Military children are like dandelions. They can put down roots almost anywhere. They are impossible to destroy. They adapt easily and can survive nearly anywhere. Military children bloom everywhere the wind carries them and they stand ready to fly into breezes to take them into new adventures, new lands and new friends.
Each year, April is designated as Month of the Military Child.
Reserved for celebrating the resiliency of military-connected children and for their tremendous service and sacrifice, this year’s Month of the Military Child comes at a time when military-connected children and their families are faced with altogether new challenges.
Meet 1st Lieutenant Chelsey Clark, a current member of the Missouri National Guard who also grew up as a military child. Here is her story of what growing up as a child of the military was like and how it shaped who she is now.
Hello! My name is Chelsey Clark and I am a child of the military. I’m a workplace sexual harassment consultant and a 1st Lieutenant in the Missouri Army National Guard. When Angela asked me to write a short article about my childhood and what it was like for “Month of the Military Child”, I told her it would be my pleasure! So, read below for the first telling of my life growing up in the military.
From the moment I was born, I had a different experience than the average American child. I was born in a local hospital in Ansbach, Germany in 1992. Though both of my parents were American, my father was a Soldier in the U.S. Army. I stayed in Germany for the first few years of my life and apparently saw much of Europe, though I don’t remember any of it! It wasn’t long before the higher than average divorce rates in the military took hold of my family and we went through an ugly custody battle. My father got full custody of me, though because of his job in the Army, he was constantly away training. I then got to spend my early years in Oregon living with my grandparents. Oh, how they spoiled me.
I was a brat in every sense of the word.
But at no point did I realize that living with my grandparents while my dad was somewhere else was weird or different. I didn’t realize it was different when in 1st grade, I moved back in with my dad to Ft. Hood, Texas with his new wife and my new brother. In 2nd grade, we moved back to Germany, now in Bamberg, where I would stay until shortly after the events of 9/11. It was then when the world changed, that I went to stay with my Aunt and Uncle in “some small town in Missouri” as I called it. I was only in 4th grade after all. But it was then, I realized I was different. None of the kids in that school had ever moved or said goodbye to friends. None of them knew anything about other states, let alone Germany.
None of those kids had to deal with the idea that their parents just randomly leave…
..for weeks at a time for training. Or worse, for war.
Before, I was surrounded by other kids who had the same experiences. They understood the grief of losing your best friend in 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade. That’s how often we moved schools. Over and over the children who grow up in the military had to make friends quick because before you know it, they moved away, or you did. We were forced to adapt to new surroundings the moment we got used to them. Routines were almost non-existent in my family, between both of my parents constantly leaving for training and a new babysitter to figure out how to get us to school.
This kind of life changes a kid and who they might’ve been.
As an adult, I can’t sit still. I know in my heart I’ll never live in one place for more than a few years. I am conditioned to move. But I love it. I love new environments and traveling. I love taking chances and trying new things. Losing friends constantly and moving to new schools was terrible, but the military lifestyle had a lot of positives. I literally have a “Consulate Report of Birth Abroad” because I was born in Germany. I visited the castle that Disney was inspired by. Multiple times! I’ve been in a continent that some American citizens only ever dream of. My weekends consisted of taking road trips to a castle, a massive cave system, and a slide down the mountain, all in one day!
Military kids understand the pain of losing friends and the threat of war more keenly than anyone else. But the military afforded me some of the most incredible experiences. And I have grown from the negative and the positive in a way a “normal” childhood never would have given me. I absolutely love my childhood and I don’t regret any of it.