Dear son, I would argue on your behalf that being a military child is the toughest job in the military. You didn’t choose this life. Your father chose to enlist, and I chose to marry him knowing that we were facing a tough road ahead. But you and your sister had no say. An accident of birth made the two of you “military brats,” a role that you both have handled with grace in a way that has made your father and I proud.
My son, you were lucky enough that Daddy was on shore duty when you were born, and he was home for the entire first year of your life. Together, the three of us got to grow as a family. Your father was there to tuck you into bed and be your best bud. But as every military family knows all too well, it doesn’t last. At 14 months old, your father left for deployment.
I’ll never forget him rocking you the night before he left and reading My Sailor Dad to you. Your father and I both cried. We didn’t know what you would understand or how you would handle Daddy not being around.
I’ll never forget the way you cried when we left him on the boat and how you clung to his neck saying “Dada” over and over again. My heart hurt for you. How do you explain to a toddler that their Daddy is leaving for a reason they are too small to understand?
The first few weeks were rough. Not only was I pregnant with your sister, but we also had to adjust to a whole new way of life. You were more attached than usual, but you quickly came to accept our new way of life. We stayed connected to Daddy through FaceTime while he was in port and with United Through Reading.
You asked every day when Daddy would be back, and I’ll never forget your excitement at homecoming. But nothing could match how proud your father and I were of you. There’s still a long road ahead of us, but we know you will continue to handle every challenge in a way that will make us proud.
Our girl, while only seconds old, you learned what having a father in the military meant, even if you didn’t know it.
Your father returned home from deployment in time for your birth, only to be called away for a training exercise and have to miss you being born. It broke both of us that he couldn’t be there to see you make your grand entrance into the world, but we outwardly addressed the mantra of “It is what it is.”
The night before he left, your father asked me if you would ever forgive him for not being there. And I knew he wasn’t just talking about your birth. He was talking about all of the things in your life that he’s going to miss: birthdays, school dances, soccer games. Things your classmates fathers will be there for, but he won’t.
I reassured him that you will. Both of you and your brother will. Growing up as military brats is going to be hard. There will be challenges, and you will have to find strength within yourselves to keep moving forward. Your father has bravely chosen to answer the call to serve his country, and his choice will impact you in ways we never planned.
But always know that together or oceans apart, we’re exceptionally proud of our military children.