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Life lessons from a military child

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Story by Capt. Holli Nelson on 04/20/2018
At two years old, my niece was experiencing her second deployment as a military child. She was born in the midst of a 15-month deployment to Iraq in 2008. In 2010, she watched unknowingly as her daddy walked out the door again to fight in another foreign land, Afghanistan. She was my first introduction to understanding the significant burden and triumph that comes with the title "military child."

This month, we take the opportunity to celebrate military children across the Department of Defense for Month of the Military Child. We talk about resiliency and humility, grace and strength when describing them. These children, whether the sons and daughters of Active Duty, National Guard or Reserve military parents, are cut from a different string when compared to their peers.

Kallie, my niece who is now 10 years old, is the oldest of three children and the daughter of an active duty Soldier. She has taught me more than I could have ever learned from a book about being truly resilient. Her courage and wisdom are beyond her years as she has taken on a leadership role in her family as the oldest child. She's survived multiple moves from different countries and states. She has taught me how to prepare and encourage my daughter for the life she will live as a military child with dual-military parents in the National Guard. She has displayed every adjective known to describe a military child, and yet continues to thrive in her environment and develop a blazing path forward.

She recently wrote to me about her experiences living the life we celebrate this month saying, "My name is Kallie and I'm a military child. Some people think that being a military child means your mom or dad is always in danger. Most jobs don't require that. Most military children move to different places. Some think that moving is something they wouldn't want to do. You get to meet new people, try new foods, and see new places. Right now I live in Fairbanks, Alaska. I'm 10 years old, and I've lived in all kinds of places. I've been to Germany, Tennessee, Louisiana, South Carolina, and now Alaska (not including all the cool places we have visited along the way)."

She continued, "My dad, aunt, and uncle are currently serving in the military. We have a good life, and I love being a military child, even when it's hard. We leave our friends pretty often, but we always make new ones. When my dad is gone, I know I have to be more responsible and help my family. He is serving our country and we both have important jobs to do."

As military members, we're the ones who are given praise and recognition in public. The stoic Soldier, Airman, Sailor, Coast Guardsman or Marine in uniform elicits a response from the American public, typically one of gratitude. But the families, and in particular, the children of military members, are often the ones sacrificing the most without the recognition. In the West Virginia National Guard, we understand that our people are our greatest asset and that without the support of our families, we cannot accomplish our mission. And to them, we give thanks!

The short essay she wrote gave me hope, that the sons and daughters of our service members - our military children - are the foundation for a prosperous tomorrow. She continues to set an example for me and my family through her celebration of the un-celebratory aspects of military life. Everyday she and the other military children I see during the course of a day are a reminder of the reason we celebrate this month - to honor them, their spirit and sacrifice so we may do what's necessary for our country.


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