The forgotten gift of service of the military child

By: Sue Wilson, American Red Cross Volunteer

When most of us think of military service, the first thing that comes to mind is the men and women in uniform who selflessly chose to serve our country. We pass them in public places, and thank them for their service. We understand that when they take the oath, they do so knowing they’ll be away from their families, work long, hard hours to complete their mission, and always, they risk injury or death. But what we don’t often think of is the sacrifice made by the children in military families, and that they, too are deserving of our appreciation.

April is the month of the Military Child, and the American Red Cross is honoring special individuals who were born into a life a service by the decision a parent made to serve our country, and the extra special ones who have used the unique challenges of their childhood to serve others in a special way.

Red Cross volunteer Zoë Day is one such person. Both her mom and dad served 20+years in the Army. Zoë is currently on the Service to Armed Forces Team for the Northeast Ohio chapter, while pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work.

Being a military kid is not always easy. They experience multiple moves, schools, interruptions of friendships, parental separation and always, a fear of the risk their parents service entails. Zoë has moved 7 times, and lived in places as varied as Anchorage, Alaska, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and her favorite, Fort Jackson, SC. She believes that while her many moves have presented challenges, she’s learned useful life skills. “I’ve developed a thick skin when it comes to daily stressors,” says Zoë. “Being a military brat taught me how to feel at ease in any environment and adapt, despite quick changes and challenges. I’ve learned resilience and a sense of fortitude, a ‘get the job done’ attitude.”

Zoë’s supervisor. Jessica Tischler, Regional Program Director of Service to the Armed Forces, believes it is that attitude that makes Zoë so valuable. “Zoe’s background as the child of military parents gives her a sensitivity to the needs of service men and women, veterans and their families,” she said. “We are so fortunate that she is lending her talents as a volunteer to our Service to the Armed Forces casework.”

Friendships are another unique challenge facing military kids. “I am so used to moving that it is hard to keep in contact with old friends and try to make new ones at the same time,” Zoë said. The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t made that part any easier for the kids of military families.

Zoë said that one of the benefits of being a military kid is that her family likes to explore the state they are in and enjoy that region’s culture as much as possible. She said the virus has given everyone cabin fever, forcing us to be resourceful. This is true of other military kids, too.

“My friends, also mainly military brats, have struggled as their usual way to enjoy life is related to traveling to visit each other in new states, and continuing the tradition of seeing new places every so often. These trips are now facetime bound,” says Zoë

Zoë is currently pursuing her master’s degree in social work while she interns at the Red Cross. Did she ever consider following in her parent’s footsteps? “I thought I would, then I realized my passion lies in supporting those who have protected our country either by serving directly or by being their support system during duty. I see myself getting to know the military veteran and family population a lot better by being a boots-on-the-ground social advocate and fighting for their social-welfare.”

Zoë Day, the Red Cross salutes you, and offers a collective “Thank You” for YOUR service.”

Show your support: Since 1900, the American Red Cross has been entrusted by Federal Charter with providing care and support for our military. Your support enables us to continue this proud tradition for our military and their families. Learn more, and donate here.

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