The Military Child

Donald Wingard

April is recognized by the Department of Defense as the Month of the Military Child. 

This is particularly special to Don and me because we have two daughters who are intimately familiar with what it is to be a military child.  Don and I met and got married while on active duty.  Shortly after we married I was surprised how many people (strangers in fact) were asking which one of you is planning on separating from military service (anyone else experience this?).  I had no intention of leaving and Don felt the same.  As I would later discover, that was a decision that grappled many dual military couples and especially true for couples wanting to start families.  The life of one parent serving in the military is challenging enough.  Having both parents, well that invites even more challenges.  In the Navy if both parents are serving, it is typical to have one on sea duty while the other is on shore duty – essentially means you are a single parent most of the time.  We did our best to raise our daughters in a loving and stable environment, but during those more challenging tours, we turned to family and friends to help us out. 

Celebrating the month of the military child gives us an opportunity to celebrate every child who has a parent or guardian serving in our military.  Personally, it provides Don and me an opportunity to publicly celebrate our daughters for their perseverance and strength during those moments that were particularly challenging for the entire family.  We did our best to minimize the effects of those challenges, but for those who know a thing or two about children, they are very perceptive and aware of a lot more than we give them credit for.   

There is something very special about a child who is raised in a military family.  Their perspective of the military is more personal and profound.  They have experienced the hardships of being at the mercy of their parent’s work schedule of early mornings and late nights, relocation (sometimes during the school year), and the uncertainty of their parent’s whereabouts and safety (just to mention a few).  However, it is through those moments that the family is drawn closer and the need to depend on each other becomes more important.  I recently asked my daughters their thoughts on being raised in a family of active duty parents, their response was more positive than not.  As you would imagine, their number one negative reason was moving and leaving friends.  But I’m happy to share there were more positive reasons.  What resonated with them were the moments celebrating our achievements and milestones, challenges that were overcome by the strength and unity of our family, and the overall pride they felt having parent’s serving our country.  I am proud of my service, but I am more proud of my daughters and how they have grown in becoming young women of great character, integrity, who have an appreciation and love for our wonderful country.  My sincere appreciation for all military families and especially to their children.


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