By Monica Wood, Fort Sill PAOMarch 1, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Being an Army child can bring challenges, but three Fort Sill teens said it better prepares them for life and it makes them more resilient and strong.
Reagan Tyler, Catherine Gilder and Carmen Grigler are members of the Fort Sill Youth Center who agree Army life gives them a unique perspective on family, friends and fitting in.
I feel I'm treated really special as an Army child, and it has its perks, which is good, but dealing with deployments and moves are the down side," said Gilder, whose Soldier father has deployed.
According to Tyler, whose father has deployed three times, the best things about being an Army child are getting to travel and see different places, meet new people and learn new things.
"I believe moving is a good thing, because I've learned to get along with other people," she said. "I have many friends who are Army brats and some who aren't and we relate to each other the same but there are times we relate differently because of different experiences."
Grigler's parents are a dual-military couple and she experienced both parents deploying at the same time.
"My dad left like a month before my mom did and my little sister, my brother and I had to go live with my granddad," she said.
She had to help care for her siblings. "It was kind of hard trying to take care of my brother who is disabled and my little sister who is one year old," she said." My granddad did a lot but it seemed more like two years instead of one especially since both parents were deployed at the same time."
Grigler, the youngest of the trio, said the good things about moving are you get to see a lot of people and places and what they are like. "The bad thing is that sometimes it's hard to keep in touch with my friends since they don't all have smart phones or computers."
Army life can be challenging for children and adults, because they have to follow their Soldier and pack up to start over in a new place. For youths, it means a new school and making new friends and the possibility of doing it again, leaving their friends and everything familiar behind them.
Gilder agreed about the uniqueness of being an Army brat. "You don't want to stay in just one place your whole life so you learn to adjust, but meeting new people can be hard," said 16-year-old Gilder.
"Once you move to a new place, get adjusted to it and make new friends, you find out that you have to move to another duty station," she added. "I want to become good friends with the people I meet but I'm afraid of getting too close because I know we'll end up moving again."
In this age of social networking and texting, the trio agrees they do stay in touch with some of the friends they've made at other posts.
"Social networking has certainly made it easier for me to stay in touch with my friends, but I've also made new friends here," said 14-year-old Tyler, who has lived at Fort Sill for three years. "It's a good thing because it means my circle of friends has grown."
The three girls also agree that since they started going to the youth center, their circle of friends has expanded. They say the hardest part of hanging out at the youth center is walking through the door that first time.
"I started coming to the center about a year ago after my dad told me about it. I was worried about coming here the first time, because I didn't know how other people would act, but it was good. I made new friends, met nice people and wanted to come back," said Tyler.
Gilder said she started coming to the center in the eighth grade; she's now in 10th grade. "I really love meeting people and I knew it would be a positive thing for me to meet new people on this post. But, I was nervous about coming in the building the first time," she said."I had just moved on post and was kind of scared, because I didn't know anybody around this area."
Now when new teens come in the center Gilder is always one of the first to talk to them. "Whenever someone new comes into the youth center I always ask what post they are coming from. I understand what it's like to be the new person so I try to make others feel welcome."
Grigler said she started coming to the center at the beginning of this school year. "I was really, really nervous because I didn't know anyone at the center or where everything was and what to expect."
The center has become a hangout for all three girls, and they are looking forward to the new youth center opening within the year. It is located down from the current center and is under construction on Fort Sill Boulevard and Hetherington Loop. It will feature a multi-purpose room, homework lab, computer lab, TV room and many other areas to ensure there is something for everyone.
"Hopefully there will be more teens using the center when the new one opens this spring," said Gilder. Tyler and Grigler agree with her that more teens will come once the center opens. "Once they hear about it and what all is available, more teens will come and they will bring their friends and there will be lots of people using the center," said Grigler.
For more information about the youth center, call 442-6745.