Back-to-school advice from the future, for military-connected kids
By Maggie Phillips, Biden Fellow for Military Families
It’s the end of a long summer day. My kids’ interactions are approaching “Hunger Games” territory. Something that happened this morning feels like it happened days ago. My children, however, do not see it this way: it’s been a day of playing outside, a tea party, and staying up late — and it is over entirely too soon.
Perspective is a funny thing. To use an example from my own experience, marrying my Barbie to my brother’s GI Joe – and sending her regularly to Family Readiness Group meetings while Joe was deployed — didn’t seem weird to me as an Army kid living in Schweinfurt, Germany in the mid-nineties, a time and place where deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia were common.
But it sure is weird for me to write as an Army spouse over two decades later.
With that in mind, I’d like to offer some insights to you, the military kids of today, as many of you begin to start a new school year.
1) You may hate moving now, but you’ll probably miss it someday. After three high schools in four years, I still transferred colleges after a year, and even took a semester internship in another city to break things up. Then I married a guy in the Army.
2) If you were born overseas, you will be having the debate over whether you can run for President for the rest of your life. In 2008, Senator John McCain ran for President. Some Americans were concerned about his eligibility because he wasn’t even born here. And even though he was in his seventies, Senator McCain had to explain that he was born in Panama because he was a Navy brat. Let me just say, as someone born at 97th General Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany, I can 100 percent relate.
3) Don’t burn any bridges. You will still see people from high school — or earlier — in your 30s. I’ve spent almost my whole adult life running into people I knew in elementary, middle, and high school, partly because so many of them joined the military themselves. Spoiler: if you spent any time overseas, American Forces Network (AFN) commercials will come up a lot.
4) You’ll always be comfortable with diversity. Military kids know how to rapidly size up a room and find common ground with everyone in it. When you and your friends move every few years, there just isn’t time to focus negatively on differences. You will learn to embrace the uniqueness of others while also celebrating the things that make us more alike than different.
5) Finding out someone else was a military kid creates an instant connection. Often, a military-connected child literally cannot go home; as adults, they lose their dependent ID cards and can’t visit the bases they lived on or the schools they attended. Someone overhearing two adult military kids strike up a conversation could be forgiven for mistaking them for travelers from another country, bonding over the shared culture of a native land they left long ago.
I want today’s military-connected children to see my friends and peers — the adults living on other side of military kid life — as people who have lived the anxieties of starting at a new school or of sending a parent to war, and who are now doctors, teachers, creators, innovators, and even (often) service members themselves.
I want you to know, whatever life you choose as you grow up, you will take with you the values instilled in you as a military child: pride, patriotism, and inclusion. The country is — and will be — better because of you.
This post is part of our “The Heart of the Issue” series, blogs authored by the Biden Fellows. Each Fellow has a close connection to one or more of the Biden Foundation’s policy pillars, and their updates will bring you straight to the heart of the issues that drive our work forward. Read the previous issue here.