by Kristin Rydbeck
When I turned 22, my ID card expired, and I was no longer considered a dependent of my parents. Because of that, I couldn’t get on the base without riding in the car with one of my parents, skirting in under the sticker on the car or their ID cards. I couldn’t buy things from the Commissary or Exchange. I couldn’t buy discount tickets at MWR. Essentially, the community that raised me since I was 4 years old cast me out. I was no longer seen as something I had been my entire life—a military dependent that belonged to the military community.
Since then, I’ve been navigating the civilian life. I no longer use Tricare when I go to doctor’s visits. I pay more for food at the grocery store (because it isn’t subsidized by the government). I have to drive farther to run errands—I can’t just access the post office, the bank, the grocery store, and recreational activities all contained within base walls. While I’m starting to get the hang of it, it’s been a pretty foreign undertaking for most of my (short) adult life.
Recently, my husband and I moved to a town that has a military base in it after living far away from any base for a long period of time. I love occasionally hearing taps at sunset. I love hearing aircraft race overhead. I love seeing men and women in uniform at our local grocery store. I love having a military credit union in the center of town. All these things make me feel a little bit closer to something I love and something I’ve lost. But I’m still an outsider.
When we first moved, my husband and I would dream about getting on base. But the problem? Someone had to sponsor us on, they had to know us to sponsor us, and by the time we’d get to know someone to sponsor us, they’d move on orders. Then, I tried stopping by the Family Service Center to see if I could volunteer regularly (which would get me on the base and allow me to serve a community I know and love). They appreciated my sentiments but they weren’t comfortable regularly sponsoring someone on the base that they didn’t know. Everywhere I turned to give back to the community that raised me, I was turned away. So instead, we drove by the base and I looked at the gate longingly.
Things have changed since then, though. As a graduate student, I just started an internship with the National Guard. My last two internships have been dedicated to serving the military—mostly because I love and understand this community and want to give back. With that, I get sponsored on military bases (although only a month at a time) and I get to rub shoulders with what I consider “home.”
I share this with you, military parents, in hopes that it will give you a different perspective on raising a military kid. You may worry at the end of the day about how your military lifestyle is ruining your kids. But if this is all they know, chances are, you aren’t ruining them. You’re raising them with what you have. And this grown up military brat thinks that what you have is pretty special—and I have a lot of grown up military brat friends who think the same as me.
About the Author:
Kristin Schwabauer Rydbeck, daughter of a retired U.S. Navy chaplain, is a graduate student north of Boston, studying counseling. When she’s not reading or writing papers, she enjoys taking pictures, creating pottery, gardening and eating ice cream. She loves spending time with her husband, traveling the world—last year they rented a camper van and drove around the south island of New Zealand together. She dreams of someday being able to minister to the (military) community who gave so much to her. For now, if you want her to write about certain topics, leave a comment. She’d love to answer your questions.