Deployment: A “Military Brat’s” perspective

January 28, 2016

William T. Sherman once said “War is hell,” and no one knows that better than a military brat. The first time my dad deployed, I was just an infant. My mother had given me a picture keychain that I carried everywhere. I had grown so attached to the photo, and I made sure to show everyone my “Daddy.” When he returned, I ran towards him at the gate. But when he knelt down to give me a hug, I ran away and hid behind my mom. I had only ever known him as a picture. Daddy didn’t move in the photo so seeing him kneel down scared me and, quite frankly, broke his heart. It took quite a while for me to get used to him being around againFullSizeRender   We managed to get through the rest of the nineties aside from a few trips to Bosnia.  When 2001 rolled around, I knew that I was going to have to “share” him again and I was far from ready. He left for Afghanistan the day after my 12th birthday. I was such a mess that I broke out in hives for nearly a week.   During that time, I had morphed into my mom’s right hand gal and a third parent of sorts. I didn’t have much of an interest in who was “going out” with who or watching Spongebob Squarepants. Instead, I spent a lot of time keeping my mom up to date on the family’s schedule, doing chores, making sure my little brother did his chores, and cooking dinner. We got one 15 minute call a week – yes, that was 15 minutes to split between 3 people. There was no skyping, and email wasn’t quite set up yet. We also weren’t allowed to know where my father was stationed. All I knew was an area on the map with a bunch of countries I couldn’t pronounce. Every time I saw a plane crash or attack on the news, my stomach would turn. The best thing I could do was bury my head in books and homework.   By the time my dad’s second trip rolled around, I was so sure that I had everything under control. But I quickly learned that I definitely did not. Between juggling bullies, standardized tests, and a pretty stressful day-to-day routine, I started having panic attacks and anxiety issues. And after the first one, panic attacks became a constant thing. I was almost always on edge.   A lot of my memories from 2003-2006 are pretty much a blur. My father deployed a total of 8 times in 4 years. During that time, he missed quite a bit – my transition into high school, ball games/competitions, my first formal, my first heartache, etc.IMG_1433   I guess what I’m trying to get across is that this life is A LOT harder than it looks. But it won’t always be like this. My family is extremely close now. My brother is my best friend, I call my parents at least 3 times a week, and we do as much bonding as we can now that we actually have a chance. Ever since his retirement, my dad has spent every moment he can with me. And for every memory he had to miss, there are now several other memories to make up for it. Sure, I could’ve wallowed in self-pity and acted out at the time but I didn’t. I chose to use it as motivation and I would like to encourage those of you with deployed parents to do the same. Take it one trip at a time, and just remember that seeing your parent on that flightline or in that airport is totally worth it.   -Leah Courtney, Military Brat