By Renee Reese, Fort Stewart Public AffairsApril 7, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - April is Month of the Military Child.
This month long celebration is a legacy of former defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and was established to underscore the important role children play in the Armed Forces community.
Seventeen year old T'era Alston understands what it means to grow up as a child with a parent serving in the military and the level of commitment that it takes from the entire Family.
Born at Fort Wainwright, Alaska; then later moving to Fort Sill, OK, T'era now considers Fort Stewart home.
Her dad, retired Sgt. 1st Class Terrence Alston, retired from active duty while stationed at Stewart, and is now a civilian as an emergency operations center specialist.
She and her older brother Terrence Alston II, who is a sophomore in college, managed to pick up the pieces and become more independent while their Dad was away serving his country.
"Being able to stand on my own and the drive that I have to not depend on others is something my dad has taught me," said T'era. "I'm trying to do more things on my own," she added.
T'era understands why the military community comes together each April to celebrate Month of the Military Child.
"I think it's important because of what our Family Members do, they put their lives on the line," said T'era. "They give a lot to the country and some may not realize what we the children have to deal with and sometimes that can be difficult," she added.
Having to PCS after you have met new friends is not easy, but she has always found a way to manage the anxiety of moving and meeting new friends.
"The people I went to school with was my Family, and it was hard leaving them," said T'era. "As long as you make the best of it, good things will come." she added. "When you are closed minded, it's hard to meet new friends."
Moving from one installation to the next allowed T'era to experience new things and new cultures. Resiliency is a characteristic that she has learned from her dad. Being funny and outgoing is something she relied on heavily when she and her Family moved.
The closeness she shares with her sibling was deeply rooted during their dad's absence during his tour to Korea and Thailand.
"Me and my brother have always been really close, so when my dad was gone, it made us closer because we were all we had besides our mom," said T'era. "When he was in Korea and other places, my mom kept us busy with sports," she added.
Sports was introduced to T'era by her mom, Evelyn Alston, as a way to keep busy, and it has since remained with her. Playing sports has been and still is a big part of her young life. "If it was not cheerleading it was basketball or soccer, something to keep us busy," said T'era. "It helped to pass the time so that you don't think about it."
Fast forward to now, and T'era is the apple of her dad's eye with her recent induction into the National Honor Society, with her mom being equally proud.
Both hard work and independence traits were instilled in both children by their parents at an early age; which are a direct reflection from them being military children.
"Military kids seem to stand out more," T'era said. "A lot is expected of them because of the role their parents." Her advice to other military children is to remain open minded to new experiences and more importantly, for them to be themselves.
Given her military background of growing up with a parent in the military, T'era says she would not change a thing and would happily do it all over again.
"Being able to move around and meet new people has helped me become the person I am today," said T'era. "So when I'm older and out on my own, I will know how to handle different situations and people."
T'era currently attends First Presbyterian Christian Academy in Hinesville, where she makes it a point to help her fellow classmates understand math, a subject matter that she quickly grasps. As far back as she can remember, math has always been her favorite subject.
"Math has always clicked with me," said T'era. "If a classmate has a question, I will stop what I'm doing to try and help even if it means that I have to take work home with me to finish."
"You have to find the balance and it helps to stay focused on your work." said T'era.
Five years from now, T'era envisions herself in college and perhaps majoring in early childhood education. She can thank her mom, an assistant facility director for a Fort Stewart Child Development Center, for that current chosen career path.
Her close friends describe T'era as funny, outgoing, and maybe over the top at times. However, setting herself a part from her classmates is what she attributes to being inducted into the honor society.
"When my parents found out, they were really excited," said young T'era.
"It was a proud moment for me and was a bright light at the end of the tunnel," her mother said.
Having both parents there to support her dreams is something she is most proud of.
Her mother adds that being supportive of military children is critical for all parents.
"The parent must be involved and show your child that you are interested in everything they do," said Evelyn. "Our life was about our children."
Evelyn also states that celebrating month of the military child should happen more often because of their experiences.
"We [parents] get orders, we move", said Evelyn. "They deserve to be celebrated because they did not ask for the military lifestyle. "They are champs and we need to make their lives a little easier."