Growing up a "brat" brings much-valued life lessons
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Growing up as an Air Force brat, I became grateful for the weirdest things.
I was grateful that ironing my dad's BDUs was my sister's chore. I was grateful when my dad came down with kidney stones the summer of my sophomore year; this meant he didn't have to deploy for the third time in three years. I was grateful whenever I got to live somewhere for longer than two years.
On May 18 this year, I was grateful the timing worked out so I could attend Chief Master Sgt. John Brantley's retirement ceremony at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. This chief, by the way, is my dad.
It's tough to pay proper respects to the man who raised me and my three siblings in a way that set us up for long-term success. It's interesting to see now from an Airman's perspective how a parent's service impacts his or her family members. Although it's the servicemember doing the work, the children easily pick up on the way of life and indirectly, the Air Force's core values.
I learned "Integrity First" not long after learning to read. I got into trouble at school one day for writing on the bathroom stalls; I went home hoping to lie my way out of it. My dad gave me a double whoopin' for messing with property I didn't own and for not being honest about it.
As I grew older, I was taught lessons in other ways. For certain transgressions, I ended up at work with him on the weekends to shred piles of paper, sheet by sheet. Frankly, the real punishment would have been making me read the Professional Development Guide.
I experienced "Service before Self" years before it would matter on an enlisted performance report. As a youngster, I remember waking up super early on Christmas morning; not to open presents, but to accompany my then-first sergeant dad to hang cookies on the doors of Airmen who weren't with their families for the holidays.
I learned about "Excellence in All We Do" throughout my childhood -- perfect attendance and grades were the norm; we were always pushed to be competitive, to be tough, and to be the best. Now that I'm older, I know the military mindset in which we were raised positively influenced us.
For me and my brother, an airman first class training to become a survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) trainer, the values my dad passed onto us have prepared us to better contribute to the Air Force.
For example, we learned resiliency by living through multiple moves and Dad's deployments. It is tough for families to pack up their lives and move across countries and oceans every few years.
"It's cool travelling and going places I've never been before, but I don't like leaving my friends behind every three and a half years," said Keyshon, 14-year-old son of Master Sgt. Donna Eggins from the 8th Fighter Wing Legal Office, who has deployed twice and moved five times during her career.
"The hardest part about moving is switching schools and not knowing anybody when I get there. It usually takes me a while to adapt," he added. "Having my mom in the Air Force helped me learn to accept more responsibility and take care of my mom and siblings."
It's even tougher to watch loved ones leave for six months or a year to a war zone, an experience today's generations of Air Force families certainly share.
"Although being a mother and serving as an Airman is challenging, it's worth it," said Senior Airman Brandi Herring, 8th Medical Support Squadron. "The hardest part about being away from my sons here is missing out on their milestones. When I see my children learning values like volunteering and already meeting so many amazing people at such a young age, I know I'm making a good choice."
Air Force "brats" learn to adapt. They make friends quickly and deal with constant change. They pick up extra responsibilities when their moms or dads are away for months on end.
At a young age, we realize it's our job to hold down the "homefront" so they can focus on the mission and return safely to us at the end of the day.
I'm grateful for the time I shared serving in the Air Force with my dad, and for the guidance he's given me as a chief and more importantly, a father.
My hope is that all Air Force parents and their youngsters will use their Air Force lifestyle to teach and learn the same values passed to me: Integrity First, Service before Self, and Excellence in All We Do!