FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Military children grow up facing more than their share of struggles, from worrying about deployed parents to having their lives uprooted with frequent moves.
Overcoming those challenges takes strength and resilience, and the Month of the Military Child in April allows the military community to recognize their sacrifices.
The Fort Campbell Courier spoke with several local students about their own experiences as military children and how it has shaped them.
“You really learn to value your memories”
For Logan Ravanes, an eighth grader at Mahaffey Middle School, leaving people behind when his Family moves to a new duty station seems more difficult each time.
“Having to move away from your friends is hard, but you know wherever you’re going that you’ll make new friends,” Logan said. “You really learn to value your memories.”
Logan’s father, 1st Sgt. Franz Ravanes, is part of a local detachment assigned to the 887th Engineer Support Company at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Ravanes has been an active-duty Soldier for Logan’s entire life, and the Family has lived at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Campbell and overseas in Germany.
“My dad was deployed before I was born, and again around the time I was 8 years old,” Logan said.
“I was worried at first, but my dad was confident and told us everything was going to be OK. Seeing that helped me be confident about it too,” he said.
Logan’s father also inspired his goal to become an architectural engineer after finishing school.
“I’m not planning to join the military, but I want to be an engineer just like my dad,” he said. “I always liked mathematics and had an easy time with it, and I find that even when I have a challenge it’s so much fun.”
Despite the challenges that come with being a military child, Logan said he is grateful for the experience and the ability to support the Army.
“It’s a privilege to be a military child, even though there are some hard things about it,” he said. “We get to travel to a lot of places other kids our age don’t have the opportunity to go to, and have a lot of unique experiences.”
“It means resilience and being able to adapt”
Mackenzie Cooper, an eighth grader at Mahaffey Middle School, knows how hard it can be to make friends in new places.
Her father, Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Cooper, assigned to 6th Battalion, 101st General Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), has spent his 21-year Army career moving across the U.S., so she also knows how to deal with the challenge.
“Adjusting to new schools can be awkward,” she said. “It definitely puts you out of your comfort zone and you just want to close up, but if you do you get nowhere.”
Mackenzie’s Family has lived on several installations from Fort Bliss, Texas to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. She said each community has a unique identity and understanding that is a key part of adapting from place to place.
“I think the main challenge is meeting new people, with the culture and how people are in other places, but you just have to go with it,” she said. “Fort Bliss was probably my favorite. I went to school off-base, but it was fun. I met my best friend there and there was a lot to do.”
Whenever she moves, Mackenzie makes sure not to lose touch with her closest friends, but she’s always eager to find new people and new experiences. After graduating she wants to become a doctor and help people in an environment where no two days are the same.
“Being a military child, it means resilience and being able to adapt,” she said. “But at the same time, I think it also means accepting new people for how they are, because no one’s ever the same no matter where you go.”
“Military life isn’t easy to overcome”
When Fort Campbell High School sophomore Jinny Joo was around 7 years old, she had to deal with her father’s deployment and grandmother’s death at the same time.
While facing those stresses, Jinny watched her mother struggle to care for three children without a Family to offer support.
“I had to stay in another person’s house for a few months, which made me experience firsthand that military life isn’t easy to overcome,” Jinny said. “Living without my mom and dad made me understand some people’s lives can be like that, and it gives me a broader perspective.”
Jinny also dealt with social anxiety as a child, so starting at new schools whenever her father, Staff Sgt. Hoon Joo, assigned to 716th Military Police Battalion, moved to a new duty station was a challenge. Her Family has lived on several Army installations in both the U.S. and South Korea throughout her life, and she eventually found a way to make the transitions easier.
“I joined the swim team and track in high school, and that allowed me to be involved with the same interests as other people,” she said. “Swimming in the same lane and practicing with them every day gives me more of an experience with other people and their difficulties in the military as well.”
Despite those difficulties, Jinny said she appreciates the ways being a military child has helped her and plans to join the Army herself after finishing school.
“I was born with three holes in my heart, which is called an atrial septal defect,” she said. “I figured that out two years ago, and the military paid for my surgery. I’m thankful for that, so I want to return that favor.”
“I feel like it made me a better person”
Simona Vest, Fort Campbell High School senior, wasn’t born into a military Family, but when a broken arm left her with severe nerve damage around the age of 4, her father joined the Army to help cover therapy and hospital bills.
Warrant Officer Kyle Vest, assigned to 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), has continued his military career since, and the Family moved to Fort Campbell when Simona was in third grade.
“I didn’t really have to experience constant moving, but I do see it the other way around where my friends all move and I have to start new,” she said. “It can be depressing, but I find that it’s easier because I don’t have to constantly pack and leave, and I still have teachers and faculty who remember me.”
Ongoing health problems often kept Simona out of school, but she spent a lot of time with younger children and their Families through her mother’s work with Fort Campbell Child and Youth Services.
“She did that for about seven years, and we had a day care center house so I got to hear a lot of different stories from military Families,” she said. “We always watched their children, and they’d stay over sometimes as well. I absolutely loved every single one of them, and I could name all of them if you asked me to.”
The experience gave Simona a passion for child care work, but her career goal is to study engineering manufacturing at Austin Peay State University and become a Department of Defense civilian employee.
“I really wanted to do military service when I was older, but I’ve had a lot of surgeries and health problems that require pills every day so I can’t physically do that,” she said. “But the military took really good care of my Family and I, and if anything, I want to give back to them.”
Life as a military child has also helped Simona learn to adapt to difficult circumstances, and she said the experience has changed her life for the better.
“I’m happy to be a military child,” she said. “I know some people would say otherwise and think it’s something depressing or sad, but I don’t see it that way. I feel like it made me a better person, stronger and more capable of orienting myself to different situations.”