What It Feels Like To Be In A Military Family

By Mikayla Jordan // As Told to William Becker

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Most people don’t understand how easily something bad could happen tomorrow. I would sit in school, at home, or in the car and wonder if I was ever going to see him again. When my dad was in Afghanistan, I would worry constantly that something would happen to him. At any time someone could decide to bomb a base, and my dad could be there. People don’t get it.

Even though he’s home, it’s still tough. I still don’t get to see him as much as I would like, but it’s all I’ve ever known.

The first couple moves from Italy, to the Midwest, and then Virginia didn’t have an effect on me. I was young and I don’t remember much. The most recent one was the hardest on my family. I lived in Virginia from second to eighth grade where I was very involved in school. I made friends, and it was like pulling teeth when I had to say goodbye because I knew I wasn’t coming back. With my dad in the Navy, moving was bound to happen whether I wanted to or not.

Even though we lost friends during our move, my mom and dad were happy we were moving closer to family. My brother, who was almost in middle school, was leaving his best friend. It was hard for him to “peace out” and leave. I have only one friend I keep in touch with from Virginia. Throughout the years, I grew very close to my family, but I lost friendships along the way.

Since we move around so much, the only people I have relied on are my family members. I’ve never been very close or been able to depend on anyone else, including my grandparents or “close friends.”  My family is my support group, they’re the people I go to for everything. After moving, I feel uncomfortable being around new people. I have always been an introverted person. I have a hard time inserting myself into groups of people and just being myself, and moving doesn’t help. It frustrates me but it’s who I am.

Sometimes I wonder why we have to move so often, and I start to get frustrated. I asked myself, why do we have to move around so much, especially when my parents wouldn’t tell us when we were moving. I don’t understand why they did that, but I knew they were trying to keep us calm. It reminded me of the first time he was deployed. They didn’t tell us right away that he was going to Afghanistan, and it frustrated me a lot. At the same time, since I was young, my dad leaving did not seem to be real until the reality drew closer.

Soon, before he left, we went on a daddy-daughter date to see a movie. I was so excited I could be with my dad. It was always a tradition to go see a movie for my birthday. Later on, we did something extra special and we went to Build-A-Bear. While I was building that bear, I didn’t know then how much it would end up meaning to me. The time went by too fast from then to when he left. Before I knew it, I was outside the day the he was leaving. My heart was racing. The last thing I wanted was to see him go. I was clutching the bear we made together and didn’t realize I accidently pressed the button on the its hand. It talked. I didn’t know it talked. I started crying because I instantly realized it was my dad’s voice. I would press the button constantly after he left to remind me of him.

It was hard when he was gone. I would spend a lot of time thinking about him. I would come home from school wishing he was there, but he wasn’t. During events at school I would look out hoping he was there, but he wasn’t. It is difficult to talk to him because he’s always working; we are busy and there’s a ten hour difference between us. When he was gone, he missed my fifth grade graduation, but he was able to watch it over Skype. He was there, but he wasn’t.

The second time he was deployed was when I was in the seventh and eighth grade. It was worse that time. I was so much more upset that he was gone and it took a much bigger toll on me. There would be days where my family and I would just start crying. There were a lot of triggers that would remind us of him. Songs, tokens he gave us, phrases we would say, all affected us and caused us to break down. While driving, a song came on the radio that caused my brother to break down. It reminded him of my dad and it was too much for him. We would cope with my dad being gone by having a countdown to when he would be back. We would try to look at it positively. When we reached a specific day, we would have a little celebration and do something to remind us that he was coming home.

During his second deployment, he came back around my brother’s birthday. My brother was scared that my dad would miss it entirely.

My brother was at an assembly for his middle school. His teacher called him up in front of the school and she started to cry. His birthday was the day before, and our dad couldn’t be there so they sang happy birthday to him. As they were singing, my dad walked out. My brother couldn’t believe it. He started to tear up, bolted over to him, and jumped into his arms, knocking him back. My dad is a big, strong guy, but he had a hard time holding up my brother because of how excited he was.

Soon after that, even though we all liked Virginia, we moved to Antioch. My dad does a lot of work on base since he switches between administration and training new recruits. As much as I would love to see him, he isn’t home a lot. There are some days when my dad stays 24 hours to monitor the base. It is the best when my dad gets to work the administrative job. I get to see him more and spend time with him doing whatever we want when he works that job. When he is at home, compared to work, he is completely different. It’s scary. I see him in a different way. He is teaching the recruits their job. They need to be respectful. I kind of just sit back and watch because I don’t want to get in the way. I don’t want to get by him. On long days, my mom will offer to bring him dinner because he can’t come home, even though I wish he could. It kind of sucks because I wish I could see him more, but I also respect him a lot because being in the military is something I would never be able to do.

Even living like this can be tough sometimes. When it comes down to it, I wouldn’t change anything.

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