Life In A Military Family


By Joanna Grey Talbot

Family vacations usually include detours for breathtaking, natural wonders or a restaurant with amazing reviews. Mine usually included detours to the nearby Marine Corps base that my father had been stationed at so he could give us a driving tour of his old haunts. As we drove past the parade deck (the large, paved area where ceremonies and training took place), his old office building, and the O-Course (obstacle course) that he ran many times he would be transported to a previous life that he viewed with a great sense of pride and nostalgia. My brothers and I would be wondering, “When’s lunch?”

My father left the Marines when I was two months old but even though I missed the fun trips around the country and to Okinawa, Japan, I will forever be the daughter of a Marine. Growing up I learned the first verse of the Marine Corps Hymn alongside nursery rhymes and church hymns. Some kids learned about Clifford the Big Red Dog; I learned about Chesty, the Marine Corps’s bulldog mascot (named for the legendary Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller). As my father loves to explain to people, “There are no ex-Marines, only former Marines,” meaning you may leave the Corps but the Corps never leaves you. That fact has only increased over the last ten plus years that my brother has been serving in our active-duty military.

The experience of being a military family is something that “civilians” will never be able to fully grasp, no matter how much they may support or have compassion for us. The only situation that comes close is that experienced by families of our first responders, but even then, it is still very different because they do not face the possibility of moving every three or four years or being deployed to a war zone overseas.

Although I am the sister of a servicemember and not the wife or parent of him, it can still be very hard. One minute I am bursting with pride over my brother’s accomplishments and the fact that he is selflessly serving his country but the next minute I am anxious about the fact that he could be called up to deploy anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.

Every three years my family and I wait to hear where he and his family will move to for their next duty station, whether overseas or in the States. We cross our fingers and say many a prayer hoping that they will at least be on the same coast as us. Yet, the two times they have lived overseas we have taken a long, deep breath and taken solace in the fact that communication and travel is relatively easy, even when comparing it to my dad’s ten years as a Marine in the 70s and 80s.

One advantage to being a part of the military community is that the moment you find out someone else is also a part of it you have an instant connection. I have a military sticker on my car and it has been the cause of multiple people striking up conversations with me in parking lots, giving me the opportunity to meet others who have served or have family members who do. This close-knit community found all over the world is an absolute blessing.

Life in a military family is not easy but it is full of beautiful moments and it makes us hug each other even harder each time we are together. It reminds us to make the most of every moment. I will always fly my American flag a little higher and sing the National Anthem a little louder because the ideals and principles that they stand for are what my brother is ultimately serving as a member of the United States Armed Forces. I will never be able to watch television commercials honoring our military or viral videos about surprise reunions of military families without crying. Yet, I am grateful to be a part of the tight-knit community of military families because they are some of the most selfless, courageous people I have ever met.

Joanna is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via unsplash}

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