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A Bond that Cannot be Broken

04.01.2014, by Susan Conolly
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Story by Luke S., 12th grade, Belton, Texas

As a military kid with an active duty father, I frequently encounter obstacles and conflicts. Whether its deployments, long days at work, or trips to the field, absence is the hardest obstacle I face regularly. This particular struggle has become so routine, I feel fortunate when my dad is away for “only” several months. While I have learned to cope with this conflict, every time he leaves a hollow feeling returns.

In a nutshell, my kindergarten through 12th grade experience consists of 5 deployments (3 of which were for twelve months), 2 years of separation while my dad was stationed in distant domestic locations, and countless trips that lasted several months. As I prepare to enter my senior year in high school, my dad will deploy for the sixth time; his departure occurring on my first day of school. To civilians without a military frame of reference, this may seem unfathomable, but for me this scenario is all too familiar. When a loved one must leave their family, it is difficult for everyone involved. A deployment evokes many emotions:  fear, isolation, detachment, and longing among others. Personally, fear is the most overwhelming. Having such a physical disconnection from my father is very daunting and uncomfortable.  Multiple deployments have enabled me to hone what works and what doesn’t, and having friends who understand my family’s service and sacrifice makes a world of difference.

The most effective strategy I’ve found to help deal with separation is relying on family.  During arduous times, confiding in someone you love is the best medicine. My mother and sister have always been reliable for such comfort during tough times.  Our reliance on each other has strengthened us beyond measure.  Throughout my father’s service, our family has grown in a way that might not have been possible had we not experienced strenuous times.  Spending time with my family and friends is my solution to unexpected obstacles. I learned quickly that dwelling on anything unfavorable and letting fear take over was detrimental to my emotional state. Consequently, my participation in extracurricular activities and hobbies serves to distract me from worry. By diverting my focus to other topics, I am able to focus less on potential perils my dad may face, and more on things I can influence.   During my father’s absence, specifically the deployments, I have found that trusting my family, and participating in fun activities is the cure for filling the void left by his absence.

To apply the theory of tabula rasa, each family’s dynamic is forged through personal experiences, and no two families experience the exact same situations. While each family may differ from the next dynamically, most military families experience separation. Knowing that other kids understand the ups and downs of a military life helps when my dad is gone.   Undoubtedly, the challenges I have experienced as a military kid have changed me, but they have also provided me with an incomparable connection to my family, and given me a respect for duty and service. Although the challenges I’ve encountered have not been ideal, I am eternally grateful for the outcome. Our tightly knit family has crafted a bond that cannot be broken.  Perhaps because of the frequent separations, I treasure the time we have together, and value it more.