In last week’s Spouse Calls, grown-up military kids discussed the landscape of military childhood and how it shaped their personalities.

Some said they thought they were more adventurous or tolerant as a result of growing up in the military. Others said they were more cautious because of their experiences.

Without doubt, the uncertainties and events of military life affect families. What I learned from talking to former military kids is that the effect can be positive or negative, and parents make the difference. Most of those who had good memories of growing up military had one thing in common: Positive parents.

Robyn Hinson grew up with an Air Force dad. She loved the experience so much that she wanted to marry someone in the military, and she did. She credits her parents’ outlook on military life.

"They always had the best attitude and loved to travel in each new location," Robyn said.

Valerie Mackin, who grew up in the Navy and Army, had a different experience. She said her parents "made me feel like it was something I just had to deal with and shouldn’t have feelings about moving one way or the other."

Valerie and I have the shared experience of having said "I’ll never be in the military." We also have the shared experience of having to eat our words. Valerie spent 20 years enlisted in the Air Force and married a career Air Force man.

Having been there herself, Valerie said she wants to make military life a more positive experience for her two children, now in middle school and high school.

"I can make this an adventure and not a chore and show my kids the rewards and benefits," she said.

Strong family relationships provided continuity and stability for some families.

"Growing up, my best friend was my sister — we always had each other to lean on," said former military child Robyn Chumley, now an Air Force officer. "I never had to worry about making new friends at school, because I already had one to start with — my sister."

Kelly Sublousky said extended family was important in her military childhood, and her parents made visiting grandparents a priority.

Although their lives were mobile, Kelly said, vacations were often spent at the same place: a favorite assignment in Colorado.

"Our family loved the mountains and fishing. We went back there seven summers in a row." Kelly said the time they spent together was important to their strength as a family.

Now a military spouse, Kelly said having been a military kid is to her advantage when parenting her high-school-aged children.

"You can understand the emotions of your children between moves. You can help them focus on the new opportunities and experiences to come," Kelly said.

Robyn Hinson agrees, and said she tries to follow the example of her parents, who encouraged her to get involved in sports, youth groups and other activities to get accustomed to new assignments.

She said that as a military mom, she tries to do the same thing for her girls, ages 3 and 5.

"I talk up the positives of a new house, new friends. Then we make a big deal of decorating their new rooms, finding our way around a new town."

A common denominator between grown military kids who loved their lives was that their parents "made it an adventure."

No factor emerged, however, to explain why some military kids grow up to be military adults. Some choose it and some end up in it in spite of themselves. Maybe it’s the same reason anyone goes into the family business: It’s what we know.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives in Germany, where her husband is currently stationed. Send questions or comments to her at See a list of sites for "military brats" on the Spouse Calls blog.

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