By Amy Guckeen-Tolson, USAG Redstone April 9, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- When it comes to bragging rights about cool birthplaces and exotic places to spend your childhood, the Miranda Borboa children have most people beat.
"It's not every day that someone gets to say, 'I was born in Japan and raised in Hawaii,'" said Viviana, 15. "It's fun to brag about."
For Viviana and her brother Francisco, 13, it's all part of the fun of being military children.
"It's cool, we get to see new places," said Viviana, who, together with her family, has traveled to New York, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
It was the Army that brought the soon to be retired Maj. Francisco Miranda Zayas and his wife Rosario together, and it's the Army that has kept their family that way for the past 18 years.
Married in 1996, Rosario, born in Mexico, and Francisco, born in Puerto Rico, met while they were both stationed in Germany. After a deployment to Saudi Arabia, Rosario realized life as a Soldier wasn't exactly for her, and left the Army to start their family, giving birth to both Viviana and Francisco in Okinawa, Japan. The family moved to Hawaii a short time later, where they stayed for eight years, followed by Virginia, and finally, Huntsville, where they moved a little over a year ago and will now plant their roots.
While the Miranda family has seized the opportunity to go to fun places and do cool things, that doesn't mean being the family of a Soldier has always been a walk in the park. During their time in Hawaii, Miranda Zayas deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, spent months in training, and even went to Thailand.
"The sad times are difficult to talk about, it makes me want to cry," Rosario said.
"When he has to leave," Francisco added.
"Those are hard," Viviana chimed in.
To ease his family's pain during those times, the elder Francisco left his wife and children reminders around the house of his love for them. A "When Daddy's Away" box filled with pictures, candies and other surprises served as a sort of emotional first aid kit for the kids, in addition to little notes their Soldier left for them in odd places around the house, like an "I miss you," under a lotion bottle. Their "We Miss Daddy" pillow combined with Miranda Zayas' T-shirts and cologne helped them get through the lonely nights.
"We would spray the shirt and sleep with that all the time. It was like he was there even though he was gone," Viviana said.
In addition to getting their dog Lola while they were in Hawaii, an Army resiliency course the family took together has also helped them through the hard times. Rosario will never forget the picture her family was shown at that training, of an egg and a tennis ball, and of the question the image posed.
"Do you want to be the egg or the tennis ball? The tennis ball bounces back, the egg is just going to splat," Rosario said.
The Miranda family has chosen to be the tennis ball, through thick and through thin, even when mixed malaria almost took Miranda Zayas' life after his deployment to Afghanistan. Proud of their Soldier, the family understands that the pain and suffering they occasionally endure is all for a higher purpose.
"Because I was active duty I understand that business, it's their job, their commitment to the country to serve, so you can't be selfish about that," Rosario said. "You just have to have a good mentality and head on your shoulders and find help where you can. Making friends quickly, you have to be aggressive about it. It can come off too aggressive at times for some people, but you also meet people who are in the same boat. Army Community Service helped me so much."
Volunteering with ACS in Hawaii gave Rosario the opportunity to occupy herself, while giving her kids the chance to meet new friends at day care.
"They know they're military children, but I've always tried my best to not only have them on an installation, but expose them to real life outside," Rosario said. "I know how it can be if you're completely sheltered from base to base. Living off base when we were in Hawaii helped, living around the locals."
If there's one thing Viviana and Francisco have learned as military kids, it's that at the end of the day, they're both in it together. While they've each found their own friends through school and activities, nothing can beat the bond they share as siblings.
"A lot of my friends say that they love how me and my brother are super close," Viviana said. "They wish that they were that close with their siblings."
Every day after school the two can be found playing basketball or just hanging out, and game nights are a popular pastime on Fridays. When The Walking Dead is on the two can be found in front of the TV together, carrying on a tradition they started in their much younger days when they'd tune in to Lilo & Stitch.
"We have a motto at home," Rosario said. "I come from a family of five, two sisters, two brothers and me. I was the one on the sidelines, too young to play with my sisters, and since I was a girl, I didn't want to play with my brothers. I didn't want my kids growing up that way. Ever since I can remember when they fight I make them face each other and I tell them, 'Look at each other. This is all you got. I'm not having any more kids and when mom and dad are gone, this is all you have. You've got to learn to get along. That's all there is.'"