Surprise soldier homecomings can bring everyone to tears. But what’s the true impact on students? Students everywhere have, or have had, family members in the military. People don’t always realize all of the responsibilities students have when their family members are gone all of the time. Whether students are close with the family member or not, their absence has a negative effect on the students’ lives. Some teenagers have even had to be the parent figure in their families to cover for the family member who is away, and that can bring those teens many more difficulties.
Princeton High School (PHS) has multiple students who have had to become the parent figure in their family due to one parent in the military and the other having to work, or sometimes both parents are gone in the military. It’s hard for students to handle going to school, playing sports or other activities, getting their homework done, cooking dinner, and taking care of their younger siblings all at once. These students can have their grades drop, forget about their homework, and start to fail their classes because they’re constantly thinking about all of the things they need to accomplish to satisfy their families. These situations are definitely not ideal for students, because they can cause stress, anxiety, depression, and a lot worse.
Kayla Walker, junior at PHS, has two older twin sisters that are or have been in the military. Kimberly (army) and Kara (navy) are 13 years older than Walker and have a different mother, but Walker still has relationships with the twins. Walker’s biggest challenge with having her twin sisters gone in the military all the time is finding a time to talk to them. Kimberly and Kara can be long distances away with huge time differences, and they all have busy schedules, so the sisters can tend to lose communication. Having different mothers than Kimberly and Kara, Walker has fortunately not had to become the parent figure in her life. Walker hasn’t lived with Kimberly and Kara, so she has gotten used to not seeing her sisters and she doesn’t think her life is really different when they’re gone. Walker still has fun with her sisters when they come home. They enjoy ice-skating together whenever the twins come home and have made it a tradition. Kimberly and Kara are equally special to Walker and when the twins come home, the whole family spends a lot of time together.
“I really just miss them a lot,” said Walker. “It’s normal for them to be gone and I handle it really well, but when they do come back it’s great.”
Walker has experienced not having the relationship with her sisters that she possibly could have had if the twins had not gone into the military. Walker used to feel out of place and shy around her twin sisters because she wasn’t used to being around them and seeing them and she felt like she couldn’t be herself around them. Walker has gotten closer with her sisters now that they are older and feels that she is able to be whoever she wants around them.
A surprise soldier homecoming, to a child with parents or family members in the military, is the best present that child can get. Walker remembers a specific surprise homecoming she had when she was in 4th grade from her sister Kimberly. Kimberly was stationed in Iraq for a while and Walker remembers sitting in her 4th grade reading class, bored. Walker hated the class, so she was looking around outside of the classroom, just like any normal little kid. When Walker looked outside of the classroom, she saw her sister Kimberly. She looked again, not believing that she had actually seen her sister standing there. When Walker realized it really was her sister, she ran out of the classroom and hugged her. Everyone in a classroom in that hallway ran outside to watch the sisters be reunited. Kimberly sat with Walker for the rest of class and came to lunch with her younger sister. Walker enjoyed eating Gold Star coneys with her sister and getting to spend time with her.
“When I looked out the door, I saw Kimberly and I had to look twice because I didn’t believe it.” said Walker. “So out of nowhere I just ran outside [of] the class and hugged her. Everyone in that hallway ran out [of] the classroom and was watching because it was pretty cool. Then she sat with me the rest of class and came to lunch with me. She brought us Gold Star because we love Cincinnati chili and coneys.”
Walker doesn’t plan to go into the military, but she does respect her sisters and is very proud of them. Kimberly actually passed away in February 2013. Walker talks about her like she’s still with her because it still feels like she’s here and Walker also wants to keep her sister’s legacy alive.
“My sisters are wonderful people,” said Walker. “They have a great impact on whomever they meet and are extremely generous. I’m really proud of them.”
Catherine Carmichael, senior at PHS, has her father and both grandfathers in the military. Carmichael’s father was discharged due to an injury, so Carmichael fortunately had her father home with her for the most part and was fortunate enough to not have to struggle with her father being gone. She was able to have her father home with her and build a relationship with him. Carmichael’s father is unfortunately deceased, but has inspired Carmichael and her family. In fact, Carmichael was so inspired from her family members being in the military, she enlisted into the military on reserves as of November 21, 2014.
“My family is very supportive of every branch in the military,” said Carmichael. “We look at their situation from their view before we point fingers at someone.”
Carmichael’s favorite memory of being with her father is when she was a little girl and was home schooled. After she finished all of her work for the day, her father would read books to her.
“I was reading at a higher level than most kindergarteners,” said Carmichael.
Having a family member deployed in the military can have different effects on different children. Walker and Carmichael are only 2 examples of the millions of children that have their parents deployed in the military. Kids everywhere could use support to help them with their situation. They need to be appreciated, just like their parents.