What You Don't Know About Military Families - But Should

Most Americans’ knowledge about the military stems from popular culture, such as movies like “Cadet Kelly” with a young Hilary Duff, service members in uniform at televised football games or news stories remembering fallen men and women. Americans know even less, however, about the military family as a whole.

To celebrate April - which, surprisingly enough (to me anyway), is the national Month of the Military Child - I thought I'd share an aspect of my life that I haven't blogged about much: my experience as the daughter of a (now-retiredMarine. My dad joined the Marines before I was born, so the military has been a part of my life from day one.

What You Don't Know About Military Families - But Should


So, with some help from Entity Magazine (where this post of mine first appeared), here are five basic truths from a life-long Marine brat!

1. Service members' families make sacrifices too.

I'll always be grateful for how much my dad's military service helped me grow. I walked barefoot on beaches in Cuba and built snowmen in Virginia Beach. I have friends in Texas, CaliforniaCanada, North Carolina and several other dots on the map. Yet, when one person joins the military, his or her family must make sacrifices as well.

Obviously, my mom, sister and I didn't ship off to Iraq or Afghanistan with my dad and serve his deployments with him. Nor did we wake up at 3 A.M. to hike up a mountain with fifty pounds of gear strapped on our backs. So what sacrifices am I talking about?

What You Don't Know About Military Families - But Should
Celebrating my 16th birthday (pre-celiac) via Skype...
For kids, challenges can include changing schools (I went to freshman, sophomore and senior year in one high school...and junior year in another), making new friends and adapting to new homes all over the globe. Meanwhile, the husband or wife often need to find new job with every move - and even turn into "single parents" during deployments (which can last for over a year). Basically, military service offers plenty of huge opportunities, but it also has its challenges - for everyone involved.

2. Military parents aren't "drill sergeants" at home.

When I tell people that my dad was a Marine for 20+ years, people often ask, “Does he make you call him ‘sir’ at home? Or do push ups and burpees when you misbehave?” The truth is, at home, military parents are no different (at least in my experience) than most parents. Each has his or her own method of discipline (groundings, anyone?), preferred nicknames (no, "sir" wasn't one of them) and “code” of rules for family members to follow.

What You Don't Know About Military Families - But Should
Dad is also my fave yoga-partner-in-crime!
Many times, though, I’ve found that military parents like to leave their work at work as much as possible; after all, one set of recruits to is enough to oversee. Sure, my dad may have been a Marine first, but he'll always be "Casey's dad" first in my mind!

3. Military parents don't always want their kids to "fill their combat boots."

Not all military parents want their children to enlist in the armed forces. Personally, while I respect my father’s job and the work every service member does to keep America safe, the military has never called my name – and he is just fine with that. (And, now that celiac is in the picture, I probably can't legally serve anyway. Although it's a complicated subject, as of 2016, the Department of Defense states that those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are not eligible for military service.)

What You Don't Know About Military Families - But Should
Throwing it waaaaay back...
Like with any career, while some children might be drawn to their parents’ occupations to “carry on the family name,” not every military brat wants to fill their parent’s combat boots. In my case, I'm stomping off to grad school instead!

4. Siblings are closer - and ready to defend each other.

It's impossible to deny that relationships between siblings are complex and vary greatly between families. However, countless moves and plenty of school years as the “new kid” can turn military siblings into lifelines. Research has found that hardships often bring siblings closer together - and the challenges of being a military brat seem to fit inside that box.

What You Don't Know About Military Families - But Should
At my college graduation!
My sister and I seem to fit those numbers. Nowadays, we're rather opposites. Type B versus Type A. A video-game lover and a girl who struggles to sit down for an hour (I'll let you figure out which description is referring to which girl!). Despite our differences, though, we've always been close. We always knew that - no matter where we lived - we'd have each other. A public service announcement to all civilians: be careful if you pick on a military kid. If he or she has siblings, they are likely close and possibly trained in combat.

5. Military families aren't only created by blood, but also by service.

I wouldn’t call anyone who has ever enlisted in the military a member of my family, but service does create a special bond between those involved. Service members and families unite for special events like annual balls, summer BBQs at the beach or retirement ceremonies (as we experienced last summer). They ask about each other’s next orders (where he or she will move) and share tips on adjusting or deployments.

What You Don't Know About Military Families - But Should
And sometimes military service can bring family members together...
I always love it when I introduce myself as a Marine brat and a stranger responds, “Me too.” Suddenly, we probably have a lot in common - from moving to respect for American troops. Suddenly, it might even feel easier to become friends.

I think the best part about finding someone who has ties to the military, though, is that they're more likely to know the truth about military families. Even if the closest you've gotten to a Marine or soldier is watching them on TV, though, keeping these five points in hopefully means you can “get” military families too.

Share what you learned by Tweeting: "Find out the surprising truth about military families from marine brat @collegeceliackc!"


*Although I wrote this post, it first appeared at Entity Magazine. To check out the rest of my articles for Entity, click here!*

*Also found at Dare to Share*

Do you have any ties to the military or know friends who do? What else do you want to know about being part of a military family? I'd love to answer more questions in the comments!

Comments

  1. Loved this post! I was ready to marry a military man and life on the family side of things is really totally different. It was hard for others to understand our relationship. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. wow, thanks for such an insightful, honest post :)

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  3. Such an enlightening read- we live in Singapore in a condo with some US military families and I suppose the lifestyle is all consuming for the family, even if for the kids it's totally normal because they know no different. Very thought provoking, thank you

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    1. Thanks for your considerate comment, Emily. Living in Singapore would definitely be a different experience for me!

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  4. Great insights! It's nice to get an inside perspective on something. I've always wondered if military parents were 'drill sergeants' at home. It's a silly thought, but you just don't know these things unless you're exposed to the real deal. This was eye-opening. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Alicia!

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  5. This has been a great insight. Being from Ireland, I've always wondered whether or not the military is like in the movies. It's interesting to read about your opinion on the matter.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I'd be interested in learning more about life in Ireland too!

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  6. Thank you for posting. What a great insight of military life.

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  7. I'm glad you posted this to help give people some insight. My dad served 24 years in the Army/National Guard. While we never had to move because of it, he was still deployed overseas three times, two of them during wars. Many people don't realize how much military families sacrifice & what they deal with when their soldier returns.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Samantha, and for the kind words. Deployments are always hard. <3

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  8. my best friend is preparing to move his family to Norway for a three year deployment. This was a great post, and important

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    1. Sending lots of well wishes to your best friend during his move! <3

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