Military brat’s life split between two homes, two continents proves the strength of family

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Viewpoint by Ryan Johnston

Tears fill the green eyes of a child in the passenger seat of his father’s car. 

The seat is comfortable, but the smell of cigarette smoke on the child’s clothes left a stale taste in his mouth that made him uneasy. 

His father lays back the seat, so the child can cry himself to sleep on the way to the airport for his flight from Oklahoma to England.

The trip to his grandparents’ house marks the end of his time in Oklahoma. 

The house at the end of the long straight path of red, black and white pebbles is blurred out of his vision because of the stream of tears rolling quickly down his face. 

His grandparents stand at the corner of the porch and wave.

The multiple branches of the tree at the end of the path scratch the roof of the car as it pulls out. 

Reluctantly, the child realizes that a part of being a military brat is making this routine trip across the ocean from his second home in Oklahoma to his home in England. 

He falls asleep sobbing periodically.

At the airport, the boy sits close to his father as he waits to board the plane back to England.

A female flight attendant approaches the boy, bends down and extends a hand to take the boy on board. 

The boy turns to his father and wraps his arms around him tightly for a few seconds before exiting.

As more passengers come on board, the child becomes eager to speak with them. 

The child has become comfortable talking to strangers, because in his life, friends are swept away as fast as they come in.

More than 10 hours pass and he arrives in England, exiting the plane with the flight attendant. The child, excited to be home, embraces his mother with a hug and returns to his home of steep hills, 30-minute walks to school, a Spice Girl obsession, friends and family.

As a military brat, this roller coaster of emotions happened once or twice a year, every year, for four years.

From the ages of 5 to 9, I lived in Yaxley, England, a beautiful village, full of tiny houses with bright red and blue doors; unpredictable weather of fog, rain and sunshine; fields of red poppies and schools where young American children can pick up deep, full British accents and slang.

While I am grateful to be a military brat, it was difficult to live away from family in Oklahoma. 

In England, I had my mother, stepfather and two stepbrothers. 

In Oklahoma, I left my father, older brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. 

Thankfully, the trip back home every summer and every other Christmas was made. 

Although the summer weather in Oklahoma was hot, sticky and humid; and the unfamiliar sight of snow made dreams of a white Christmas unrealistic, time spent shuffling between families was enjoyable.

Being a part of the military has made me realize that the farther apart a person is from family, the more important some things become:

The fun my father and older brother had when going to Sulphur; a camping ground with clear, glistening waterfalls and cliffs for people to jump off into swimming areas. 

My grandmother drawing Mickey Mouse heads at my request or the endless phone calls I was allowed to make to England because of the need to hear familiar voices. 

Becoming more appreciative of all the small things they do, such as taking time out of a busy day to visit or spending vast amounts of money to pay for plane tickets back and forth from England and Oklahoma.

I thank the military for showing distance doesn’t alter the love a person can have for their family. 


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