Thursday, May 5, 2016

Letter from Tennessee River Executive Director Faye Anderson, May 2016

Faye Anderson, executive director
The Platform Magazine published the following article written by Lexie LaMonica, daughter of Rich LaMonica.  Rich is currently serving the Tennessee River Chapter as our fellow for “The Mission Continues.”

Lexie is a freshman at Austin Peay University majoring in English.  Her first book, The Unexpected, was released Christmas day 2015, and is currently available on ITunes, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

This article is a vivid picture of what the children of a military family endure growing up. The Red Cross played a vital role getting her dad home a couple of times during his deployment.  The American Red Cross gives each and every family comfort in knowing that their loved one can be brought home within hours of an emergency at home. Please take the time to read the words below, straight from the heart of a young lady who also served this country in her own way!

This is my story:  Growing up an army brat isn't what it seems. The public doesn't know the truth, they believe they do, but what they see is misleading.  It's just not having a home, and not knowing if your loved one is coming back. For me it was calling the world my home instead of a specific spot on the map, it was having a part time single mom, it was not having as many memories of my dad growing up like the other kids. It was being alone in a world where you were afraid to get close because there were always the inevitable goodbyes. 

I was one of the lucky army brats, I didn't move a lot, and I was lucky to have parents who were willing to sacrifice living together so I could finally settle somewhere after constant moving in a short time. However, living in a place for a long time only hurt me. I lived in Kansas for eight long years, and because of this I naively forgot one day I would have to say goodbye and leave the only place I had ever really called home. After that I lived a short year in Alabama, two years in South Korea, and then to Tennessee where my journey started as well. I got to see what different kinds of education systems we have and the different style of American culture. However, I also got to see the world. Living in South Korea opened the doors to a world I didn't understand. I adjusted to a culture that wasn't my own. And for the first time, my family actually got to travel for fun. We traveled to Thailand, and China while we lived there. Being an army brat gave me these opportunities. It gave me opportunities that other kids only could dream of, and I'm more than grateful for that.

However, being an army brat also made me feel like I only had one parent. My dad was home here and there, but sometimes it felt short and eventually he wasn't there again. The earliest memory I have of him being gone is after 9/11 when he was in Kuwait, however I really only knew him as a voice recording through a card. I mean yeah I loved him, he's my dad, but I was barely five and only knew the idea of him. I was too young to understand, for he was a face in pictures. 

My mom went to college, taught high school, took me to soccer and gymnastics, and so much more alone.  My dad like other soldiers was deployed multiple times, so life with just my mom for a year at a time was normal. He was in Iraq using toy soldiers we'd send him to make plans in war and we were home eating dinner with an empty chair beside us, waiting for calls and letters to know he was okay. He wasn't deployed again until I was older. He was gone my 1st, 2nd, 4th, 8th grade, some of my freshman and sophomore, junior year, and moved back home with us in time to see me go to prom and to see me walk the stage at graduation. Out of all the soccer games in high school I only remember him being at one of my tournaments and only a couple cross country meets. He wasn't there when I needed him to push me to keep going. He missed moments I wanted him to be there for. Not just because of war, but because different stationing and states in between. 

Mom was there for every moment, but when I looked to see who was watching me as I played soccer I only saw her. My dad didn't get to see my first goal, or my second. He never got to see me walk the balance beam or do a handstand. He wasn't there the first and only time I got all A's in school. He wasn't even there to laugh at me when I got stuck in a pile of snow. And it hurt me. It hurt a lot. Sometimes I can't even remember if he was really a part of a memory or not. All I know was that I missed him every minute he was gone. I remember he was there for sad times. He was there when Nanny died, Grandma Jean, and Uncle Mickie,  he was even there to bury my beloved turtle Giant in the middle of a snowstorm. However, there are less happy times I can recall. I have the memories of him coaching me in sports, and calling to tell him great news. He was at home when I found out my book was getting published right out of high school. That's it though. War called him away, making him miss the good things. It took him away and changed him. It created a life where we had to adjust to living with one another all over again redundantly. 

Growing up as an army brat teaches you sacrifice in a world that lacks it. Even when the army took Daddy away I knew he would always come back. He was a fighter and will always be an amazing leader. And now that I'm a part of the retired army brat life, I'm happy to say he'll be there more. He will be a part of memories we have yet to create. He won't miss out. 

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