The Reality of Becoming a Parent While Serving in the Military
The Call to Serve
Observe any military family and you’ll see pride, honor, and patriotism. But ask any military family about their lives and you’ll hear of sacrifice, challenge, and adaptability.
Military brats are born into a life of instability, constant change, and little control. Children of military members are often only in one place for 3 years at a time, leading to many new homes, new schools, and new friends throughout their childhood. While the places that they’re stationed vary from family to family, their experiences are widely the same.
“I joined the army right out of high school, before I even graduated actually, and at the time I had no family to consider,” says Corporal Jonathan Sand. “After my training at Fort Leonardwood, MO, I was sent to Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska. I was thousands of miles away from my family and friends, and left to figure out adulthood surrounded by a bunch of other 19 year-olds.”
Then Comes Love
Corporal Sand recalls his first few months in Alaska, feeling excited to serve his country and thrilled for the adventure that Anchorage offered. After a year in Alaska, he reconnected with his high school sweetheart and while on leave from Afghanistan, he proposed. 6 months later they were married, and 2 months after that they were expecting their first child.
“It was pretty typical in the army, to get married young, and to have kids young. We weren’t unique in that way. Our daughter was born 2 weeks before our first wedding anniversary and I was thrilled to be a father.”
When Sand’s daughter was only 5 weeks old, he was given orders to relocated to Fort Bragg, NC.
“The move to North Carolina was so exciting for both my wife, and me. We were happy to be within driving distance of family, happy to escape the harsh Alaskan winter, and looking forward to finding more opportunities for our daughter.”
Shortly after the move, the reality of serving in the Army as a parent began to set in. Sand describes how his pay was drastically reduced after arriving at Fort Bragg, only compounded by his wife staying home to raise their daughter instead of working full-time like she had in Alaska. The Army’s yearly salary of $46,000 didn’t go very far for his young family.
“I started to see how limited our lives were. We were completely at the Army’s mercy. I had always planned to make the Army my career, but with an impending deployment to Africa to help during the Ebola crisis, my thoughts weren’t centered on the pride of serving my country, but on the pain of leaving my family and the fear of potentially leaving my wife widowed with a newborn baby.”
Sand describes the shift in his thinking, from pride to fear. From patriotism, to worry. He quickly realized that he didn’t want to miss the first year of his daughter’s life, and he made the decision to separate from the Army.
“Getting out was almost as terrifying as deploying,” Sand explains. “We knew we would have to start all over, with no jobs, no house, no money… But we took the leap, because the future that I saw for my daughter, moving every 3 years, never having childhood friends that she would graduate high school with, never having a true home… That wasn’t the life I wanted for her.”
Click here to read part 2 of 3: Unchosen Military Life: The Military Brat
Click here to read part 3 of 3: After Military Life: Adult Military Brat Navigating the Civilian World