Growing up Army (Part 2)

honor of the Month of the Military Child. Commentary by Michelle McBride

The summer before the start of high school was a big turning point for me. I had spent many years swimming competitively and training with swim coaches year round. That summer I tried out for the High School team, and made it. I was beyond excited. A lot of my friends from around the city were going to be joining me and I felt like I found my place. On top of that, it was the longest we had stayed in one place and the stability was comforting.

A week after making the team, my parents dropped the bomb. We were moving to Colombia at the end of summer. On top of that, my sister, who had just graduated from the high school I planned on attending, would not be moving with us. I felt alone and I was devastated. The news turned me in to a person neither me nor my parents recognized- a whiny brat refusing to accept change.

I did everything I could to fight it including attempting to guilt my parents in to letting me stay. I had to accept it though, and the move happened.

I ended up living in two different cities, attending two different high schools. Each school presented its own unique challenges. The first one, in Santa Marta, was mainly Spanish speaking. There were a few people who spoke English and among them I did make some very good friends who I still keep in contact with, but I struggled. I was failing my classes and had to have three different tutors for the different subjects. This did not last long.

The next year, my dad was able to move us to Barranquilla where I was placed in an American school.  The school was the exact opposite of my previous one. Everyone spoke English, everyone traveled to the U.S. regularly and everyone was very wealthy. There also weren’t uniforms, which was a plus for me. The downside, however, is that this group of kids was extremely tight knit and not as open to newcomers. I was very different from them. Having spent a lot of my time alone for the past year, I spent all of my time reading and writing. I felt dark and angry and if people did not want to accept me, I wasn’t going to accept them.

This all changed of course, as it always does. Eventually, I became part of the group and made some lasting friendships. I will always look back at my memories of Colombia fondly and with gratitude. How my parents dealt with me at the same time as dealing with their marriage and all the changes they were dealing with is beyond me. When my parents made the decision to move to Colombia, my dad had already been going back and forth for a couple years. They spent most of their marriage long distance at that point and I was too selfish to accept what they needed.

(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