Being a military child prepared me for my future Air Force career

Darnell Gardner

Darnell Gardner

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- I am the product of a military family on the go. My father, having served proudly in the U.S. Army, kept our family moving constantly, explaining that it was for our own good... yeah right! We moved from place to place so frequently that after a while, when asked where home was, we could only reply, nowhere and everywhere.

The constant moving from place to place didn't suit me well; kind of like a stiff, leather, black and red checkerboard overcoat, with an itchy, wool collar. It had gotten so bad that I actually plotted to give my family the slip and head for the hills to take refuge with my cousins. After getting the move-in brief from my uncle instructing me on which chores would be assigned to me and how much my monthly rent payment would be, I quickly shelved that plan...Heck, I was only 10! Distraught and out of my wits, it was then that I promised myself that I would never join the military and put my family through the constant change I went through as a kid.

For those who don't believe in karma, please keep reading.

As an adult with MY military career in full swing (go figure) and a single parent to a couple of roughneck boys, for some unknown reason, I always sought out every exotic assignments I could find that accepted families. Now, I know this blatantly contradicted
what I had proclaimed as a child; first, joining the military, second volunteering to travel, and finally doing so with little regard to how my sons might feel about a move, but what was I to do? Something deep inside kept driving me to move, move, move. Somehow I knew that in the long run they would either thank me for the experience or run away and join a monastery while I was sleeping.

Having been on both sides of the pendulum, I now I get it! My father wasn't moving the family around the globe for his own benefit, but allowing us to experience different customs and cultures not privy to those who remained stateside. I must admit that because of my family's travels, I am able to relate to people from all walks of life and can honestly say that the only race I feel at peace with is the human race; that's what I want for my children.

As I reflect on my childhood, I realize that I too served in the military but in the capacity of a military child. I may not have a flown a jet aircraft or participated in an operational readiness inspection, but I did have the responsibility of representing my family through being disciplined within the community and being a good student and well behaved son. I knew that my father depended on me to hold my own so he could concentrate on performing well on his job. The Defense Department has proclaimed April as "The Month of the Military Child," because they understand that children of military members also serve in their own way. They feel the stress of deployments, share the happiness during celebrations, and take on the responsibilities of representing the U.S. when living abroad.

To cope with the stressors of military life on kids, installations now offer a full range of activities such as childcare centers, youth centers, clubs and camps.

So, I invite all of you reading this commentary to join me in thanking our military children for their unwavering support and understanding. We must all recognize that they play an important role in building the strength of our great nation. They are the future!

For more information on "The Month of the Military Child" visit www.defense.gov/home/features/2011/0411_militarychild.