My earliest memories in life are of my father leaving for the Vietnam War. Just before he left he said to me, "Take care of your mother while I'm gone. I'm leaving you in charge."
"OK, Daddy," I replied as hot tears streamed down my face.
I was almost 5 years old, and that was the second time my father was headed to Vietnam.
That was a tough year.
Every night as my mother watched the news, I saw Soldiers at war in a land far away and protestors who demanded that it all come to an end.
I remember the ache in the pit of my stomach caused by the worry that my father would not come home. I remember his return and his struggles with the shadows of war that have plagued our Family for as long as I can remember. I remember the constant moving. The struggles of making new friends, and keeping old ones. The missed moments that cannot be recaptured.
I also remember the close-knit community -- that fabric of the Army Family -- that kept it all together no matter the circumstance. The friendships made in an instant. The ties that bound us all together. And the patriotism forever branded into my psyche.
I never learned how to put down deep roots and yet I felt at home where ever the Army dropped us every two to three years. I don't have friends who I grew up with, and I still struggle at times to keep connected with friends who move away.
This is the life of an Army brat, and even if I could I would not change a thing.
I was born into the Army. My connection to the Army is in my heart, in my soul. It is the place of security I tend to turn to in times of trouble.
I married a Soldier, a year after graduating high school. And when our marriage began to fail, I joined the Army -- while I do not advise running away to the Army, for me it was like coming home.
After leaving the Army, I was bound and determined to try out this "civilian life" that I had heard so much about. I embraced it, immersed myself in it, and for a long time I ignored my Army roots.
When the newspaper I was working for began to fail, I once again turned to the Army.
As luck would have it, a fellow veteran gave me a chance. And although I was 15 years removed from the administrative work I once did as a Soldier, she recognized I was eager to get back to it. I went to work at Fort Campbell Warrior Transition Battalion, and was honored to be part of the Army's support system that assists ill and wounded Soldiers.
Last year another veteran took a chance on me and today I serve as a public affairs specialist at Fort Campbell Public Affairs Office.
I did not choose the Army, it chose me, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Soldiers give so much of themselves in the service of our country, but so do their children who truly are our unsung heroes. In 1986, then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger established April as Month of the Military Child, a special time set aside to recognize the sacrifices made by the youngest among the Army Family who carry on the Army brat legacy and continue to be Army Strong no matter the circumstance.
Take a moment this month and hug your Army brats and tell them thank you.
By U.S. Army Maria Rice McClure, Fort Campbell Public Affairs Office
Provided through DVIDS
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