BY RUBY GORDON//
“Biden Says It Is ‘Time for America’s Troops to Come Home’ From Af ghanistan.”
When I saw this headline splashed across the front page of the New York Times I felt like I had been hit by a bus of emotion. I have existed just shy of two months longer than this war, yet an enormous amount of my childhood was either directly or indirectly affected by it.
I loved being an Army brat. I was lucky to only move a handful of times in my early life and the Army took my family to pretty cool places. I loved the community aspect of the Army and the “hooah” of it all. I grew up stopping the car to get out and put a hand over my heart when the American flag was being lowered at the end of the day. My mom taught me and my sister the words to the Army Song, so that when we had Veteran’s Day assemblies in elementary school we would be ready to shout “Then it’s hi! hi! hey! // The army’s on its way. //” A special part of Army culture is the feelings of belonging, and I was wrapped up in it.
When my dad decided to retire about 5 years ago, I was terrified. We always recognized that “home is where the Army sends us,” but where would that be once we got to choose? The turmoil of being a military child matched the turmoil of no longer being a military child. It was a confusing time for me, but if the military taught me anything it is how to adapt and treasure what I had.
By the time I was twelve, my dad had been deployed to the middle east for five of those years. I didn’t grieve those years for me, but for my sister. She was 10 at the end of our father’s last tour to Afghanistan. Deployments had made up half of her childhood.
Although my family spent so many years split across the world, I never felt like I wasn’t connected to my dad, and music played a notable role in that.
My dad has always been a music aficionado. He bought one of the first iPods and set it up with a speaker dock in our kitchen so he could introduce my sister and I to classic rock and one-hit wonders as he unloaded the dishwasher. I remember dancing around the kitchen in our World War II-era Army base housing to Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” and Aqua’s iconic “Barbie Girl.” I still know all the words roughly 13 years later.
When my family moved across two oceans to Germany when I was eight years old, my mom brought our 100+ CD collection to play in our minivan as we would road trip across Europe. Even when my dad left for a stint in Iraq, my mom had no fear as she took me and my sister on the Autobahn for day trips to nearby cities. Since my dad was gone, she took the responsibility of giving us a musical education— a “music-ation.” We learned the lyrics and melodies of The Beatles, Eric Clapton, and most notably, ABBA.
I will never forget driving to the grocery store shortly after my dad returned from Iraq and my mom popped in the ABBA GOLD CD. “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” started playing and without missing a beat, my sister and I chimed in “Half past 12 // And I’m watching the late show in my flat all alone // How I hate to spend the evening all alone.”
Definitely the strangest song that brings back my military childhood is the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.” When soldiers return from deployment, it’s called a “redeployment” (which I find incredibly confusing.) Since my dad was one of the dudes in charge of groups of soldiers, my mom, sister, and I attended every single redeployment. After the ceremony, the formalities, and the tears, the soldiers are finally released to reconnect with their families. As kids ran to find their identically dressed moms and
dads, “I Gotta Feeling” blasted from the speakers. “I gotta feeling // that tonight’s gonna be a good night // tonight’s gonna be a good night.” Everytime I hear that song, my heartbeat elevates and I am right back in that hanger looking for my dad.
It’s easy to think that the Army took a lot from me and my family. Honestly, it did. I lost years of weekends with my dad, family movie nights, and evening homework help. It still hurts, but my family gained so much strength and closeness despite it all.
I feel a lot of hope for other military kids right now. I hope they get more time dancing in the kitchen with their dad, singing in the car, and I hope they get to associate “I Gotta Feeling” with less melancholia. But most of all, I hope other military kids can have a childhood without the thought of war nagging in the back of their mind.
My family is ok now. My dad works a boring 9-5, my mom has a job she loves, my sister is going to graduate from high school soon, and I am doing my best in college. We survived a lot of adversity and are stronger from it.
Army Brat Playlist
1. “The Army Song”
2. “Hips Don’t Lie” – Shakira
3. “Barbie Girl” – Aqua
4. “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) – Abba
5. “I Gotta Feeling” – The Black Eyed Peas