Have you ever heard the expression, “Bloom where you are planted?”
I heard this phrase years ago and it has become a source of encouragement to me throughout many situations I’ve experienced.
Although I had never heard this phrase while growing up, it definitely encapsulates my experience growing up as a military child and has shaped me into the person I am today.
My dad served in the United States Air Force for 30 years and early in his career he met my mom when he was stationed in the Philippines at Clark Air Force Base. Shortly thereafter my sister, Jennifer was born and five years later, while we were stationed in Okinawa, Japan, I was born and then 11 months later, my younger sister, Kelly.
In the next 8 years we would travel through 3 different continents, live in 4 different countries and visit several surrounding countries.
The opportunity we had to travel and see so many incredible places is an experience that some have only dreamt about – riding a gondola in Venice, Italy, watching the city below as I stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, or the countless castles we visited along the way.
As a kid, I thought of each new country we moved to as a new adventure and an opportunity to make new friends. Unfortunately, I don’t remember how much of an impact leaving my friends behind had on me since I was still pretty young at the time. I think in those moments I believed I would see them again at some point, but I do remember asking my parents to see them after we had moved. It wasn’t until after we moved to the states that I felt the emptiness of having a childhood friend. Most of my new friends had known each other since kindergarten. And although we were only in 2nd grade at the time I felt like I had missed out on so much already. I remember still having those feelings on and off until after high school.
Despite those feelings, being a military child taught me to be resilient. Although I was shy, I loved making new friends, and having a younger sister who was close in age with me, meant double the friends. Every new place we lived, I remember easily adapting, meeting new people and surrounding myself in their culture, their friendships and their delicious food. I still remember like it was yesterday walking with my mom to the food vendor right out side the military base in Crete, Greece and getting a gyro for lunch.
In addition to the culture and travels I experienced, and the friends I met along the way, being a military child has greatly impacted my appreciation for my family. Moving around a lot can affect you in so many ways, good or bad, but fortunately for me, having my sisters with me made the unbearable moments bearable. As military kids, at times we were all each other had. Even to this day, I consider my sisters my very best friends. My parents gave us the world and took every opportunity to teach us about the history in each country and experience their cultures, and we did these as a family.
However, duty calls when your parent is in the military. Having my dad leave for TDY several times a year or even live in a different country for a year, and watching my mom become the single parent while he was away, really put into perspective the love and respect I have for both of them. But the best part of it all were the reunions.
Witnessing firsthand, my dad’s sacrifice to serve and protect our country gives me so much pride. Growing up as a military child has increased my appreciation for those who serve and have served in the military. I am in awe anytime I see someone in uniform and I am reminded of the sacrifice it takes to serve. My dad is my hero and I am so grateful for his service to our country.
Through the ups and even the downs my experiences as a military child have shaped me into the individual I am today, allowing me to continue to bloom wherever I am planted.
You’ll be happy to know that I’ve reconnected with two of my very best friends growing up through the powers of social media.