Growing up Army

The month of the Military childCommentary by Michelle McBride

Starting with Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger in 1986, each serving Secretary of Defense has designated April as “The month of the Military child.” Although I am an Army brat myself, this is a very new and interesting concept to me.  In fact, I never even knew it existed until I began working for the military. Like most members of our Armed Forces, recognition and praise has never been necessary or even wanted.

For me, it all began in El Salvador in the 1980s. My dad was conducting some training missions as part of a Special Forces unit in San Salvador when he met my mom. For my dad, it began in the 1970s when he made the bold decision to enlist in the Army right out of high school.  I’ve always been very proud of my dad for making this decision, even when it meant not recognizing him at the airport when he returned from a deployment.

As a child, I traveled all over. I spanned the globe from Panama, to El Salvador, to North Carolina and back again. I went to three different elementary schools in the span of five years and I cannot begin to tell you what an amazing/terrifying experience that was for me. It was hard moving from place to place-saying goodbye and then starting over.  Rinse, wash and repeat. There were always tears, but there was also always laughter, love and patience. There was also an incredible amount of opportunity to grow as a person and get immersed in different cultures and languages.  I even went through a phase when we moved from El Salvador to North Carolina where I refused to speak English to anyone.  I pretended to forget, but really I just missed speaking Spanish. 

My mom was a rock wall, never faltering, never showing any kind of weakness (there should probably be a month, or year, or decade dedicated to the military spouse). I remember thinking my parents must not have enjoyed having friends, since they were always ready to move on to the next place. Now I know better. It was probably harder for them, especially adding in the pressures of real estate shopping, school district searching and grumpy children.

For me, being an Army brat was just that. It was nothing special or unique. You did what you had to do every day to support the people that meant the most to you. It may have been different, but my dad still taught me how to ride a bike (or at least tried to; I was a very stubborn child). And we still celebrated birthdays and holidays together. Sure it may have been Christmas in October, but that didn’t change the sentiment. 
And then I became a teenager.

(Part 2 of 3 documenting my experience as the daughter of a soldier in honor of the Month of the Military Child. If you or someone you know is a military family member in need of support please contact Family Support Services at their 24/7 hotline 1-800-252-8032 or visit their website at