you’ll be a more flexible and mature person.  Changes in life won’t shake your world or fluster your feathers nearly as much.  And right now, you get to see places your non-military friends don’t.  You get to try new foods and new activities – see completely different things!

As for making friends, you’ll have to learn to take initiative.  If you live on base, the neighborhood kids all know what the brat life’s like.  If you live off-base, the other kids think you’ve lived an amazing life moving all over the world.  Either situation can be beneficial to making friends.  A lot of the time, though, you get stuck with neighbors that you just can’t connect with well.  That’s when you have to stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Join a church youth group, a class at the community center, an after-school club.  Keep your eyes open for activities or clubs you love or that sound fun to try.  If an unsocialized military homeschooler like me can make friends, then so can you!

Once you’ve moved, keep in touch with letters and phone calls.  Old-fashioned?  Maybe.  Fun?  Definitely!  I have nearly ten pen pals!  Older kids, you can text, use Facebook, or email, too.  So if you lose touch with old pals, don’t blame it on the military!

Part of embracing change is letting go of past places you really didn’t want to leave and finding something great about a new place that honestly sucks.  Another part is learning that, eventually, some of your old friends will just stop calling or replying to your letters.  It hurts and it never completely heals.  I know that.  But you can’t hold on to your anger and bitterness and hurt.  I promise you at least one friend will just drop you after the move, and it will make your blood boil.  But one of the most important parts of military friendships is forgiving them and letting them go when some friendships end.

Emily & her Family

What helped you/what did your mom do to make deployments easier or better?
Mom and Dad set up webcams and all the kids would get a turn to talk to Dad.  Also, Dad sent me postcards occasionally with very tourist-oriented photos on them.  And we did a Twelve Days of Christmas that year that I loved – Mom found this brochure that had a portion to read each of the twelve days explaining the origin and meaning of that day’s gift.  After we’d sung the song and she’d read the day’s story, each kid got to open one gift.  Some days it was a toy (I particularly remember a doll wardrobe I adored) while other days were pajamas or books.  Then, on Christmas Day, we opened the rest of the gifts with Dad on the webcam.  (That was the plan, anyway.  It didn’t quite work out, but it was a nice plan.)

This helped Mom out because it meant the stressful chaos of present-opening and stockings and all that was spread out ahead of time and a bit easier to manage in pieces.  It helped us kids because it made that Christmas a fun, special, never-forget-it event rather than a melancholy awareness of Dad’s not being there.

If Dad were to be deployed again, I think one thing I’d want me and my brothers to do are fun mail activities.  You know, make your own stationary for letters; go to those websites that list wacky objects you can actually mail; start a story and send it to him to add in, etc.  Plus (I honestly don’t remember if we did this or not; I’m sure we did at some point) it’s nice for the kids to be involved with the care packages.

How do your brothers handle daddy being gone and how is it different for them than you?
I think it was hard on Eddie – he sometimes has authority issues and I think he has trouble connecting with the family, and just other people in general.  I’m not really sure if it affected Jon and Nick.  I mean, it seems to me that they don’t remember most of it.  But in general, I’d say deployments affect the parent-child relationship and emotional barriers more for girls, while they affect the general social aspect and respect for authority in boys.

I’m Emily Rachelle, a teenage girl in love with God and the world He created. My favorite things include chocolate, pretty trees, and books – rows upon rows of books, neatly lining library shelves or messily stacked in the corner of a bedroom. One day I hope for my words to join those rows, but until then I occupy this small corner of cyberspace: Blog of a (Maybe) Teen Author.

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