The new lease has been signed, the house once again unpacked and arranged, the moving truck was returned over a month ago and the dust has settled. The pets have spent their time discovering their new surroundings, WE have taken ample time to discover ours as well. We have made so many memories already in the month and a half that we have been in our new location. From bitter cold and snow to seemingly never-ending sunshine and moderate temperatures, the shock of the weather change alone has almost forced us to exhaust ourselves each day with the ability to be outside and enjoy nature. I’ve got the deep suntan to prove it.
With everything in our new location so shiny and new, comparatively, all the modern amenities and social activities we could ask for (non-stop art festivals, community events, farmers markets, flea markets, river boating, kayaking, wildlife, parks, theme parks, shopping, swimming, beaches…honestly I’m overwhelmed with the amount of activities) we are driving ourselves constantly to engage with our locale. Since Tomah WI was a veritable black hole of social events, we have gone to great lengths to become reengaged with society and the community.
My job has started and I am fitting in great, falling right back in the hectic swing of the business and AJ has started focusing on her photography again. I’ve got two part-time jobs writing for publications. On the surface, our lives are better than they’ve quite possibly ever been.
Now for the reality of the situation (holy hell that sounded grave. It’s not as bad as it sounds, stick with me). I have been in the Army for 16 years now, AJ has been with me for 12 of those years and Skyler and Kaylee have been with us for 9 and 5 years respectively. I love what the Army has provided for my family and I. The financial stability, the insurance benefits, the travel opportunities, the job training, the guaranteed pension coming in the next four years, the friends we’ve made (shout out specifically to two people who will most likely never read this: Elzie and Melissa Sampson).
Over the course of those sixteen years I/we have moved 12 times. At the beginning of my service, within the first year, I moved from Alabama to Oklahoma then followed on to Arizona, Georgia and ultimately landed in North Carolina for the duration of my time.
Four moves within the first year and I loved every move.
I have always been a gypsy at heart. I was born into the gypsy lifestyle with a parent in the Army. At the end of that four years I moved back to Alabama, putting the total to five moves in four and a half years.
I rejoined the Army in 2007 and, with my amazing wife in tow, moved to Georgia to start our new life in the military. We were there for a roughly a year and a half before being offered a new job and moving back to North Carolina.
We’re at a combined total of seven moves within a collective six years…
And now Skyler is with us, and although he’s a baby, he still has to feel some effects of the gypsy lifestyle. In 2010, I jumped at an opportunity to take, what I considered at the time to be, a dream job back in Georgia, where we remained for three and a half years. So we slowed down a little bit and got a chance to lay down some roots. We bought a house, Kaylee joined our family, we made lasting friends, Skyler got his first experience with school and we plugged into a supportive church community. In 2013, after I spent a massive amount of time away from home on Temporary Duty across various locations around the globe, we both started to feel what a lot of Soldiers refer to as the itch, the need to pack up and move on to the next assignment, the next adventure.
With the move “home”, our grand total came to nine moves over the course of ten years, almost one major move a year. Skyler has now experienced two and Kaylee is at one
Luckily we were fortunate enough to be stationed close to “home” (the city in which both of our families live) and we were there for three years. It was great because Skyler got to spend a lot of time with family, he really got to know his “Opa”, AJ’s dad, before he passed away. We had plenty of time to bask in the awesome feeling of being near family before our clock ran out and we had to, once again, move along.
2016 saw us moving from home to Wisconsin where we spent two of the most miserable years of my life 🤣 . But seriously, I only say that because of the weather. Wisconsin definitely has its upsides. We had fantastic neighbors. Skyler and Kaylee bonded with their children almost instantly and they were nearly inseparable for the duration of our stay. Alex had a great friend who also was a stay at home mother so they grew close.
But now we’re at eleven moves in 13 years. Skyler has been now been through three, Kaylee two and AJ and I are so battle hardened we don’t really care to count, though technically at this point I’ve been through eleven and AJ has been through five.
It should be mentioned here that we also moved physical addresses within the cities a couple of times while trying to find the right home.
Now it’s 2019. We live in Florida, move number 12, and if the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) gods smile upon us, we will be retiring here. If things don’t go according to plan we will move one more time in February of 2020 bringing the grand total to 13 moves over 20 years.
Now here’s why I sounded grave at the beginning. I have never really lost the wanderlust, although at times I will admit it wanes slightly. I think AJ would say the same though we both usually seem burnt out and feeling otherwise right after we complete our moves. What I never really considered, although I was an Army brat myself, was the stress the moves put on our children.
Only recently have I started really contemplating the gravity of what military children are forced to accept. To name a few:
- The constant switching of friends, schools, environments, familiarity, surroundings. Friends is a big one. Skyler still won’t really fully admit how much he misses his best friend in Wisconsin but we can tell he’s disturbed by something and he cries when we talk about them. Kaylee still talks about them too.
- The learning of new addresses. – Skyler has had a total of six thus far
- The adjustment to a new school curriculum, school times and, sometimes, uniforms. Learning new teachers and finding his place among a sea of new friends he’s not even sure he will still have a year or two from now. Often times the curricula and schedules don’t match up. In Wisconsin the elementary school was year round and now he’s back to what I consider a traditional schedule in which they take three months off over the summer.
- Adjusting to new family routines
- Soaking up all the emotions that AJ and I are pouring out as we scramble to figure everything out in a completely alien environment.
Read that list again and try to really think about it, put yourself in that place. When was the last time you had a best friend, with whom you were nearly inseparable, and due to no fault of your own that friendship was forced to end and you were dragged completely across the country most likely to never talk to them again? If has happened to you before, imagine that happening to you several times over the course of your developing years. Think about your first day at school, whichever level you choose (elementary, middle, high). Were you nervous? Unsure if you would fit in or how things would go? Military kids experience that first day like it was groundhogs day. Skyler has now been to three (FOUR) different elementary schools, crammed full of anxiety each time he experienced that stressful “first day”. That’s just to name a few.
The only constant Skyler knows at this point in his life, minus myself, AJ and his sister, is that everything changes, nothing is consistent for too long. Couple that with the fact that he has had to say goodbye to me for months at a time multiple times over the course of his life and has had no idea why, my work hours often require me to miss out on a lot of quality time (many who know my family know that I was deployed when he was born) and my own inability to cope with my emotions often manifests in anger with him though he doesn’t deserve it whatsoever, and you will see that my military brat has already dealt with more loss and tumultuous living circumstances at 9 years old than a lot of other people deal with over the course of a lifetime.
I can only assume that there are others in similar circumstances.
My point to this whole thing is this: Being a military brat is a difficult life, man.
Our kids didn’t ask for it, yet they were also born into it just as I was. Some are able to adjust, some just shove the emotions down so deep that they remain calm on the surface while slowly die emotionally on the inside and others wear those emotions on their sleeves for the whole world to see. That being the case, military children may sometimes seem difficult to deal with or misunderstood by friends and teachers because they don’t always know how to explain to other people what they are feeling or why they are feeling that way. Give them some time to adjust, they always do. One life skill military brats learn early on in life is resilience, sometimes it just takes them a week or a month to remember they can move on.
I started writing this because Skyler is at that point during this particular move where he is feeling the effects: crying at random points during the school day for what would appear to be no reason in particular, crying at home, acting out, talking about a friend we are pretty sure he will never see again and getting super emotional about it. It made me once again contemplate the price that military families truly pay for our lifestyle. I signed up for this fully understanding the weight of what I was getting into yet the families don’t always. It’s tough but generally worth it in the long run.
Do you know a military family? Do you know someone who grew up a military brat? The next time you go to thank a Soldier for their service, would you consider thanking their family as well? I think they often times put up with a lot more stress than we do.
A little clarification here before I close this one out:
- The Army didn’t necessarily ask us to move this much. If done to standard, a Soldier would move every three years equaling a total of around 7 moves over the duration of a 20 year career. Most of the short station duration’s we experienced were of our own creation as we asked to move sooner than required.
- I am beyond grateful for everything the Army has provided my family over the course of our career thus far. I think a lot of jobs I could have had would have sucked, what job doesn’t at some point? But the Army goes above and beyond to make up for the lows i’ve experienced with the benefits and opportunities.