April is designated Month of the Military Child – a time to honor and recognize the sacrifices and accomplishments of more than 1.6 million children whose parent(s) serve in the United States military.
Like service members, military children come from many different backgrounds and have varying experiences growing up in the shadow of their parents. Ethan Flower is one example.
Flower, 22, of Jacksonville, North Carolina, reflected on his time being raised in a military home. The stepson of Sgt. Maj. Timothy Ferraro, senior leader at the Signal Leader Development College, Flower was elementary-age when his mother married Ferraro. Now he is days away from receiving his college degree and largely has the Army to thank. Underscoring some of the many benefits offered in the military, Ferraro was able to transfer his GI Bill benefits to Flower, leaving him debt-free.
Q: How long have you been a “military child?”
A: I was seven years old when my parents got married, so it’s been about 15 years since then.
Q: To the best of your recollection, how many places have you lived?
A: I believe the family moved approximately six or seven times in that span of time, both domestically and internationally.
Q: What has been your favorite duty station and why?
A: I really enjoyed the time our family has spent in Augusta, Georgia. My father was stationed there multiple times, and out of all of the places we lived, Augusta made the biggest impact on me as an individual.
Q: How would you say growing up in the military has shaped you into the person you are today?
A: Growing up surrounded by the military and not staying anchored to one single place has forced me to learn how to better adapt to whatever environment I am in. To be successful, one must be prepared to do what they must, whether that be in their hometown or 4,000 miles away in an unfamiliar place.
Q: What are some challenges you had to face being a military child?
A: It can feel like the military child lifestyle can set you apart from everybody else, especially when you’re a child in a non-military area. You don’t have the same opportunities to form close personal bonds with people that you do if you are not a military child, and from an early age, you have to somewhat be OK with regularly losing your friends and having to make new ones. Then the process repeats itself.
Q: What opportunities have you had as a military child that your non-military friends have not?
A: I think that having all the opportunities to travel and experience other cultures that one gets as a military kid are totally worth the social drawbacks. Getting to travel through Europe, for example.
Q: What degree will you have when you graduate from college next month?
A: Bachelor’s degree in community and regional planning with a minor in political science and certificate in geographic information systems (GIS), from East Carolina University in North Carolina.
Q: How does it feel knowing that you will graduate from college debt-free?
A: It feels amazing knowing that I don’t have to start my life off drowning in student debt. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have received this level of support from my father, and the assistance has been a blessing going through university.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: My situation was slightly different than most, as my time as a military child didn’t start until I was slightly older than most. But what remains true, regardless of time, is that military children need to develop a good set of coping skills as they continue to move around. Being involved with the military involves a certain degree of loss of autonomy, and it is better to accept that and adjust than to let it negatively affect you and your future.