Every night as a child I’d go to bed and kiss daddy goodnight. I’d hear him telling me how much he loved me. The only problem was that daddy was in a picture frame and his voice was a recording, while my actual dad was half a world away fighting a war. There were two deployments. One was only supposed to be a year and a half, but then got extended to almost two. There was a year in between the two, and then the second deployment was another year. When I was little, all I knew was that it’s hard with daddy away and I just wanted daddy to be home. I thought it was dumb that my dad had to be away. Little did I know, that this war would influence my life entirely. Even when I realized it was changing my life, I didn’t know the direction.
My mom now always tells me a story from when I was born. I was the first child and when I was born my dad wouldn’t ever let me go. My grandparents were asking if they could hold me for a while but my dad didn’t budge, even for them. As I grew, this never really changed, I guess people would call me a daddy’s girl. We were inseparable. Dad would always trump mom. He would tuck me in at night and help with the remote to the TV. Until a day that would change my family forever. We all said goodbye and cried as the bus brought my dad away to fight for his country in a completely foreign place. While back at home we felt like we were in a completely foreign environment too.
The first deployment I was three years old. I don’t remember a lot from this deployment. However, I do remember that I had a newborn little brother that was everything I ever wanted. This quickly changed when he started to talk, but he was still a responsibility of mine. I had to watch him while mom was making a bottle or just had to keep an eye on him when mom wasn’t watching. In the second deployment, I was around six years old. I’d watch my brother while my mom was washing dishes, doing laundry, or cleaning the house. I also started to not ask for very much help. My mom was always very busy and I didn’t like to trouble her. Right around that age, I started to go to school. This is where I met my best friend. She would actually refuse to go into class everyday until I got there. I took this responsibility and made sure I was there everyday for her. Even with these small responsibilities, I thought life would be easier when dad gets home and everything will fall perfectly back into place.
The day came that we all longed for, yet it wasn’t perfect. He was finally home where we knew was safe. I wanted everything to go back to normal, but our family didn’t know normal. The adjustment was very hard on our family. My dad wanted to fit right back in, but we closed that gap of reliance on another parent. He was so used to waking up and getting a job done. Now, he woke up, drove his kids to school, went to work, and got home to be expected to be a husband and father. These are roles he's always had, but he somehow lost them a whole world away. My mom was having a hard time too with not being in complete control. She had another parent to help, but the adjustment took time. My brother and I had a tough time trying to find our middle again. We were so used to only be bossed around by one parent. Two parents seems so normal, but yet again I’m reminded how unnormal my family is.
So once again we needed to find another normal. Right around then, we really started being around more military families. It helped everyone in our family to feel connected and not so different. One instance was when we went to a program for military families. We broke up from our parents, so we could have time to talk about kid specifics. I know we talked about how the war affected us, but I mostly remember all the fun we had. I also went to the school counselor for a bit just to talk some things out. I met with her every day during my snack time, and she taught me so much. Mostly, I think she helped me with my communication. Talking to my mom, not holding everything inside, and not being afraid to ask for help were skills she taught me. Those skills really helped me then, but are helping me even more today. All of those people impacted my life in ways I wouldn’t have gotten if it weren’t for the war. After having my dad home safe and sound, it cleared my head. Maybe the war wasn’t all bad.
It’s hard to say when I first realized that I was different, but I do know why. I used to wonder, why does school seem to be not that hard? Or, why everyone thinks I’m older than I really am? I realize now that I couldn’t let my father down. He was sacrificing his life to save millions of people, so the least I could do is try my hardest every day. When I was younger I matured a little faster with little instances that included: having the responsibility of a little brother, only relying on one person, being there to walk a friend into school, learning to do stuff on my own, not being afraid to ask for help, and learning to communicate. These skills have paved the path of my life in such a positive direction. The war was extremely hard on my whole family, but it only made me stronger. When you're young it’s hard to see the good in such terrible things, but I’m glad that a terrible event like war, helped me to be more of an independent person that’s ready to take on the world with one hardship at a time.