Across the nation, Fourth of July celebrations are possible because some made the ultimate sacrifice: their lives. Cookouts, family and fireworks are the quintessential red, white and blue fabric of an all-American July. Year round, parents can weave conversations about America’s armed forces with conversations threaded with the military’s role in freedom.
Voice in the Sky
Picture this: Co-eds Devin and Mirka, talking all night at a University of Florida fraternity party about military weddings. The rest is history. Mirka Young believes she was made for military life: “Maybe it’s connected to my father’s interest in the military, but I always saw myself marrying into it. My mother-in-law believes I’m the right person for it.”
Now parents to twin 20-year-old girls (Kelly and Brooke) and a 15-year-old son (Devin, Jr.), the Youngs have nearly 30 years in the military. Devin (senior), an ROTC college scholarship recipient, commissioned into the Marine Corps upon graduation. Eventually selected for a law program, he now serves as general counsel and legal adviser to a commander. Deployments include Kuwait, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
While Mirka was pregnant with Devin (Jr.), Devin (senior) was sent to Lebanon—tasked with getting Americans out. Father and son first met when Devin (Jr.) was 14 weeks. Dad deployed when baby Devin was 18 months and returned when he was 3 years old.
Devin hasn’t missed a Christmas, but he’s missed many birthdays and anniversaries. He’s also missed lots of day-to-day life. Thankfully, reconnecting with the kids hasn’t been an issue. “I’d send laminated photos because he was stationed in the desert,” Mirka says. “Within 30 minutes of returning, the kids would hang on him.”
Joint Operation Planning
However, transitions in and out of daily life are trying. Six months before deployment, families complete work-ups, meaning that Devin leaves for several days and returns for several. “The irregularity wreaks havoc on family,” Mirka says. “When deployment arrives, as the spouse, you’re packing bags for them. For a long time, I was the parent at home. I was it. The military spouse wants to return as if they never left.”
Yet, homelife doesn’t cease—school schedules and soccer games don’t halt. Life marches on. Kids grow. Veterans return different, too. “You can’t return unchanged. Their lenses transform, and they need reminders that drama is relative,” Mirka says. Twin girls might scream about ponytails because, in their world, ponytails matter. Frontline experiences aren’t civilian kids’ lenses. Open lines of communication help manage family members’ varying perspectives, and relationships with other military families are integral to surviving deployments and making meaning of experiences. “I sought mentors and paid attention to the people who went before me,” Mirka shares.
To better maneuver moving, civilian families can look to military ones. “Kids sense parents’ energies,” Mirka notes. “Kids need honesty about the difficulty of moving, but they can also learn to view change as adventurous.” Parents’ mindsets impact kids’ willingness to try new things and negative parents don’t develop resilient kids. Summer 2021 may carry the Youngs to Saudi Arabia, and they’re excited: “It’s not insurmountable. I see living in a country that’s realized the need for diversification as an opportunity.”
Patrick and Melissa Moffett’s love story was born in Nashville when they became engaged upon Patrick’s return from his first deployment. The West Point graduate has since deployed six times, and the couple has moved nine times. One of the most thrilling moves was to Ireland, when their oldest daughter, Emma (12), was 16 months old. “It was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up, so we figured it out,” Melissa says. That mindset of finding opportunity, has helped the family flourish through deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan because they live their mantra: “Find Joy in the Journey.”
The Moffetts aren’t rooted in one place; their experiences span the globe. All four are excited at the chance of crossing paths again with people they’ve met. Emma and Anna (9) have learned to make friends easily. This summer, the Moffetts hit the road again. “The girls are well-adjusted and resilient because of the moving,” Melissa says. “We’re deliberate in painting moves as adventures and ourselves as explorers.” Joyfully, the Moffetts are ready for their time in Kentucky—where Patrick will take command of the 101st Airborne Division Artillery.
Deployment remains possible, so communication anchors the family’s connection. Melissa trusts that constant contact during deployment and keeping Patrick involved in family life during his physical absence situates him to more seamlessly transition back home.
All military families deserve our gratitude and school lessons about the military are important. But, at home, parents can extend conversations and nurture kids’ dispositions toward positivity and resiliency. Parents’ attitudes of gratitude impact kids. During July and beyond, thank a military family.
*Feature Image: The Young Family May 2021