I didn't grow up in a military family. I find it mildly humorous how many of my friends did. I didn't grow up in a military family, but I did.
Certainly, I thought I was grown when I joined the Navy at the ripe old age of 17. Little did I know how much growing I had left to do. And I grew up in a military family, just not one made up of my blood relatives.
My older brother joined the Army at the age of 17, before he finished high school. I joined the Navy less than a year after I graduated from high school. And my younger brother joined the Marines when he was 17.
Between the time I left for boot camp at the age of 17, and was discharged from the Navy at the age of 20, I had lived in three states, and one country. I had a Med Cruise under my belt, with visits to three different countries, a scare from pirates, and multiple runs from Spain to off the coast of Africa to refuel ships supporting the evacuation of the Libyan embassy. I had been raped, and devastated by the betrayal of friends. I had fallen in love and gotten married. And I still had not finished growing up.
In the 16 years since I left the Navy, I've been a military wife for all but 2 months. It has been awful and it has been glorious, and I do not regret even a moment of my life with the military. I've made more friends than I can possibly count, and learned so much about the character of the people who server our military, and the people who support them in the background.
Over the last 16 years, we've moved 9 times. Twice, we had a baby less than a week old. Once, I was hugely pregnant. Each time we moved close to military personnel, we were overwhelmed with support, frequently from people we'd never even met. When we moved on base, people saw the truck and came over to help unload it. Just like that. Because the military is a family, and I grew up in it.
Last month, my oldest child learned what it truly means to be part of the greater military family. I sent him away for a week, and while away he stayed for a night with a woman we mostly know from the internet. We've only actually met her once. We met through the military blogging community. She's moved 3 times since I moved here. Her husband is deployed; she has four young children; her parents were in town. Yet, even with all that going on, when I asked her to take care of my son while he was in town, she said, "Of course."
This is the family I've grown up in. A family that has each others' backs, not just on the field of war, but on the home front as well. Today, I am thankful for my military family. I am thankful for all the veterans, for the soldiers serving to protect our country at this very moment. And I am thankful that I got to be a part of it all.