Life as a Military Child

This month, we celebrate the Month of the Military Child. As a child of a serving family myself and now back living with my parents in military accommodation, I thought, what better way to raise awareness of this month than to highlight our unique lifestyle and skills through my own personal experiences.

As a military child, I have moved around three countries, lived in ten houses and been to six schools. Had I not been sent to boarding school at thirteen, the number of schools would have risen to at least nine or ten. I have had to make friends quickly, adapt to new environments and cultures and fit in with my peers countless times. Yet my story is not unique. For military children, this is an everyday reality and one which we share and thrive in.

A number of schools I went to in my younger years were primarily for military children, so the children and teachers changed termly as they were posted to a myriad of locations, ranging from Kenya to Germany, Brunei to Tidworth; some much more exotic than others. This resulted in a great deal of educational disruption over the years; the amount of times I had learnt the same period of history or the same mathematical equations in consecutive years is laughable. From memory, I can still recite which Egyptian gods did what and their names, due to the number of times I had been taught this period in different schools and locations. Whilst this hasn’t helped in my pursuit of a career, it does make good quiz knowledge, and often raises a few eyebrows when I get an obscure question on The Chase right whilst watching at dinner time.

 

The real challenge for me was when we moved to a location where military children were the minority of a school population, as it was hard to relate to pupils who had lived in one area or one house for their entire life. To a well-travelled 10 year old, it was a weird disparity to my own experiences of life so far and brought a great deal of confusion – why would you want to stay in one place for so long? 

Yet, the difficulty of being a military child in a sea of ‘ordinary’ students increased when my Dad was deployed. From 2008 to 2012, Dad was deployed to Canada twice for training exercises, and twice to Afghanistan. Explaining to my peers as to why they hadn’t met my Dad before, or why he ‘chose’ to leave for six months at a time was a tough one. One in which, at the time, I didn’t have an answer for. But at this age, I was starting to become more aware of what it meant to be ‘in the military’, watching and understanding the news more, and it was a difficult realisation to have at such a young age. I found it difficult to talk about where my Dad was, and my classmates and teachers asked daily how he was, and the ordeal was an intense one; but one that I had no choice but to power through. We kept in contact through weekly phone calls and letters, fondly referred to as ‘Blueys’, and receiving these were always the highlight of my week. As a family, we kept ourselves busy and the time passed quicker than expected.

 

At the time, my experience felt difficult, but I hadn’t realised until relatively recently how much of an ordeal it was to have a parent in a dangerous area of the world during my formative years. Experiences like this shape us as military children. They teach us to be strong and resilient. They highlight the importance of our family networks and of our support systems. In my case, like many of my peers, these experiences have taught us to approach tasks without fear and with confidence. We have a unique talent of placing roots where we are sent, to adapt quickly and to approach things with a steely resolve;  this is what makes us unique, this is what makes us excel. These skills are learnt through practice and for us, practice is frequent and out of necessity rather than choice.

Aside from the teaching aspect of moving to a number of different locations and schools, leaving so soon after arriving meant that as a child, I had to make friends quickly. This is a skill, one which I think my peers have refined. There are only so many times you can be asked ‘where do you come from’ before you get bored, yet, for military children, that question defines who we are. I cannot say where exactly I come from. If I were to think of an answer now, it would be a decision between Germany and Suffolk as I have lived in both locations for similar times. Yet, I am not German, and Suffolk is simply where my boarding school was, not where my parents lived. Military children are not defined by location, they are defined by their community and it is a strong one at that. 

 

A sense of adventure surrounds military children, and we excel regardless of where we find ourselves. We find home in each other and this is what gets us through times of uncertainty and of worry. I find I can talk for hours about military life, without even serving in the Forces. Now, I find myself working for an organisation which supports and champions military spouses, families and children. This is a privilege and an opportunity I took without a second thought. 

This month, like any month, should celebrate military children and for those reading this, be proud of your little ones or of yourself if you also derive from a military background. As a community, we need to be shown off as the talented, adaptable and strong individuals that we really are. Our journey is a tough one and the learning curve is steep, yet it yields great reward.

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