They are the unseen casualties of a war society; they are the casualties of a peaceful one. And by “they” I mean those children of the warrior society, of the Military Machine.
Every civilization has had to have one, I suppose: those mighty militaries, their armies, navies, and marines. Someone to defend their lands; someone to leave home. After all: someone’s got to go fight the foreign invader, someone’s got to protect their land. And so it falls upon the shoulders of these warrior men – and their wives to support them with their children in hand.
And those children – those ‘lost’ children – so often forgotten and unseen. Ignored. Not so much anymore – but the sacrifices they have made in the past! The ones they continue to make as the War Machine grinds along, boots to the ground, from the navy to the skies – peacetime, wartime – it doesn’t matter. They’ve always been there – a sad fact in our society – and indeed in our whole world – and probably will be until the end of time. Until we get it right. Until we clear our minds of these thoughts of what differences mean realize we are all just ‘mankind’.
But those children . . . I know their plight, for I was one of them. I know their sorrows and woes; their insecurity and fears – how desperately alone it can become; how often you are not only alone, but lonely – a burden in the Military Mind . . .
It’s gotten better – but the military has had one of the highest rates of child abuse around. It’s been proven, time and time again: during war, military children get abused at a much higher rate than their civilian counterparts. And they suffer so much more from the abuse – the military mind. They make the ‘ultimate’ sacrifice. I know we did. We gave up our life in so many ways for ‘you’ – our civilian world and our country. And they still do. Most don’t tell about it – it would be against the unseen rules, and we all know: daddy’s job depends on us keeping quiet and obeying the rules. Always. It was part of the military culture, the strict and disciplinarian Military machine.
Military dependents – especially those kids born into one – are especially vulnerable to being alone, being abused, having no life they can call their ‘own’ – no family to depend on, nowhere else to go. They are not asked if they want to make this sacrifice – they have no choice. They enlisted simply by being born. They have no extended family or network of old time friends; they have no home. They drift – we drifted – yanked from was last called ‘home’ and moved – sometimes half a world away. In this day and age of internet and cell phones it’s no big deal – but in ‘my day’ it was. There was no way to call back home; there was no internet, TV, or radio. There was just the foreign world you lived in; a tiny base of Americans
They are torn away from their friends. They are torn away from any family members they might remember – from grandpas and grandmas, aunts, uncles, cousins, and more. You never get to see them – not if you’re a military child.
And you’ve also given up any time or idea of ‘home place’ you might have had towards the end. You are constantly ‘shuffling’ – doing that military shuffle; family in lockstep, you dragging behind . . . father always ready with a mean word or a stern gesture: for that is the military way, and you’ve been raised in it and steeped in it so deep you can’t hardly breath without breathing out something green in it . . .
As military child I was denied many things. I sacrificed something dearly for my country – unbeknownst and unasked by me. I sacrificed my right to become president (as I was often told again and again by my first grade teacher, who hated my ‘Nazi’ origins) – by being born in a foreign land, near a base so small they didn’t even have a hospital – so I was issued a foreign birth certificate, and had to be ‘naturalized’ like an alien when I turned sixteen – even though I was born to Army parents with USA citizenship.
I sacrificed having any hometown. I sacrificed having any friends. I gave up (again, all this without my knowledge – nor consent at the time) – everyone you would typically call ‘family’ – except mom, pop, and my brother of course. To me ‘everyone else is gone’ – and it always has been that way, sort of. They have to be, otherwise I could not survive. I’ve had to “do it alone” for such a long time I don’t know any other way to be (that’s my inner child – and teenager speaking right there).
But I think about them; I’ve known some of them for a short time. The military kids, naturally. They have no hometown; they’ll keep on shuffling for some time to come. I know in this one instance they are going to be gone a looonnngg time – overseas for six or seven years. “Family” is not going to be able to come and visit them; they’ll lose any sense of ‘hometown’. They are going to do the ‘family shuffle’ – their family blissfully unaware of what they are doing to their kids.
And I gave up my peace of mind – peace of mind in a lot of ways. By the time I was thirteen I knew what war is. By the time I was in the Marines I knew even more. All in all, and all told, I spent over twenty-six years with them – an Army child ‘trapped’ beneath the system . . .
But I did my duty well, as I know these kids so blindly do. We march with them in heart and in step, and my heart goes out to them; these military children trapped in the military machine. Some of them are having the time of their lives, no doubt . . . but deep inside sometimes is an aching sadness, a loneliness at the core; sometimes when their daddies (or their mommas – this is the modern machine) are gone they fear for their lives. Not just for the life of their parent in the war machine, but for themselves and their own kind of lives . . .
Because they know – we knew – everything can change in an instant, in an instant ‘he’ can be gone . . .
and then where’re you gonna go, what are you going to do . . . free of the military machine – with nowhere to go to and nobody you can know . . .
It’s quite a sacrifice our children are making – making all over the world. They go with them in peacetime, are left behind in war. They sacrifice all the time – for you, unknowing, in the machine.
Take time to congratulate them. Take time to hug them. Because (as our eyes our opening) – we can see.
They made the sacrifice,
and they made me.