What seems liked a very short time later, the military gave us orders to move away from Minnesota. I remember sobs racking my tiny body as I was gently dragged from the house I had grown to love; the only home I had ever known. “Why can’t we stay?” I wailed between gasps as my parents held, attempting the impossible task of consoling me. We headed across the country to Fort Campbell, Ky., where my dad then received his first orders to be deployed with the 101st Airborne Division to Iraq.
Then would begin the process my family became all too familiar with throughout the years — dad would pack in a plastic trunk all the equipment and clothing he would need for a year at war, laying it all out on our living room floor first to make sure he had everything. He would be issued an assault rifle. He would put on his uniform with all of the rank patches and lace up his combat boots, and he would hold my mom, my little sister, and me in his arms until the place had to leave. And he would be gone.
Deep in the silence of rural Tennessee, a few miles outside of Fort Campbell, as our new home. It was there I discovered the stunning ability of nature to clear out all the distractions and chaos this world heaps upon us. It became a place where I felt safe. When I was in eighth grade, my dad received news orders to move to Fort Knox, Ky., away from the refuge and comfort that had been our country home, and into a world of uncertainty and unending change.
The Army kept us at Fort Knox for less than a year, and then we were moved again, this time to sweltering Fort Benning, Ga. Before I knew it, we were packing up against and heading to stunningly perfect Colorado Springs, Colorado. Ten months later, we found ourselves in Michigan, my dad retired from the Army after 20 years.
Growing up, I was surrounded by other children whose family lives had been jolted by the war. Kids who knew how to pack up their entire bedroom in a suitcase or two because they got so tired of packing boxes they just got rid of it all. Kids who had no place they are “from” and who knew that is was like to forget what their dad’s voice sounded like or the expressions on his face when he laughed. Kids who know by age 10 a lifetime’s worth about loss and fear.
Yet we remain unbroken, galvanized by the heat. We have lived lives of adventure, cultivating within ourselves a resilience and strength uncommon. My travels have forged within me the deepest pride in my strong and courageous father, my mother who has endured with unshakable faith, and my great country. If it a life I did not choose, yet I would not trade for another, a life that has made me who I am, and has eternally linked me to a mosaic-like subculture, fractured yet beautiful.
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