“’Not me’ doesn’t live here.” That’s what my father always used to say. The clear implication was you need to take responsibility. Whether it was doing chores or owning up to a misdeed, ‘Not me’ was not a member of our family, and being a member of our family meant you had responsibilities.
Growing up the child of a non-commissioned officer is a unique experience. Aside from the uncontrollable urge to be 15 minutes early to everything, being the child of an NCO shapes you in ways not always apparent until one has the benefit of hindsight. I myself, the daughter of an Air National Guard senior master sergeant, did not appreciate this difference until I left home and was surrounded by non-military children.
First it was the simple stuff, my above-mentioned compulsion for punctuality, having the only bottle opener on my floor because it was on my utility knife, and my sense of guilt about walking on peoples’ lawns. Then as time wore on I started noticing a more profound difference. I noticed my desire to be self-sufficient was not always matched by others and that some of my peers had an expectation that others would take of care of them. This was shocking to me because I had been raised with an expectation that you will take care of yourself.
Now that I am older, I greatly appreciate what being the child of an NCO has done for me. The skills my father taught me about planning and preparing have not only helped me, but helped me assist others. I am now that friend you can call when your car breaks down, or you need someone to help fill your windshield-wiper fluid.
Children of service members sacrifice a great deal. My dad was away a lot, but I can’t imagine growing up any other way.
April is month of the military child, and the Army will be celebrating the sacrifices made by our youngest Family Members. Please share how growing up a military child has shaped you.
-J. Elise Van Pool, U.S. Army Public Affairs Specialist