Kaila L., National Military Youth of the Year, Boys & Girls Clubs of America
By the time I graduated high school, I had been to nine different schools. You guessed it: I’m a military kid. My dad joined the Air Force before I was born and was deployed to Korea for a year just days before my 16th birthday.
My story is not entirely unique. Military kids move six to nine times on average, and we all face the same kinds of challenges as we navigate the military and civilian worlds.
But while there are nearly 2 million of us, there's a lot you might not know about our lives. So, in honor of the Month of the Military Child, here are a few things we wish you knew:
1. Supportive relationships make a difference.
One of the best resources I found on base was my Boys & Girls Clubs of America-affiliated Youth Center. My first day there, everyone was so welcoming and warm. But it’s my second time there that really got me. They all remembered my name. More than that, they remembered me — they were genuinely interested in my story and my ideas. That meant a lot to me. It still does.
You meet new people all the time as a military kid. The relationships that make you feel involved, engaged and heard are the ones that stick no matter where you go. Those are the kinds of relationships I found at my Youth Center, and I still rely on them today.
2. We’re resilient but not indestructible.
When transfers, deployments and injuries in the line of duty are the norm for your family, you learn to be especially ready for anything life throws at you. But those social and emotional skills don’t come standard. You can’t learn to perfectly manage your emotions from experience alone.
Programs that prepare military kids for the challenges they’ll face on and off base are simply a must. It’s like basic training for everyday life.
3. Continuity is key — especially with STEM.
With each new school, there are new people to meet, new cafeteria lunches to enjoy (or not) and new academic requirements to contend with. It can be a challenge to stay on track, especially in highly technical STEM subjects.
Getting consistent academic support from different Youth Centers is a big help. Thanks to a partnership between BGCA and Raytheon more military kids than ever are getting their hands on advanced technologies and expert support too through the STEM Centers of Innovation being built nationwide on or near military bases.
4. Reintegration can be stressful!
You’ve seen the videos of kids diving into their parent’s arms after a long deployment. That joy is real and those moments are priceless. But the days, weeks and months that follow can be rough going. It’s a big adjustment for the whole family, especially if your parent was injured in the line of duty. Military kids need a little extra care and understanding during those changes.
5. We’re twice as likely to join the military as our peers.
There is a strong sense of pride, commitment and service that goes into being a military family. It’s no wonder so many of us follow in our parents’ footsteps and join the armed services ourselves. It’s an important point to remember — an investment in our military kids is an investment in the next generations of our nation’s men and women in uniform.
They say change is the only constant. That's certainly been true for me. Fortunately, I've had my family and the Boys & Girls Clubs to rely on. While it's a challenging life, I wouldn't give it up for the world. I know a lot of other proud military kids feel the same way.
If you know a military kid, put your newfound knowledge to work and show them your appreciation this month. It won’t go unnoticed.
By Kaila L., National Military Youth of the Year, Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Boys & Girls Clubs of America champions America’s youth, ensuring they have opportunities based on their potential, not their ZIP code. To partner with us on building great futures, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.