Just about everyone has seen those videos where a soldier surprises his or her family after a deployment. There’s rarely a dry eye to be found when the loved ones embrace. For most, they’ll never experience that moment first-hand.
When I was little, my mom and I went to the airport, where I thought we were just picking up a couple of my siblings who had stayed at my grandma’s for a bit. I had no reason to believe any different. When we got there, my sister walked up to me, and handed me a stuffed camel.
Of course, I thanked her, but my first thought was: “A camel? What? Why?”
Next thing I know, my dad, who had been deployed for what felt like ages, walked out.
“DAD!!!” was the only word that came out of my mouth.
Tears were rolling down my eyes and I gave him the biggest hug ever.
As it turned out, he got that camel for me. It all made much more sense.
But more importantly, my dad and I were finally reunited.
My dad, and really a majority of my family, have served or currently serve in the military. Most people have these preconceived notions that I must’ve grown up in a super strict household. In movies and TV shows, you see these children who have to call their dad General or Captain. But not us. My dad has always just been Dad.
While our life may not have looked like the military families you see on the screen, my family’s military roots have played a massive part in the way I’ve been raised. My parents instilled a culture of working hard to be the best version of ourselves we can. There were no significant differences in my day-to-day life than any other kid though.
Another popular stereotype people assume is that I must’ve moved around a lot.
Well… that one is actually true.
I was born in California, but spent the majority of my childhood in Maryland. Moved to Michigan in fifth grade, later moved to Alabama for like six months, then back home to Michigan.
Despite us moving around a lot, we never really felt like ‘the new kid’ or like we were alone. It definitely helped to come from a large family. I’m one of six children. We all also played sports, which is an easy way to make friends. So, thankfully, I was always a part of two groups right from the start, no matter where we moved.
Besides from moving so much, I also gained a lot of emotional toughness through all of this.
My dad was deployed four times throughout my childhood. Because of that, I was exposed to things most kids don’t ever have to think about. I also had to step up around the house. Of course, we all missed my dad dearly, but we still had to take care of things. My three little brothers needed me, and I grew up quickly because of it.
During my dad’s deployments, my mom really held everything together.
She is the strongest woman I’ve ever met.
While her husband was away, she kept all six of us kids in line. She knew what she signed up for with my dad, and I know she never regretted it. It was amazing how she was able to take care of everything that needed to be taken care of. All the while, she never missed as much as a practice.
One time, for example, we heard on the news that there was a lot of activity going on where my dad was deployed. I’m telling you, that was a difficult time. Especially since we hadn’t heard from him for an unusually long time.
I know that my mom was worried, but she never showed it. My mom just worked to keep us kids going. She helped us feel safe in that time of uncertainty.
Besides our strong family bonds, sports have also been a constant in our lives.
While volleyball is now my main sport, it wasn’t always that way. I played lacrosse and field hockey for most of my childhood. It wasn’t until sixth grade when I finally started playing volleyball.
Despite joining the sport of volleyball later than most, I refused to let that hold me back. I wanted to be the best volleyball player I could be. My dad heard of a local academy that offered volleyball and knew I was interested. So, I joined the league and just kept moving up, playing older and better girls.
Eventually, volleyball provided me with the opportunity to go to college. First, at Western Kentucky, where I was an undergrad. And now at Oakland, where I’m pursuing my master’s degree. I can’t picture a life without the sports, not going to lie. It has brought me so many amazing memories.
I’d like to end this with a special thank you to everyone who has served our country. My dad, sister, grandpa, and one of my brothers have all served and have multiple deployments between them. I know it’s not easy. But it’s those who honor our country with their service that allow us to be here today. Telling our stories, playing sports, and spending time with friends and family. Your actions and sacrifice do not go unnoticed.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
And to my family, well, I love you guys.