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Growing Up a Military Kid

Most people don’t believe I was born in Japan, but it is true. I was born in Okinawa, Japan, at the Naval hospital. My dad is in the Army and has been for my entire life. As a military kid, I have had to move multiple times, attend several schools, adjust to different cultures, and learn at least two different languages, which is difficult at best. Some people call military kids “military brats.” An Army brat is the child or teenager of an active-duty soldier. While brat is usually considered a negative term, “military brat” is generally used as an affectionate term among military families, including my own.

As a “military brat,” I have moved five times and lived in six locations, including four different countries. I am not unusual, as the average military kid attends six to nine schools from kindergarten through high school. Where I was born in Japan, local toddlers use training chopsticks. My favorite thing to do was to go to the “sushi go-round,” where I could watch sushi plates go by on a conveyor belt. When I moved to Italy, I attended an Italian preschool, or “Asilo,” where I had a four-course lunch daily. We wore smocks over our clothes, and the only person that spoke any English was the school secretary. In Mississippi, where I attended kindergarten and 1st grade, if a student didn’t say “ma’am” or “sir” to an adult, the teacher would just stand there waiting, saying, “yes, what?” In Mississippi, my entire family had a crash course in manners. In Germany, where I attended school, or “Grundschule,” from 2nd to 4th grade, I showed up on the first day only knowing one German word: “ausfahrt,” which is a funny one and means “exit” on a highway. The best part of German school was that it was half-day, which meant I was home for lunch, and soccer was an actual class. When my family moved to Maryland, I had no idea what lacrosse was or how scary the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was. We are back in Italy; funny enough living in the same house we lived in when we were stationed here before. What is unusual about this particular assignment is that it is my first time attending a DODEA school. In sixteen years, I have gone to six different schools in locations all around the world.

Each year, April is recognized as Military Child Appreciation month. There is a reason military kids are recognized. Although it can be fantastic to travel the world and meet new people, if I am honest, it is also challenging. Military kids are often asked to be brave while their parent is away and in harm’s way, brave while they start a new school and try to make new friends in a different culture, and brave while they catch blips of scary events happening worldwide in the news. Currently, my dad is at home, but he has deployed in the past and routinely travels to Africa. My Uncle Ike is deployed to Mongolia, and my cousin Grace has to go to bed every night without her dad.

How can you help a fellow army brat? It’s easy. Smile at them. Ask them to eat lunch with you and your friends. Invite them to play soccer. Be welcoming. Understand that by just showing up at school “brand new” that day, they were brave. And as they say in the Army, “Hooah!”

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