By Joseph Ortiz
As a child with a parent in the military, you can’t fully grasp what exactly is going on around you or why your parents do certain actions. This was especially the case for me growing up with a parent in the United States Army. My mom decided to join the Army when I was 3 years old, and I don’t really remember much from the first few years except the occasional “mommy won’t be around much”. Looking back, it’s safe to say my older brother and I were very supportive of her when she went to training, and we were her biggest support systems.
We lived in North Carolina when my mom began training, and shortly after joining, my Mom was then stationed to Killeen, Texas. My brother and I moved in with my Godparents as my Godfather was stationed in Killeen as well. Sadly, my parents were divorced and my mom was the only one watching over my brother and I prior to her being stationed in Texas. My step father at the time was also in the Army and was deployed to Iraq with my mom when I started Kindergarten. I was completely fine with this at the time of course, because I was still a young, innocent kid. I wasn’t sure where my mom was but I knew she was going to be okay. At the time I had no idea what “R&R” (rest and relaxation) meant, but I knew it was a blessing and during this time was when I would get to see my Mom again!
My mom and stepdad seemed like they enjoyed their job, therefore my brother and I were always on board with supporting them. A bit of time passed and we moved in with a family friend while my mom went overseas again. At this time I was only in the third grade and had to change schools for the first time. I made a lot of good memories at the new school, but sadly (due to some issues) my brother and I moved in with a new friend of my mom’s, and we had to switch schools again. I was only at this new school for 3 months before the school year ended at which I was a little bothered as to why a change was needed (I was quite the naive little boy). At this point in time I had the whole “meeting new friends” agenda memorized pretty well, and fortunately my brother did too.
Eventually my brother and I had to leave the house of my mom’s friend and my brother was able to convince my mom that we could stay with his friend as they were going to the same high school at the time. Within the span of 5th grade I had lived in a total of 3 houses, although it was actually not as bad as one would think. My mom eventually regretted letting my brother and I live with his friend; I ended up breaking my arm (bikes are pretty fast on hills), and his friend’s mother eventually kicked us out.
Next, we ended up moving back to New York City to live with my uncle. At this time my mom got a divorce with my stepdad, and had retired from the military due to an accident in Iraq that gave her a leg injury. My mom and I eventually moved yet again to Maryland, where I finished middle school and high school. By this time my mom had been in Iraq for two years and in Afghanistan for another two. My brother was the only person that was by my side my whole life so I was pretty devastated when he moved out. Due to the nature of moving constantly when I was younger, when I would make new friends, I was a bit reluctant to get close to them knowing that our ties could be split in the near future. I was fortunate to stay in the same high school for all four years considering my brother had to go to a different school for each of his four years.
My mom and I became very close when she got out of the military and today is one of my best friends. I know it was quite difficult for her getting out of the military with a very ill father so I tried my best to be there for her. Her leg injury still bothers her from time to time but she’s a trooper. Sometimes she’ll look back at pictures and say how she really misses those days in the Army. She tells me about her stories from time to time, and when I line them up with what I was going through at the time I begin to feel even more grateful for how much she provided for her kids. My mom’s journey with the Army is one of the things that really helped me become accustomed to college life. Knowing that my mom was able to leave her family for long periods of time to provide for them definitely encouraged me as a person to stay strong for myself and others around me. My childhood was very interesting; it had its ups and downs with my mom being in the Army, but it made me into the person I am today and I wouldn’t change a thing.