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This photo of me at age 16 was taken in the marketplace in Cambridge, England just weeks before I would leave the UK and four months before my father would retire from the US Air Force. On that rainy day, I stood between the life I had always known as a military brat and a new one as a civilian. It was not a change I wanted or welcomed, but military families do not have a say in where they live or end up. That is the tradeoff for getting to experience other places, other countries and other cultures, and the many interesting people one meets along the way.

Back in the States, we landed in Cocoa Beach, Florida at Patrick Air Force Base, where I finished the last three months of 10th grade before my Dad retired. Next came 11th grade in upstate New York and then a move back to Florida to Palm Beach County, just in time for my senior year.

Next came college in Missouri, five years in Chicago, back to Florida for 18 years, then Virginia for 18 more, and then, after 49 years of absence, a move back to my beloved England. In the interim, I married my high school sweetheart and had a child at 41. Life has been exciting. And it has been painful. But it has never, ever been dull.

Many people thank soldiers for their service, but there is often a family along for the ride. For me, that meant always being the new kid, attending 16 schools in 13 years and 22 homes before I was 18. It meant a year without my father when he was deployed to South Korea. But it also meant knowing that if we didn’t like a place, we would eventually move on.

There was a time when the gates at bases were familiar doorways I walked through, and the base library, BX, NCO Club and teen center were places that I frequented. These days, I stand outside the barb wired fences and the guards at the entries and know that I do not belong there anymore. I haven’t belonged for decades and it’s hard to remember what that felt like when I did.


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