Reflection: Life of the Military Family by Kerri Alley

This is a portion of the weekly Superintendent’s Update by Cliff Chuang mailed to Bedford Public School community on Friday, April 5. Please find this week’s full issue of Superintendent’s Update and back issues at bedfordps.org.

Life of the Military Family

By Kerri Alley, mother of Eli (Class of 2027) and Madelyn (Class of 2025)

Eight moves, two overseas assignments and 17 countries, over the course of our 20-year military experience. Our kids were born in Germany – one in a German hospital, the other in an American Army hospital. Now that my husband has retired and we’ve moved back to where we started, it’s given me time to reflect.

Our kids now both in high school. I think about how this experience has influenced them. Their lens on life is different than their peers, yet they still yearn to belong and to fit into their world as it is now. These are some things I’ve learned about their experience.

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The question, “where did you grow up?” will always be a perplexing one for my kids to answer. As someone who spent my entire childhood and early adult life in Rhode Island, it’s an easy question for me. Not for my kids. When I answer, I have memories of family, childhood friends and a sense of pride of my roots. It gives me an overwhelming sense of comfort when I speak of my childhood home. My kids have a very different story. They have blocks of childhood memories in different spaces, childhood friends who have come and gone, exotic traveling and experiences, but also painful goodbyes. The only consistent people throughout their lives have been my husband and me. Our holidays were spent with just us, trying to fill the empty table with new friends, or traveling to new places.

What they’ve gained by the experience, is oh, so much. They have lived in different countries, and different parts of the U.S. They have an innate understanding that there are different ways to live, that there is so much to learn from other people and places and most importantly, there are good people everywhere. They have seen places in this world that some only dream of and never get to see. I’m grateful for their experiences. They also know how to start over. That you can reinvent yourself, try new things, and meet new people. That’s what exciting and beautiful about life.

Although in high school, surrounded by kids who have known each other their whole lives, it’s been a realization that their experiences are so different from their Bedford peers. The Bedford kids have their established friends who’ve they’ve had forever. They don’t need other friends, and meeting new people can be uncomfortable. But I’m grateful to those Bedford kids who are willing to embrace their military peers because no matter what age we are, we all want to feel like we belong. We all want friends, and to to feel connected. That’s just human nature. And in my humble opinion, military kids have so much to offer a friendship.

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Richard Madison
April 14, 2024 10:26 am

It took me a long time to learn this life hack: question, “Where did you grow up”; answer, “the Army”. It isn’t the answer people were looking for, but it is good enough for most people, and a conversation starter for the rest.

Phyllis Keenan
April 10, 2024 6:33 pm

I enjoyed reading this reflection and wonder if you have considered expanding it into a book-length memoir. It could be for publication or just a family keepsake, but I think many people would be interested!

Peter Ricci
April 9, 2024 9:03 am

As someone who grew up in this area, and had several “Base Kid” or military family friends, I have a bit of insight. I too lost those friends as they moved away – the same but opposite of your experience. I managed to keep a few, in the days of pen pals. I like to hope that computers have made it easier for some of this generation, to keep friends who moved. Our Scout Troop, sponsored by the American Legion Post, has always welcomed those transferring in, and it is an option to make more inroads. I suggest to all military families, the local Girls Scouts, or 4H as other options. I appreciate your reflection, and your families service.

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