BOX ELDER, S.D. — Peter & Monika Johncour have spent nearly half their marriage apart.
The military lifestyle is unique in that many milestones like holidays and birthdays are missed. And for the children, many challenges arise, especially when both parents are service members. They are often faced with nontraditional circumstances.
Peter says, “We ask them to grow up faster sometimes because of the circumstances we are in.” Monika adds, “I don’t know that I remember saying goodbye to as many friends as my kids have until I was leaving for college – they are saying hello and goodbye to so many different people.”
From the numerous hellos and goodbyes, parents’ back-to-back deployments, and varied living conditions – the kids are forced to deal with tough situations and feelings at a young age.
Peter tells of a story when his wife called to say ‘I love you’ to her family. Peter says, “The day she called and said you know she wanted to call and tell us she loves us because she wasn’t sure what was going to happen in the next couple of days.”
Kawika Johncour has been in 12 different schools in 11 years. He says he remembers being concerned for his parents safety while they are deployed, “The main thing that probably affected me while mom was gone was most of the time like dad said I was worried all the time that something bad would happen or there would be an attack and mom wouldn’t make it out.”
The process makes the family unit stronger.
Peter says, “They know that we are gone, they know that it is hard, they know that they miss us – sometimes they know that we are in danger -they don’t always understand why but they fight through and it makes them deal with circumstances in life that most of us don’t have to face at that age.”
Peter goes on to say the children don’t voluntarily sign up of the military life, but he hopes that one day they can appreciate the sacrifices they made to contribution to society.
He adds, “They become our rock, our foundation and they are our stability, we move around all over the place the only thing that is consistent is our family.”
The other struggles as a military family include finding extended daycare not being around extended family for a support network.
But on the flip side of the strife is the kids build certain life skills they wouldn’t otherwise, like resiliency, independence and adaptability. They have opportunities for new adventures and learning new cultures.
“It’s good that they get to see so many different cultures, so many different environments. There’s lot of different tools that they have that they learn in different locations as to how they are going to fit their personalities together as to those of us who grew up in the same area didn’t necessarily get to see – there’s a lot of diversity in being a military child that a lot of people don’t get to experience,” says Peter. He adds that his sons have become good friends over the years, like built in friends.
It’s giving them stable roots with the ability to fly.
Monika says, “So I think it will be pretty cool when we get to return next summer that they will be young enough that they will get to live having roots and you know really build that stability but they also got to experience what it was like to have wings and to go see what is new and what is different and to flex and to again really gain that resiliency so that when they are 18 and leaving the house they can choose, well am I going to have wings and go chase my dreams and see where it takes me or do I want to have the stability of family and build roots and to be able to really make that choice.”
Monika adds a military life does have challenges as some of the circumstances are out of their control. It takes a lot for the parents to hold everything together. Grace and understanding are key components to supporting military families.