HomeNewsCommentariesDisplay

Raised on resiliency: How military parents shape their child’s experiences

Staff Sgt. Ryann Holzapfel, 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs craftsman, left, and her husband Staff Sgt. Brendan Miller, Armed Forces Network Tokyo broadcaster, stand on the Yokota flight line with their six-month-old son at Yokota Air Base, Japan, April 26, 2021.

Staff Sgt. Ryann Holzapfel, 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs craftsman and her husband, Staff Sgt. Brendan Miller, Armed Forces Network Tokyo broadcaster, stand on the Yokota flight line with their six-month-old son at Yokota Air Base, Japan, April 26, 2021. Holzapfel and Miller plan on visiting the U.S. in the near future to introduce their son to their families in person for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kyle Johnson)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) --

When I was 14 years old, at least once a week I would have dreams about anxiously waiting for my father’s return home from his deployment to Iraq. In the dream, I would be inside our home full of excitement and ready to welcome him with a huge hug.

He walked in the door and suddenly I would realize he didn’t recognize me, and sometimes, he didn’t even acknowledge me. Anxiety overwhelmed my body even though I was asleep. I felt pain in my chest as my heart ached. I would squeeze my eyes shut like I was crying before finally waking up. I would feel hurt being torn from such a vivid dream because my dad still wasn’t there, and I couldn’t be comforted by the one person I longed to be there.

As a military child, I didn’t realize what I was facing wasn’t what other children my age were experiencing. Now, I am a brand-new mother and a dual military spouse. My husband, Brendan, and I grew up as military children in two very different ways, but both of us came to understand what it meant to be resilient.

My husband’s father was active duty in the Air Force for 33 years, first as an enlisted linguistics Airmen and later commissioned into communications. During his childhood, Brendan lived all over the world, homeschooling and attending schools in Japan, Uzbekistan, Portugal and all over America. His dad deployed and went on temporary duty assignments for various periods of times throughout his life. Brendan saw changes in his location through various moves, distancing him from his extended family.

My experience as a military child was slightly different. My dad served as a reservist in the Army on active and reserve orders throughout his 28-year career as a logistics officer. I lived in Omaha, Nebraska my whole life.

My dad worked a civilian job while leaving some weekends or longer periods of time for training. When I was only a few months old, he deployed for Desert Storm for a year and again to Kosovo in 1996, but I don’t have memories of those times. What I do remember is him deploying twice for year-long rotations.

During the times my dad was gone for deployments, things were different. We missed him and we kept going, but with a lingering feeling of something missing. Our family wasn’t complete.

We made sure to write letters and send care packages full of Diet Pepsi and compressed air cans for all the sand he encountered. Our family would go to Red Cross events where they would set up webcams so you could video chat with a heavily pixelated screen, but it was real-time – something totally unheard of in 2011! We made sure he was included in our daily lives by doing activities that people didn’t normally have to do.

With the long absences came hardships for our family, but when you don’t know what normal is, you just accept the situation and press forward. I think of how I never felt we went without, or weren’t able to do something because we were in a single-parent household during that time. If we did, I don’t remember it, which is not an easy feat for any parent to pull off.

I never knew I would have my own military child. My husband and I moved to Yokota when I was about eight weeks pregnant in February 2020 and we were so excited to start a family at our new duty station. This was both of our parents’ first grandbaby! Our families all had plans to come visit Japan when he would be born and we couldn’t wait to have all three new sets of grandparents meet him.

Then COVID-19 hit.

We went through my whole pregnancy separated from our families. I would send ultrasound pictures over messages; I would show my pregnant belly to our parents over video chat and we even had a virtual baby shower.

Not only were we experiencing our entire first pregnancy without being close to our family, but now the odds of them coming to visit our newborn baby were dwindling.

We were looking forward to the time when travel restrictions would lift and we could see our families again. That time is still yet to come.

Elijah John Miller was born at the Yokota Air Base Hospital, Oct. 8, 2020, at 6:32 a.m. He was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and we were so joyful, but we could only share this happiness with ourselves. It was a bittersweet moment. Brendan and I were so happy to have this brand-new baby in our lives, but longed to share that joy with the people we were closest to.

My husband and I were dealt a hard situation and we handled it – something I didn’t realize in those moments. Although the situation felt unfair and challenging, we didn’t halt our lives because we couldn’t manage it.  I’m sure our parents were handed situations like these several times without us ever knowing, but as kids we accepted and worked with what we were given.

I think childhood gave us a resiliency we fell back on during our pregnancy and child’s birth. We see our son’s birth now as something very special just between us because that’s what our upbringing instilled in us.

We learned to take the challenges that come, work with what you have and then look back on it as formative life experience.

Now that we are parents, our son is a military child. Brendan and I have about two years left on both of our enlistments. Conversations about re-enlisting or extending enlistments used to just be about what we wanted for both of us, and now we have to include our son and what is best for our entire family.

I never considered before how being a military child is something that can really build a strong foundation for children. The challenges that come with being a military child come with so many rewards.

When you leave friends, you welcome new ones. When you leave somewhere familiar, you get to explore somewhere new and exciting. When you’re separated from family, you learn how to have an extended family through other military members. All are hardships that you spin into something positive for yourself.

Now as a parent, I can also see the way military children are shaped by their parents. I’m grateful to be able to fall back on the experiences I’ve had as a child as stepping stones to the new and challenging scenarios the military presents to me as a parent. I think all military parents should know the important work they are doing and understand it isn’t easy.

I texted my stepmom while writing this article to verify some timelines about my dad and when I did, I flashed back to those times he was gone.

It felt like it was just the other day we were all together living without my dad and thinking about it made me a little sad as a mom and a wife. Those events were hard for me, but my stepmom took on a huge responsibility and I think she did well. I think my dad took on a career that was demanding, but would not have done so if he didn’t think our family was strong enough to handle it.

I can only hope that I provide my child with the same positive experience as I was able to have. My parents shaped my experience as a military child. At the time, I did not know what I was experiencing would be something that would shape me into the Airman, wife and mother I am today, and for that – I am grateful.

Engage

Twitter
#Airmen and B-52 Stratofortress aircraft operating out of Morón Air Base, Spain, are demonstrating U.S. commitment… https://t.co/mVoSP7Rv9O
Twitter
The #AirForce Service Center launched a new website to serve as a single point of information for #Airmen,… https://t.co/k8VrbtpoP7
Twitter
RT @AFmuseum: Check out this view of the McDonnell XH-20 Little Henry, Bensen X-25A Gyrocopter and the American Helicopter Co. XH-26 Jet Je…
Twitter
.@AirNatlGuard #Airmen helped build Cherokee #veterans homes in Oklahoma as part of the @DeptofDefense's Innovative… https://t.co/9i0p5CgLER
Twitter
.@POTUS to #Airmen during his visit to @RAFMildenhall: "You’re the best of our country. Less than 1% of Americans… https://t.co/VlmUkvizpY
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: High energy lasers kill one target at a time, & high powered microwaves can kill groups or swarms, which is one reason that TH…
Twitter
Check out the latest #AirForce Week in Photos! Which one is your favorite? See the rest at https://t.co/PUTukgX3Qe https://t.co/bWyy06fZ3k
Twitter
RT @AFGlobalStrike: 10 cadets and midshipmen from the @WestPoint_USMA, the @NavalAcademy and the @AF_Academy visited @90thMissileWing as pa…
Twitter
#ABMS will deliver decision superiority to the @usairforce & @SpaceForceDoD. This is all-domain command and contr… https://t.co/52J0YQEQhn
Twitter
The 2-week training will focus on @GenCQBrownJr's #AccelerateChange Action Order C: Competition by dissecting the g… https://t.co/J97obvYz10
Twitter
Building on women’s hair updates announced in February 2021, beginning June 25 when hair is secured behind the head… https://t.co/kjocdaU8Co
Twitter
“When you look at the numbers, 500,000 is a lot of [#COVID19] vaccinations. That reflects every #Soldier and… https://t.co/0hDKneUwUU
Twitter
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is sponsoring a research project with the @WitchitaState's National Inst… https://t.co/r1SZzmLUGo
Twitter
.@NellisAFB recently hosted an #AirForce Weapons School Integration exercise that taught graduate-level instructor… https://t.co/sdRcG9Tqle
Twitter
Industry and government operators, engineers, and test professionals assessed the ability to do medical evacuation,… https://t.co/GosqQbx3Ac
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: As part of the @UTNationalGuard's state partnership with Morocco, @UtahAirGuard Airmen are taking part in African Lion 21…
Twitter
“This office is the first organization that will stand-up from an enterprise-wide perspective to address digital ne… https://t.co/94P7CNFxGj
Twitter
"Multi-capable #Airmen is a series of training events designed to engage Airmen in developing a combat skillset out… https://t.co/7b4VFMb9cm
Twitter
"I'm probably not the first to be qualified, but the first to have the opportunity." @GenCQBrownJr sat down with… https://t.co/vh14QdB6sp
Twitter
#CitizenAirmen from the 30th Aerial Port Squadron & @AFRC_433, loaded supplies onto a C-5 Galaxy, to deliver suppli… https://t.co/MDSVEtQbZm
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,346,532
Follow Us