FORT SAM HOUSTON, TEXAS (MARCH 8, 2016) -- Young lives. Big stories. These four words capture the way of life for military children. If asked "what does it mean to be a military child?" each child -- no matter how young they are -- will have an interesting story to share.
Elisa Solomon, a senior at Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Virginia, answered with more than just storytelling in mind. She understood the "emotional rollercoaster" that children like her experience and wanted to let them know that they are not alone.
Solomon used the power of words to express her feelings about military life. She penned her thoughts in a poem entitled "I Know."
"I wanted to let other military children know that they are not alone, and I know what they're going through," she said.
In her poem, she spoke about common challenges military children go through such as frequent moves, deployments and goodbyes.
"Military families go through a lot at times, and are heroes as much as the Soldiers they stand behind," she wrote in one line.
The poem, first read aloud at her school's Multicultural Day Celebration, gained national attention last year as the overall winning entry for U.S. Army Installation Management Command's "Young Lives, BIG Stories" contest. The contest, held in April during Month of the Military Child, gives military youth, ages 3 to 18, an opportunity to share their stories by submitting drawings and written pieces.
As a daughter of two retired Army lieutenant colonels and former participant in Child, Youth and School Services programs at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, she had the right voice to convey the struggles and obstacles that military children face.
"I have found that, during the many military moves, it is best for me to write about my experiences," she said.
Through poetry, she found a way to touch many people beyond just other military children.
"Everyone who heard or read 'I Know' was very moved by it, both military and non-military alike," said her mother, Cheryl Solomon. "As they listened (or read) and reflected, many were brought to tears, including some 'old, crusty' Soldiers."
Elisa was thrilled to find out that she won the contest last year. "I was in disbelief, because this contest was open to every U.S. military child around the world," she said.
She will transition from being a military child to becoming a Soldier in the near future. This fall, she plans to attend Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, where she will play on the women's lacrosse team and join the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps program. She hopes to earn a doctorate in physical therapy at VCU and enter the Army as a physical therapist.
Elisa and her family hope that her poem will inspire other military children to enter the "Young Lives, BIG Stories" contest this year.
"This contest allows military children to share their stories with everyone," she said. "The more participants there are, the more people will know what it's like for military children around the world."