Two weeks ago, I celebrated my 26th birthday.
I had to work the weekends before and after, so there wasn’t much celebrating. I just sat on my couch in my new home and reminisced.
My childhood years were definitely not dull, thanks to the United States Army. I always tell people I was born in the military. It’s true. Both of my parents were enlisted in the Army before I was born, and my first breath of life was at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska.
With both parents as soldiers, the perks were pretty awesome. By the time I was 13, I had lived in five states and two countries overseas. My younger brother and I spoke fluent German at ages 3 and 8, respectively.
Yet one aspect of being a military brat left me with a sea of painful memories.
My father was an infantryman and my mother is a helicopter fuel foreman, which I think is a pretty awesome job for a woman. They were never really home. My first memory of their deployments was when I was just 3½ years old. Both my parents had orders for one-year assignments to Seoul, South Korea. The assignments were “unaccompanied duties,” so I spent the entire year with my grandparents and extended family in Chicago.
Just a few months after they came home, my younger brother was born. Then, Operation Desert Storm began and I was back at my grandmother’s, this time in Harrells, N.C. My 9-month-old baby brother joined me.
Years went by. I don’t really remember a lot of the phone calls or letters my parents sent. Through time, my feelings about the military grew numb. “This is just how military families live,” became my mindset.
Moving from one city to another, seeing my parents once every few years. That was just life.
When I was 12, my parents left for a deployment to Kuwait. By then, I accepted that they were fighting for our freedom and, in doing that, sacrificed being with their families. My high school years were pretty mild and the tables sort of turned. Both parents were home and I was the one always on the go. Track practice, YAC committee meetings, cheerleading — I stayed busy being a teenager.
Then came Sept. 11, 2001.
From that moment, I knew, as a military brat, that my life would never be the same.
I graduated from high school in 2003, joined the Navy and began going on deployments of my own. I left the Navy in 2009. Now, as I turn 26, I still consider myself an Army brat. My mother has deployed every year since 2005. This past year was the first time in seven years we spent all winter holidays together. And this year was the first time in five years my mother was stateside and able to celebrate the birthdays of all her children and grandchildren.
For us, that is OK. Our family looks at it like this— I travel as far as Temple every morning to go to work, while Mom commutes to Afghanistan for work.
It might seem odd to some, but for my family, it’s simply life.
Monique Brand - Herald correspondent