My thoughts on being a military child

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April 27, 2012 edition of Stripes Kanto.
April 27, 2012 edition of Stripes Kanto.

My thoughts on being a military child

by: Elizabeth Riehle | .
Seoul American High School | .
published: May 25, 2012

Trimmed lawns, a dog’s bark, the smell of barbecue in the summertime: the familiar signs of home. Children play in the parking lot; their parents
look on from their patio chairs, socializing with neighbors and friends. Everyone seems to forget that just past the parking lot the children call their playground, a concrete wall stretches as far as the eyes can see. But there’s a way out of this neighborhood; gates break up the wall, guarded by men in camouflage. On the other side of the gate is a world the opposite of a small town, where kim-chee is the culinary delicacy and “an-yong-hasae-yo” is the local greeting. This is my home: U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, South Korea. Reflecting upon the ten years I have called Yongsan my home, I fully see the impact living here has had on me; I not only live in a microcosm of America, but a community constantly changing due to international influences.

Affectionately nicknamed “Blackhawk Village” due to the multitude of helicopters flying above, my neighborhood allows me to live in a community
that is the essence of America. People of every background, race, and creed lived in the same building, sharing the same lawns, parking lots, and playgrounds. During my childhood, I played with children who were completely different than me; my best friend in the second grade was a Filipina, I had a crush on a Hispanic boy, and I played four-square with a girl from Sweden. I had tea parties with a girl who had to pray seven times a day and one who believed in reincarnation. Playing, sharing, and laughing with such a diverse group of children allowed me to recognize different cultures and cooperate with people with different views than my own.

When a typical person picks up a newspaper, they read about conflicts on the 39th parallel and think almost nothing of it. I cannot be so  dispassionate; my home is a mere thirty miles away from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the North from South. I have been to the DMZ, seen the North Korean officials. What conflicts arise between North and South Korea have a direct impact on my life. Having such a dependence on the relationship among America, North Korea, and South Korea allows me to see resolutions by other countries in a new light, one that sees not only
the effect conflict has on people of a nation, but also the importance of cooperation among nations.

Although there is a wall around the community of Yongsan, it is merely a physical barrier. The city of Seoul still influences me; my experience in the Korean metropolis has allowed me to gain a perspective different from my peers as well as mentally mature in regards to the international community. Thanks to Yongsan, I am able to see things in a way most people cannot.

Visit the Stripes Kanto website to read more about military children. 

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