by Jenna Warnock
“You’ve moved nine times and have gone to ten different schools before you were 15? Do you wish your life could have been different?”
“I don’t know any different.”
At 18 years old, this is a common stream of dialogue I have had countless times throughout my life. I have seen people view my experience with moving as a military child through a variety of different lenses. Admiration, peculiarity, and most commonly, pity. From a young age, I always wondered why peers and adults pitied me for having to move so much as a child. I was born into it and I could have never imagined my life panning out in any other way. Now that my father is retired and my experience with moving has, for the most part, stopped, it’s also made me stop and reflect on just how much moving has shaped my life, for better or for worse.
No matter the social connections I made in the places we moved to, they would always dissipate eventually. At ages 10 and below, I would make friends like any other child, formed on the similarity of having the same shirt or liking the same color, but the second we would receive orders to move within the next six months, I would leave these friends and barely bat an eye. I would hug them goodbye, sometimes not say goodbye at all, and accept whatever the next duty station would offer for my family. The first time I cried saying goodbye to a friend was in fourth grade, and even then I recovered after a few days, maybe even just hours. I got used to the cyclic act of making friends but never accounting for where the friendships would go in the future. This was because the military already decided the fate of these friendships before we even moved there.
I discovered why the act of leaving these friends came with such ease. While the external environment constantly changed, my family always remained the same. Our traditions, behaviors toward one another, and attitudes were one. I have no doubt my family is as connected as we are because of the military. It’s human nature to cling to what is most familiar, and nothing is more familiar than being in nine different places with the same four people, my mom, dad, sister, and brother.
I attribute the military and moving to the reason why my family was so connected because I have seen how the dynamic shifted since my dad retired. Of course, family dynamics shift as children age and situations change, but it was overtly abrupt when my dad was no longer on active duty and we moved into our “forever home.” With no future plans for moving, I witnessed no future plans for maintaining the interconnectedness my family had. We utilized the family unit as a way to offer stability with each move, but with there no longer being a need for this stability, I saw each family member create their own life outside of the family.
I am not saying this had negative repercussions or that my family has nothing to do with each other now. It was simply the natural unfolding of how a family takes shape after an external influence, such as moving, is removed. This experience taught me an important lesson – to be intentional with those you love regardless of what your external environment is. Have family dinners every night because you want to connect with your loved ones, not just because you have to for the sake of stability. Meet new people and stay connected with them even after you move.
Living a life full of intention instead of simply reacting to external influences allows personal bonds to form stronger than anything moving nine times could offer. Being intentional means you are the sole influence of your relationships. I love my family and I am grateful to have the connection I have with them now. Over the years, I have seen us slowly learn to have family dinners now because we want to and to stay connected outside of reasons other than moving. It looks very different now than when my dad was on active duty, but I can see clearly that it’s because we are influencing these relationships, not the military.
Moving as a military dependent has taught me the importance of relationships and having responsibility for maintaining those relationships. With environments constantly changing, you have to be the one at the helm for ensuring you stay connected with those you love and for the right reasons. I don’t wish my life was any different, because I know now the bond I have with my family is stronger than if we had stayed in the same city for my whole life. Yes, the military shaped my family’s relationship for a long time, but I am proud to say that because of this experience, we learned to be the shapers of our relationships.
Jenna Warnock is a dietetics student currently attending Appalachian State University. Her interest areas include hormonal health, functional medicine, and public health with the intent of becoming a registered dietitian for the veteran population. Jenna is also an RD2BE [Registered Dietician 2 BE] intern and serves as RD2BE Social Media and Marketing Intern, Student Host of the RD2BE Podcast, and Content Developer.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.
© 2023 The Havok Journal