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Reflections of a Graduating Military Brat

  • Published
  • By Tori Smith
  • Bloomingdale High School
Editor's Note: Tori Smith is the daughter of Lt Col Brian Smith, 91st Air Refueling Squadron commander at MacDill AFB. The Air Force's Year of the Family runs through July 2010.

Growing up as a military kid I have experienced quite a few "lasts," but recently in my new role as a high school senior, my "lasts" have increased at record speed. Friday night was my last high school football game as a varsity cheerleader and yet just a few short months ago, I had my last first day of high school. With these "lasts" and countless others of lesser and greater importance comes the realization that there is one "last" I have not spent much time thinking about.

The move we made a year and a half ago was actually the last move I will share with my family; at least as an involuntary participant. That really made me think that although I doubt anyone has taken an official poll, if asked, most military brats would say that moving is definitely the worst part of growing up military, and I completely agree.

Saying goodbye to friends and familiar surroundings every three years (and occasionally more often) is just plain hard. Even harder is walking into a new school, not knowing if you will find someone to sit with at lunch or walk in the halls with, never mind being able to simply find all of your classes. And all the same time you are just trying to not show how lost and left out you feel.

So now I have established that moving is the worst part for me and maybe many other brats too, the irony is that it may also be the best. In my 17 years of military brat service, I have lived in nine states and attended eight different schools. Here is what I have learned along the way:

I learned acceptance with the news of our impending permanent change of station, saying goodbye to friends, meeting new friends and neighbors. Accepting new traditions and new quirks. Adapting to each new place demanded flexibility and a finely tuned sense of humor. I learned to be open minded (always) when meeting new faces and potential friends and when encountering new and sometimes intimidating situations. I learned to be courageous when taking my first steps into my new school and when saying goodbye to everything I have known for the past three years: friends, sometimes family, familiar back roads, even my favorite mall. And now realizing that I once looked at that place and those people as negatives as I approach the journey before me with open arms. I learned to appreciate not only the military and their mission at each base but also the culture and history of the people and the city surrounding it. I learned gratitude from the people along the way; those who did both the little and the big things that truly made a difference to me and my family. I learned respect for the bond of my family as we transitioned together from place to place; and experienced all of the bumps in the road together.

This last move just before my junior year of high school was the most painful. Tearfully leaving behind my best friend in Virginia, the high school I had hoped to graduate from, and the all star cheer gym I loved, I made my way to one last assignment. I truly thought that this time it would be impossible to make the best of it. Yet as I sit to write this today, I am a proud member of a two-time state champion varsity cheerleading team and a successful student; I love the high school that I will graduate from in June and in a week I will be boarding a plane to visit my Virginia friends and my old home. My heart, soul, mind, and spirit have grown with each and every move, but this one was more significant than the rest. So next fall when I take my first steps on that ever-intimidating university campus, I will take with me my military brat life experience and with great confidence, that like my dad, I know that I have received the best training in the world.