Stephanie’s Perspective – Military Family

Last week, we hosted a small group of families with young children. One couple walked in without their daughter, and when I asked where she was, the wife casually replied that they’d left her with her grandmother. Envy shot through my heart. Not just envy that they could so easily call up a loving caregiver with no notice, but also envy that their daughter, and those of many of our civilian friends, see their extended family on a weekly basis.

Print 3x5My husband has been in the USN for almost 18 years, and only in the last two have we joined the ranks of military parents. We had our daughter while stationed overseas. For the first ten months of her life, we had no sitter options. When we returned to the U.S. nine months ago, we began the hard task of trying to find a trusted sitter so we could have a rare night out. And I experienced that scary, military mom moment of being faced with the line, “Local Emergency Contact,” on all paperwork relating to our daughter. What local contact? We just moved here. For the first few weeks, until I meet another mother in church or at the park, there are no local, emergency contacts. I write those words, knowing there is one major exception. Our military family.

That family is everywhere we go. In fact, my “Local Emergency Contact” became a military mom we knew at a duty station 10 years ago who now lives in our current area. We may not have seen her in 10 years, but she would gladly help us out by caring for our child if needed. Or loan us items while we’re waiting on our personal property shipment. I’m finding that it does take a village to raise a child, but our village is not made up of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I wonder sometimes, in what other job does a person’s coworkers become their supportive family, the village helping to raise one another’s children.

With our daughter still so young, we have yet to enter the challenges of explaining to our child why she, yet again, has to leave her friends and home. She doesn’t know that she’ll always be the new kid. We are just now entering the stages of having to find another doctor for her, then another, rather than her seeing the same pediatrician for 18 years, as I did. But what she gains is the chance to see and experience the world. Her passport arrived in the mail when she was five weeks old. At 19 months, she’s visited seven countries and by age two, she will have visited seven U.S. states. She may not remember these amazing adventures, but they won’t stop as she grows older. She will live in different parts of the United States, and get the chance to see just how different and wonderful and unique our great nation is. The Lord willing, she’ll live overseas again one day. She will have friends and “family” all over the world. And I hope and pray that one day in her future, she’ll tell us how much her military kid upbringing added to her life.

I lived a childhood far removed from the military life, growing up in the same house, in the same town, with the same people. The parents of my friends had been my parents’ childhood friends. Each time we move, as I unpack, I pull out my photo of my four year old Kindergarten class. I can name each child, since I graduated high school with 98% of them. Sundays meant dinner at Grandma’s house. Birthday parties were chaotic, crowded celebrations filled with aunts, uncles, and cousins, and since there were so many of us, we had a celebration about every two weeks.

Nora wearing a dress crocheted by her great-grandmother over 65 years ago

Nora wearing a dress crocheted by her great-grandmother over 65 years ago

Sometimes I long for that life for my child. I worry. Perhaps this military life that results in such absence from the people who love her most in the world is doing her a disservice. But then I get a reminder that we are not alone. Yesterday, a military spouse friend and I drove an hour south to visit a mutual friend, another military spouse, who had flown cross-country to visit her son and his family. This woman had previously given us one of our most treasured baby gifts – her prayer card with our names on it that she used for four years, after learning of our long time struggle to have a child. She’d been praying for our daughter to come into this world all that time, and upon our daughter’s birth, she sent us the prayer card with a ribbon tied around it. And so, yesterday, I remembered once again that while parenting as a military family comes with a unique set of challenges, we are so blessed in return with the experiences we can give our daughter and a larger “family” than we ever dreamed possible.

Emily’s Perspective – Blended Military Family

Emily is a Navy wife writing about her experiences as blended military family and shared custody when one home keeps changing.EmilyGoolsbyEngagement22“I met this handsome young man when I was 16 years old. We dated for a few years and then went our separate ways. Then, nine years later we ended up running into each other in our hometown of Cookeville, TN. Next thing you know, we were married within a year in 2012. Since then life has been somewhat of a whirlwind. Within the past 12 months, I have basically found myself married to the love of my life and headed out on the adventure of living the military life.

We are a fun-loving, adventurous family of four. My name is Emily; I am a registered nurse and work in the field of neurology. My husband, Justin, is a Lieutenant in the United States Navy. Next is my amazing, carefree, and loving six-year-old stepson Grayson. Finally, last but not least, is our four-legged furry golden doodle, Bear.

312213_10100320420457082_1218537700_nAs far as life goes for the military child, I will let you hear it straight from a child. Grayson says, “I know my daddy has to be far away sometimes in other places, because he protects the world from bad guys. I like coming to stay with my daddy because he is always moving and I get to make new friends. I cannot wait till I get older so I can be like my daddy and join the Navy. I want to be a pilot, firefighter, police, and help other people.”

There are challenges being in the military and having a child that spends time between two different households. All of us involved do everything we can to make it work. We have spent many weekends on the road traveling back and forth to meet one another. No matter how far away we move, or how long my husband’s deployment may be, we always make sure Grayson is first. If it means we have to drive overnight to pick him up, schedule an unexpected flight, or simply just chat with him on the phone or online, we always make sure we are there and available for him. I feel the military life has had a positive outcome on Grayson; he has become extremely adaptable when it comes to being with a new group of friends, daycare, or attending a new school. He is always willing to jump right in and introduce himself. He also gets excited when we get to pick new orders. We will soon be relocating to San Diego, California, and as Grayson puts it, “We get to go to the beach everyday.”

Skyping with Daddy

Skyping with Daddy while he was in Afghanistan

Through this year we have endured a major health scare, an active shooter situation, and my first time being this far away from family. All I can say is that I could not have done it without the support of our military family. Whether it is just someone to talk to, babysit, share a meal with, or just listen to me ramble, they have always been there. The military has put us through some challenging times, but it has also brought us closer as a family. It has given us the opportunity to see some amazing places, and meet people from all walks of life. Mostly it has allowed Grayson to see so much of the world, build his confidence, and make all kinds of new friends. He is only six and I cannot wait to see all the positive influences the military will have in his life as he grows into a young man. We could have not picked a greater life than that of a military family, and we are grateful for all the experiences, travels, and opportunities it has blessed us with, and look forward to many more.”

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Kristin’s Perspective – Army Brat

I’m an Army Brat… hand written letters, moving, new friends, lots of adventures, crying in bed, the Cold War, Chernobyl, Leavenworth, housing, family far away… just a few words that popped in my mind. I guess I’m an Army Brat of the 80s and 90s who calls San Antonio home. In a professional setting, it makes me happy to meet another brat. We’re proud people, and as soon as I meet another one at work, we try to find a common duty station. I get to throw in Camp Humphreys, Korea, from time to time since I visited my brother while he was stationed there.

imageIt blows my mind that some people have never been out of the country and let alone their state in some cases.  Forget Foursqaure badges- I have a badge the human eye doesn’t see at first glance. Last year I wrote a blogpost about returning to my birthplace for the first time since 1981; never thought that would happen. This year my mom gave me two bins of photos. Years of memories that she hadn’t placed in photo albums. Pictures of diversity, happy kids, Girl Scouts, family visits, and trips sat in these bins. Memories I had forgotten until this year. Pictures of homes I’d never see again, but lots of smiles.

IMG_1199Growing up as a military child is hard, but you couldn’t tell from the photos. My dad provided an amazing opportunity to us. He worked hard and took TDY as my mom stayed home with us to keep us grounded. We were fortunate to never have my dad deploy like children do now. It makes our tough times seem silly and petty. But nonetheless, our home is where my dad, mom and brother can come together for laughs and tears. Our home isn’t a structure, but us together. That’s where I’m from… a family not a location.

To all those Military Brats wishing they could go back “home”, have a Skype call with family and friends. Share the memories, a few tears and joys of your experience this month. Take the time to write a letter to send in the mail. Reconnect with an old friend. But never forget who you are because there are others in our community who need us. Find a military child or family service in your area and consider volunteering or donating to the support groups helping other military brats.”

Not sure where to volunteer? Try these wonderful organizations:

Blue Star Families

Our Military Kids

Operation: Military Kids

National Military Family Association

Amanda’s Perspective – Military Kids

10178344_10203712228150381_1769250520_n“My husband and I have been in the Army for 14 years now, 8 of which I was active as well… I could write all about the challenging experiences of being dual-military, dual-deploying, dual-etc, but I’m betting a lot of you are in the same boat and know all about it! So instead, I thought I’d write about the ‘challenge’ that is our sweet EFMP daughter Gabby.

It was early 2011, and we had recently moved to Monterey, CA, so my husband could participate in the Master’s Program at NPS. Our daughter Edi was just about to turn 1, I had made a few great Navy spouse friends, and had finally decided to start back up my photography business after taking over a year off to hang with my kiddo. A few months in and we find out we’re pregnant!! Celebrate, tell the family, start planning out room decorations, you know all the steps… we get to the 20-week gender ultrasound, and the bomb drops. Doctors discovered that Gabby has Right Atrial Isomerism (RAI), Situs Inversus, Heterotaxy, Asplenia, and an extreme hiatal hernia. All that sums up to: her organs are completely opposite where they’re supposed to be, her stomach is up inside her chest behind her heart, she has no spleen, and her heart absolutely will not function the second she is born. It was a lot to take in.

Fast forward to February of 2012, the night of the Super Bowl. In-Laws are in Monterey to take care of Edi, we’re heading to UCSF Benioff in San Fran, one of the best pediatric heart hospitals in the country, and my mom is meeting us there. Gabby is born to MUCH fanfare (there were 13 doctors in the operating room, I counted), and whisked away with my husband running after her. It is almost 3 hours before I can see her or touch her, and even then just for a few minutes. There is one picture of me with my baby girl on her birthday, and amazingly, a 15 second video because the nurse taking the picture pushed the wrong button at first! We hover in and an out of the NICU for the first 3 days, then comes surgery #1… all in all, we are at UCSF for 32 days. Edi came to live with us at the Ronald McDonald House, and her daddy and I switched days the entire time to make sure that both girls had a dedicated parent. Gabby’s room was a revolving door of family and friends, some of the best military wives I will ever know. Though Gabby has to come home on an NG tube because of the hernia, we are home and both of our daughters are little champions.

Month 4, we head back to UCSF for surgery #2. Only 3 weeks there this time, Edi comes to stay with us at the Family House so we can all be together, and we make it through. Unfortunately, Gabby has to come home still on an NG tube and now a massive 24-hour oxygen tank that we get to roll around behind us like old people. Life gets a little crazier!

Month 7, and we are back up to UCSF for the hernia repair, surgery #3. We are there for 3 weeks again, but this time my husband is in the thick of thesis writing and has to stay in Monterey. His mom comes to help with Edi, my navy bestie comes and spends lots of time with me in San Fran, and we make it through yet again (though bestie might say differently…she had to help with a blood transfusion). We get to come home off of the oxygen tank, thank you Jesus, and now a G tube to replace the NG since her stomach has been pulled out of the way of her heart. Sweet Gabby finally gets to eat through her mouth!

Fast forward to now. Edi is 4, Gabby is 2, and all of the hospital stays are distant memories for them. We’ve got one more major heart surgery to go through in a year or two, which will still be done at our home away from home, UCSF (though we’re at Ft. Lewis, WA now). Gabby is just a little peanut, but she is a tough, opinionated, hilarious little fireball. Her older sister is the coolest 4-year-old we know. Right now our major challenge is the fact that daddy is deployed to Afghanistan, but just like with all the rest of the stuff thrown their way, I know our two beauties will handle it with strength and resiliency. I only hope that as their momma, I can keep up!”

Josh’s Perspective – Military Kids

When we think of military kids dealing with multiple moves, we generally think of school-aged children. Josh is an adult Navy ‘kid’ whose family is still active duty.

“It’s a funny thing to grow up. Regardless of your situation financially, politically, mentally, it’s a funny thing to grow up. Brazenly we face the world, daring the universe to stand in our way, opening our minds and souls for an influx of stimuli so numerous it is impossible to code, interpret, and analyze each piece; so instead we quickly create intricately connected categories and store the data as best we can. From the moment we are born, our brains create these complex relationships; they sort each incoming datum for later recollection and comparison—every sound, every sight, every feeling, every smell, every taste, every emotion (ours or others’), every sensation is connected to every other sensation in a dense, sprawling web of synapses. And that’s why growing up is funny. Because everything. Because being. Because life.

I take it as a matter of pride (though I had no say in the matter) to claim seven states as home. How is home defined for a military brat? For those who have only had one home to live in, and play in, and cry in, and learn to be in, home is likely prima facie; home is obvious and requires no further consideration. But for those who relocate every few years, moving hundreds of miles away from all of the connections you barely began to grok, home is distinctly more difficult to name. This was life, though, and it wasn’t as if I had any other perspective. For all I knew growing up, everyone moved a few times; everyone said goodbye to homes and schools and friends, packed up their cheap plastic toys, and shipped off to start all over again in another place, at a new school, surrounded by new people who could, perhaps, with the right impression (and not too much time), become friends.

How difficult it was as a child, though, to accomplish this. I suppose the first several moves were fine: I was young and self-centered enough to not feel self-conscious. A new home was another chance to have a bigger room, freshly painted walls, a totally new space to call my own. Academics came ridiculously easy to me, so switching schools was merely another opportunity to become every teacher’s precocious pet. I was a tad shy, but if prompted I would respond and engage. I could get by.

The next few moves, however, began to wear on my psyche. The building called home was whatever. The school was whatever. But all those carefully cultivated relationships in an ante-Facebook era didn’t fare well when the only means of maintaining them relied on the memory of a tweenager to pick up the family phone, remember the 10 digits that were probably recorded in some long lost notebook, and call. C’est la vie. Or more aptly, c’est la vie militaire. Late elementary school and all of middle school are the worst. That is the best way to describe them without expletives. Rare and fortunate are the few who make it through this time able to reminisce and say, “it was terrific, & interesting too / it was nice / & I had a good time doing it. I had fun.” Moving during this time meant I was continuously at the bottom of the social hierarchy—one does not simply make friends in middle school, particularly when one is suffering the onset of BO, acne, myopia, and a severe overbite. I only cried once (with moving as the primary impetus), though. I had one best friend whom I was very upset to leave. She (also a military brat) and I spent about two years together as neighbors, and we (along with several other brats) hung out constantly. I never spent more time outdoors than during those two years. When she was gone and we (my family) had moved yet again, I entered my apathetic stage. I was never cool enough to be truly emo, but I got as close as I could get for a smart-ass dork: I refused to hug unless absolutely necessary (touching was too much of an emotional connection), I referred to everyone as acquaintances, and I spent the majority of my time reading or engaging with the interwebz. Several moves later—it’s all a blur, really…—I entered high school. My school was a performing arts magnet school. It wasn’t the one I wanted—I wanted to commute to the math magnet school because the cold, unfeeling nature of computer programming would protect me from the cruelty of emotions. Alas, my mother—whose judgment in this situation should be lauded ad infinitum—said, “no.”

I joined the vocal performance magnet. Year one passed and I had numerous acquaintances (and perhaps a few acquaintances+). By halfway through year two, I had discovered my passion, my drive, a love I could maintain without fear of loss: music.a I had talent, I learned quickly, I took lessons, I moved my way up the musician hierarchy, and by the end of my final year I had a variety of really good friends, confidence, a 4.3 GPA, a 2210 SAT score (I remain upset by this because the day of the test, I forgot my calculator), and an acceptance letter from Westminster Choir College. I suppose getting out of that damned closet also played a part in the overall improvement of my mental and emotional well-being—not that anyone (besides mom) was surprised. I maintain relationships with several of the friends I made in high school (all hail Facebook and smartphones).

The college experience was immensely stressful and full of some of the absolute greatest and worst moments of my life. I moved to Princeton, New Jersey, in September of 2009. The fam packed up and moved again, this time to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. No cell phones, limited access to internet that didn’t suck, inconvenient telephone connection. In my first three years of college, I saw my family very rarely. My sophomore year, I woke up on Christmas day in my dorm room (I had a job singing in a church at the Christmas midnight mass). I was a capable, confident 19-year-old, however, and I managed. I graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor degree in vocal performance and now live in New York City, auditioning for everything and working in a music library. I see the family far more regularly now.

But it wasn’t all bad. What I’ve written so far seems to paint the worst possible picture of the situation that was my youth—and it was the worst possible situation at the time. Retrospection is a powerful tool, however, and you can change the meaning of life if you want to; if you have the respect for life and love and land, the resolve to see good in apparent minacity, the self-awareness to understand that you just are, you can manipulate any mindset. All the data we collect from the sensations of life are bound by the relationships and categories we assign them at the time—but only loosely.

If I retrospect, I know that despite moving so often and leaving all of my friends behind, I have an incredibly strong relationship with my family: Despite distance and sporadic conversations and visits, they’re there for me and I’m here for them. I also know that I am probably more adaptable than many people who didn’t have to experience so many different locales: I can pick up and move anywhere and make it work. I can make new friends (and call up old ones), I can lay out a new apartment, I can find a new job. As a military brat, the only way I know to deal is to keep learning. Learn everything. Read everything. Accept everything as it is without applying some moralistic concept of right or wrong. Is it nice to move every two years? No in the present. Yes in the past. I feel I am a stronger, more well-rounded, and more in-touch human because of my experiences, even if I didn’t particularly enjoy them as they were happening. I had plenty of happy times. I had plenty of sad times. Everyone does.

Life is pretty complicated. Growing up as a military brat was complicated. While it is easy to blame a situation for negative experiences, situations aren’t gifted with an anthropomorphic ability to create experiences; animate, (ir)rational beings create experiences. People create experiences and assign meaning. Moving around wasn’t negative; it wasn’t anything. I associated it negatively because I didn’t like not having friends. But in retrospect, I had so much fun meeting new people, exploring new places, showing off for new teachers. I clearly remember biking around the neighborhood in South Carolina and finding a small strip of beach hidden behind some foliage. I remember spending the night in a friend’s mansion in Virginia. I remember eating so many flavors of shaved ice when we first moved to Mississippi that we all got sick—whether that was the ice or the E. coli-ridden gulf water, we will never know.

Anyway. I can take a look at my life and my choices and the choices that were forced upon me, and I can say, “Man, I wish that’d gone differently.” Or I can take a look and remember that despite some struggles—you know… the kind all people experience to varying degrees—I turned out alright. I worked with what I had and I loved every minute of it; I continue to love every minute of it—every single salutation and every single valediction and all the moments in between. I learned that growing up. Coding, interpreting, and analyzing the data from every interaction with everything (animate or inanimate), I learned that if you don’t appreciate the opportunity to be, you end up regretting what you couldn’t change anyway. I love my dad and I think his job is awesome. I’m proud to have had the opportunities I’ve had and to have seen all the very different people I’ve seen. I wouldn’t be me without them or my truly awesome family. It is indeed a funny thing to grow up…”

Lydia’s Perspective: Military Kids

My kids are still too young to truly understand what it means to be a military child, but that doesn’t mean they’ve escaped part of the burden we’ve placed upon them. Military kids are inherently different, whether they are aware of their unique circumstances or not.  Those circumstances are all there by virtue of the job their mom or dad chose.

It didn’t really hit me what my kids were in for until my husband left for a 12 month IA to Iraq. I was 3 months pregnant, our son was 15 months old, and it crushed my heart a little to countdown to the day he had to say goodbye.  The first Thanksgiving meal my son was old enough to enjoy was actually spent eating chain pizza in a small hotel room in South Carolina because of an unexpected opportunity to visit my husband at the end of training before he actually left.

In the hotel lobby the day after Thanksgiving, 2009

In the hotel lobby the day after Thanksgiving, 2009

 

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Getting ready to say goodbye

Heavy is the only word I have to describe the feeling of watching my little boy give his dad a hug at the airport as if he was heading to the grocery store instead of into a hostile fire zone. I watched him hug and play peek-a-boo with a Daddy doll, smile at a webcam with another new tooth, and wave goodbye with his hand right up against a cold screen instead of my husband’s warm presence.  At the same time, I was in awe at this amazingly strong little boy. This tiny little creature who relished every minute he spent with Daddy, just happily enjoying any time he could see him or hear his voice. Sure, he didn’t know any different, but that almost made me feel worse about it being taken away.

My husband came home at the halfway mark for a couple weeks (and for our daughter’s birth, thankfully!), and I watched them play together, knowing that we were only halfway done and now it was our almost 2 year old who had to say goodbye again. He had grown up so much in 6 months, and though he may not have truly “remembered” how much fun he had playing with Daddy when he first left, he knew now! And that raw happiness of physically playing with his father and snuggling in his lap for story time and climbing into our bed at 5AM to be the little spoon was about to be ripped away from him. It took about two weeks for him to stop asking where Daddy was every morning.

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Finally home!

My husband made it back home to stay two days before Thanksgiving. My son ran up to him at the airport and I don’t think he let go of him for several days. My daughter cried because she did not recognize him. It took her a few days to warm up, but she’s been Daddy’s Little Princess since.  They bounced back, and we were looking forward to just being together and being “normal”.  Since then, we’ve been lucky enough to have shore duties with only an occasional TDY. We had another baby, and PCS’d twice. I simultaneously feared how my kids would do during the next inevitable deployment someday, but also took comfort in the fact that our kids seemed strong and confident and had handled PCS changes fairly well.

Then around 8:00AM on Monday, September 16th, 2013, a gunman entered my husband’s building, Building 197, at the Navy Yard. He killed 12 people and wounded 4. Luckily, my husband was not there that day – he had a Friday meeting off-site that had been canceled at the last minute and moved to Monday morning. He had even gone in at 9PM Sunday night to get his laptop so he wouldn’t have to make a stop at his office the next morning, even though I called him nuts and tried to get him to stay with me and watch Netflix.

My oldest son was at kindergarten, my preschoolers home with me. I am very grateful that my husband called to tell me he was all right before I had even had time to check the news. We hung up, and I contacted family and friends to tell them he was okay. Then I went to the bathroom and cried while my two littlest babies innocently played some toddler version of Crazy Eights. I hugged my kindergartener way too tight when I picked him up from school that day, knowing that he also had no idea what awful things were going on in the world anywhere, and especially not that his Daddy had somehow escaped one of them. My husband came home briefly that evening to give us all a hug, then left to check on a friend who had thankfully evacuated the building, but his wife and son were out of town, and his phone and car were still at the Navy Yard.

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Super Dad!

The next month was intense. My husband was the assigned CACO for one of the families, so he was very busy “at home, but not really home”. Our kids wanted to play with him, but couldn’t. We mostly played in the basement or outside so we wouldn’t interrupt the many phone calls. We didn’t go out much in case my husband suddenly needed to use our shared car. My smiling babies ate breakfast with their Dad on a table that just a few hours later would be used to iron a flag to present to a victim’s widow and children. This is all negligible compared to what the victims’ families and friends were enduring, but still their innocence was hauntingly beautiful, their unknowing sacrifice humbling.

Military children share. Not just when their mom or dad is deployed or when they have to leave another home.  They share every single day. Their memories, present days, and immediate futures. They share everything with the military, with other military families and support groups, and with each other. They give their time, warm hugs, and ability to go out for ice cream with dad after a bad day. They share their birthday parties and band concerts.  They often sacrifice time with extended families when they move far away. Their milestones, wants, and needs are pitted against the needs of the military. They deal with a higher probability every day that a parent will be ripped away from them permanently. Now I’m not trying to be overly dramatic; we certainly don’t dwell on these sacrifices, and we keep a positive attitude. I’m grateful for much of what this life will teach them, and we have a happy home. But still, they share a life, and however well they handle it, that should be noticed and appreciated.

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Squished together sharing popsicles

Mine will remain oblivious for now, but I know that clock is ticking. I’m glad they have each other to lean on, and I know our military family will always be there, too. Military kids are dealing with very difficult issues early on, and yet remain incredibly resilient, kind, proud, and committed to helping others. These qualities may serve them well in the future, but we can’t forget they are hard-won.

Thank you to ALL military children, and especially our three little heartprints, for constantly adjusting to new situations for which they did not volunteer, always keeping kindness for others in their hearts, and for all the sacrifices they make, willingly and unwillingly, for our country and our community.

 

 

Brandy’s Perspective – Military Child

Brandy is an Army spouse, and offers her perspective on raising a military child with same-sex parents. Her wife is an active-duty soldier, and they are stationed together in Virginia.

August 2011

This was the day our sweet daughter came into our lives. All 6 pounds, 10 ounces of her arrived 3 weeks early. As any parent can tell you, it’s a beautiful moment you will never forget. Kolbi was born in a civilian hospital in Georgia where we were stationed at the time. Four days in the hospital and a lot of meetings with the legal department later, we were told my wife’s name could not be on the birth certificate because we were a same-sex couple. But it never changed the fact that Kolbi had two parents who loved her more than anything.

When our sweet pea was a week old, as a family, we attended my wife’s E-7 promotion. Though we had been together for 5 years, the military did not allow gays or lesbians to serve openly. But times were changing in the Army, and just in time for our daughter. All the soldiers, wives, and civilians came over to see the beautiful, new baby in the unit. People volunteered to take pictures for me so I did not have to. This was our daughter’s first military experience.

March 2013

On 13 March, in a beautiful park in Mount Vernon, we finally got married surrounded by our immediate family. The three of us wore jeans and a different colored peacoat keeping it a very relaxed ceremony.  Afterwards, we all fed the geese and ducks roaming around the park which Kolbi truly enjoyed.  She was so young then, but we love the fact that she got to attend her parents’ wedding.

Even though we had been working on it for about 6 months, a few weeks later in Baltimore, Maryland, our case was finally brought to court. Kolbi was officially adopted by my wife. It was a day we had planned for since she was born, but it’s the little things I remember that day that make it even more memorable. Like all children, location or occasion does not matter when you have to go. She took off to where the judge sits and was turning red and grunting in a room full of people! But once the day was finished, the only thing that mattered was that the adoption was signed.

July 2013

Since Kolbi is an only child, we decided to try and find an extremely part-time school for her to get social interaction. After looking at a few, we realized parents get very competitive trying to get their kids into the best schools. The price range differences are extreme, and they all offer something different. Like all parents, we were searching for what was best for her. It had to be part-time enough that I could handle her being away from me, and the security had to pass my wife’s concerns. The teachers had to be loving enough to hug and cuddle Kolbi, but strict enough that she would not get away with bad behavior such as hitting. We preferred a smaller class where more attention was paid to the children. We wanted her to learn beyond the typical things toddlers learn. The more schools we looked at, the more we realized it was not going to happen. Then a woman approached my wife in a grocery store one day and asked if Kolbi was in a school program. We toured the school this woman worked at and signed her up that day. Apparently, this great school only advertised by word-of-mouth. We are just like any other loving parents wanting the best for their kids.

kolbi-2Present Day

We are stationed in Virginia as a family. Together, we live on-post attending as many child-friendly functions as we can manage. From story time at the library to simply running around the playground with other children, Kolbi truly is a typical military child who is used to the sounds of helicopters and seeing uniformed soldiers everywhere. Now that law has caught up to modern families like us, we do not feel as outcast as in previous years. Our marriage is recognized by the military and we have medical benefits. People do not stare and point when I reveal our same-sex relationship, and no one has given us problems or stopped talking to us. Those small, simple gestures were a rarity once. At the end of the day, we want our child happy. She wakes in the morning, not to two women, but to her parents. It is all she has ever known, and she loves us both regardless.

What happens when you ask military kids, “Where Are You From?”

“After we moved to the UK, I was asked almost every day, “where are you from?”, and it would throw me for a loop. A simple question it would seem. But for me, it is one of the hardest questions to answer. I pause a moment and ponder the question. Should I tell them where I was born? I was only there six months before I moved. Where we lived last? Where we are living now? My favorite place? It is a dilemma for all military kids.

Usually I tell the inquirer, “the east coast.” You see I have lived up and down the east coast from Key West, Florida to Brunswick, Maine, and Puerto Rico. So, it seems like a reasonable answer.

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My thoughts swirl through my head and I am transported back to age 7. I am riding my bike around Stephen Mallory Court thinking that I am going to remember this day forever. I can feel the warm Florida sun bathing my skin, see my shadow ebb and flow as I ride in a circle. The memory fades and I am running the race of my life on a woo

den indoor track and setting the regional record for the state of Maine. Next I am taking a picture of my first-born as he is sitting in a bluebell patch outside of Dallas. Watching that hometown 4th of July parade as they march down the main street of St. Marys, Georgia and wishing for a pitcher of sweet ice tea to cool me down. Sitting on the back porch firing up the grill for an impromptu barbeque because we survived the tornado in Bristow. Now I am galloping up a hill on a runaway horse, adrenaline pumping and a smile from ear to ear.

Where am I from? Today I am going with where I am here and now, Gerrards Cross. Tomorrow is another day. Who knows where I will be from?”

jacquelineJacqueline came into this world on the beginning of the military fiscal year in 1961 at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. She graduated from St. Mary’s College o Maryland in 1984 with a B.S. in Biology. She married her husband John, a submariner in 1991. They have four children, Austin, Logan, Zachary, and Natalie. Their oldest son has continued the family tradition. He is a member of the Marine Reserves. The family resides outside of London, England…until the Navy sends them on their next adventure.

Military Child of the Year

Today, Operation Homefront will be awarding a military child from each branch of service the 6th Annual Military Child of the Year® Award. The award is given to outstanding military kids who have demonstrated exceptional qualities through the challenges this life sometimes brings. Winners receive a laptop and $5,000 cash, and hear keynote speaker Bret Michaels at the gala!

Our kids have so much put upon them, often at a very young age, and it’s wonderful to see recognitions like this one.  This year’s winners have all done some pretty impressive things, as well as spent a significant amount of time volunteering and helping others. Two have even formed their own non-profit organizations aimed at helping military families!  Congratulations to all the nominees!

The 2014 recipients are:

Kenzie Hall, 16, of Temecula, California (Army)

Michael-Logan Burke Jordan, 15, of Kailua, Hawaii (Marine Corps)

Ryan Patrick Curtin, 18, of Corpus Christi, Texas (Navy)

Gage Alan Dabin, 18, of Anchorage, Alaska (Air Force)

Juanita Lindsay Collins, 17, of Clearwater, Florida (Coast Guard)

Previous nomination periods have opened in the fall and closed mid-December, and allowed anyone to submit an online-only form nominating a military child, including Guard and Reserve, between the ages of 8-18.  Statistics on past award recipients show that many winners have experienced a deployment, have done multiple PCS moves, volunteer regularly, and excel in school.

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