They say, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” That’s not entirely true — as a graduate student who recently turned 26, I was well aware of what I had. A great insurance plan from the military that I was able to utilize for the first 26 years of my life, all thanks to my father’s service in the United State Army. This, however, is only one of the tangible benefits that military dependents get to experience. As I approached my 26th birthday, I reflected and became more aware of the other factors of military life that had a positive impact on my development.
It is quite common for military families to move around, not only all over the United States but all over the world to one of many military bases. This provides military families the unique opportunity to inhabit spaces they typically would not. In that space is a great opportunity for cultural exchange, whether you’re from the West coast and move to the East coast or if you’re from Nebraska and move to Germany –you are put in a position to learn and engage with cultures and perspectives that are different from your own.
As the child of a soldier, I witnessed firsthand the importance of physical health. I remember when my father would wake up early in the morning to lead his squadron’s runs. This influenced my own heavy involvement in recreational sports both on and off the military bases. Basketball, baseball, football and much more were popular recreational activities for those in the military and their families. While physical health is important, the same can be said for mental health and that’s why I believe many of the aforementioned activities are popular with this particular demographic. They provide an escape from some of the more mundane and less exciting times, as well as an opportunity to socialize.
Perhaps the most valuable skill someone can learn after experiencing the military lifestyle for a fair amount of time is that of teamwork. Compared to a lot of other professions, the military is a fairly diverse environment. People from all walks of life come together for one purpose and that is the mission. Differences in race, socioeconomic background, sex, religion and more can be observed at any military base, but the commitment to the mission remains the same. The ability to put aside one’s differences with the hope of accomplishing something greater than oneself is astounding and is something that should be strived for in all aspects of life.
While I will miss a lot of the perks I received from being a military brat the majority of my life, I am also grateful that I was able to walk away with unique experiences and valuable skills that I will be able to use in my civilian life.