Dandelions are able to grow and bloom just about anywhere their roots are planted. Not only that, but they symbolize happiness, joy, perseverance, endurance and hope. That is why they are the perfect representation of a military child.
Children of service members experience the trials and tribulations of military life just as much, if not more, than their parents. They feel the pain of separation during deployments, the struggle of multiple moves and always leaving friends behind all while dealing with the standard growing pains of being a child. But the thing is, these dandelion children don't really worry about it all the time either. They are more focused on the next class or sporting event they have, they’re focused on just being kids. I know, because I was a military child.
My dad served in the U.S. Army as a major in the ordnance corps.. Because of his service, I lived in five different places and went to eight different schools all before the age of 13. On top of living outside the continental U.S., away from our extended family, my dad would still have to leave for long periods of time. And while he would still call, sometimes I was too mad to talk to him because he wasn’t around for my figure skating shows or my first day of kindergarten. Of course, like any child would, I missed him and would want to talk to him later, but that’s the thing about deployments, most of the time you have to wait for a call.
Dandelions know that their parents are deployed, but many times they are too young to fully understand or if they do, they still don’t handle it the same way a spouse would. It’s a very emotional time and some kids don't always talk to their parents about it, but they do talk to their friends.
Making friends and changing schools may seem like a scary thing to the average person, but to military children it’s just life and comes as second nature. Growing up in a military community made it easy to make new friends because of the commonalities we all shared being raised by service members.
The Department of Defense has schools on most U.S. military bases to provide military members living on base education opportunities for grades pre-school through 12th grade. These schools provide a community for the children of service members and government employees with teachers and administrators that understand the challenges these children face at home and at school.
Just like Soldiers find support in their “battle buddies”, military children have their own support system they develop at these schools. The kids are surrounded by other kids that all know what it’s like to move around, to have a parent gone and to leave friends and family behind. They confide in each other and support each other to persevere through some of their life’s toughest challenges. It may be hard for a time, but like the dandelions that represent them, they provide the community with happiness and joy through their endurance and determination.
The presence of children on a military installation boosts morale and acts as a sign of hope. Children can be found playing and being happy, regardless if their parents are gone or if they are home. To them it's normal, mom or dad is gone, but life moves on. They definitely miss them but they continue with the sports or playing around the neighborhood. That kind of innocence and happiness is almost therapeutic to the rest of the community because they realize that there are children to look after and it takes their mind off whatever situation is going on.
The unique situation military children are raised in provides experiences non-military children might never deal with in their lifetime. They learn to adapt to change, to lead, and to overcome obstacles. They are no stranger to cultural diversity and they tend to embrace the differences of those around them.
As a military child, I was able to experience more of the world than most adults. I was born in New York but moved to Japan as a baby. I was raised integrated in Japanese culture and even learned Japanese. Unfortunately, I lost it all when we moved to Michigan for kindergarten through third grade. In fourth grade, I lived in Kansas, and in fifth grade, we moved to Germany. My parents used this opportunity to travel Europe and introduce me to more cultures. While life as a military child is challenging, I am beyond grateful for my experiences and the perspective it gave me on life.
Just like dandelions, military children can grow and bloom anywhere. No matter where life blows them they are able to take root and thrive.
For more information about the Month of the Military Child please visit: https://www.dodea.edu/dodeaCelebrates/Military-Child-Month.cfm