Op-ed: Open letter to students with parents serving in the Armed Forces

Op-ed: Open letter to students with parents serving in the Armed Forces

by Kim Joiner
Office of the Secretary of Defense

On April 25, many students across the country will not be in their classrooms. Instead they will be taking the opportunity to join their parents/guardians in the nationally recognized “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day 2019”. A day that provides future generations with the unique opportunity to gain a glimpse into the workdays of their parents.

For some, however, April 25 will be just another day in the classroom. That’s because their parents are among the fewer than half of 1% of men and women currently serving our country in the Armed Forces.

To those students unable to be with their parents today, I understand how you feel. I was once in your shoes and this letter is for you. My father served in the Army throughout my childhood years. I know all too well the sacrifices he made to serve our country, and the sacrifices made by my family, by the surrounding military families, and by all those who choose to raise their right hand and faithfully answer the call of duty. I experienced similar situations and challenges as you may be facing, where the only constant is that of change and goodbyes.

Changing schools, moving homes, finding new clubs/organizations, making new friends, and most importantly, missing those you love the most. I faced each of these challenges when I attended nine different schools in twelve years and I came to understand firsthand the hardships you are faced with each day. But keep in mind, these hardships yield unique opportunities, allowing you to master a skill most will not learn until they are adults – resiliency. Resiliency is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.

Embrace resiliency. Change can be frightening; however, every new move brings new surroundings, an opportunity to learn more about our country, about yourself, and about the people that make our nation so great. You are part of a small, select group that have the ability to make friendships all over the world, including those lasting friendships that will continue for the rest of your life. Others will help shape you into the person you become. So don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and join a group at lunch. Don’t be afraid to join a club or to try a sport you’ve never played. Seize the opportunity to make a difference in your new community. The local communities want to get to know you and support you; let them.

So on this day, when your friends are participating in activities at their parents’ workplaces and you’re feeling left out, be proud of the work your parent(s) are doing to protect the American way of life. Without their sacrifice and the sacrifice of those who have chosen to wear our country’s uniform before them, we would not have the freedom we enjoy today.

You may not fully understand the work they’re doing, but I promise that if you could go to work with them today and see the impact it has on your community, our country, and the world, you would be proud. Thank you for understanding, thank you for your resiliency, and thank you for supporting our country.

A. Kim Joiner is the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and Deputy Assistant for Strategic Engagement where she is tasked with bridging the civilian-military relationship through efforts of the #KnowYourMil initiative.

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