My military childhood made me stronger

October 18, 2018

Photo by Sgt. Gregory Hunter
By: Victoria Flood, Army daughter*

Family members instill in us our morals, cultivate us into the young men and women who will one day make a difference, and—most importantly—shower us with love. I can proudly say that being the daughter of a retired Lieutenant Colonel has helped me grow into the woman I am today. My father served active duty in the U.S. Army for 22 years before his retirement. He didn’t deploy overseas as often as other Soldiers, but he was gone a large part of my childhood. My father was deployed for the Operation Desert Shield/Operation Desert Storm conflicts and to Haiti before I was born. Before 9/11, he was away frequently to train different units around the country (New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Texas, Kansas, Virginia, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey). In the spring of 2001, my father deployed to the Middle East to inspect a helicopter unit in the Sinai Peninsula. After 9/11, my parents decided it was best for my mother, sister, and me to stay in our home in the northeast, have a stable, healthy lifestyle, and attend school since my father would be gone all over the country, helping train units to go to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Africa. Luckily, my father didn’t deploy to Iraq after 9/11, but he was gone for 3 years during my childhood and occasionally after for different missions.

Growing up without your father around is very hard. But through my parents’ sacrifices and decisions, I learned more about myself than I ever could’ve imagined.

I learned it’s okay to be emotional. My mother always encouraged my sister and me to be open and talk about our feelings. For a military family, it can be an emotional roller coaster when you’re dealing with the uncertainty of what the future holds in store for you and your Warfighter. Mental toughness is a skill that I was able to develop at a very young age—largely due to my parents. Through tough times, I learned being strong is what makes people successful and enables them to move past any obstacles. My mental toughness enabled me to be positive while coping with the sadness I might have felt. This ability continues to aid me today. Given that I’m the older sibling, I feel it’s important for me to sustain mental toughness and be a role model for my younger sister. When I was younger, I tried to guide her to see all aspects of a situation. And I’m thankful to have helped her and others develop mental toughness. It’s a learned attribute that everyone can attain if you’re driven and guided by the right people. It’s also humbling to be able to help others develop their mental strength, including those I dance with and others I meet at the pharmacy or while volunteering.

Along with mental and physical strength comes adaptation. My mental strength helps me acclimate to changes in my household, residency, and lifestyle. Adaptation allowed me to make the most of the situation I was in. To this day, it’s present within me and aids me in many circumstances—whether I’m changing schools, starting a new job, or moving.

My parents also instilled the importance of commitment in my sister and me. Commitment means carrying out your responsibilities and striving for success. I see the pledge my father made to our family and his country. I see the commitment my mother made to my father, her children, and her parents. I’ve seen my parents work together for 25 years to provide a life for our family. Through their vows, I learned the act of responsibility that has helped others recognize me as a leader. I learned a great deal about leadership through my father’s example as a Military Service Member and Veteran. My parents taught me what it takes to be a leader and helped me develop the qualities that fall under leadership. I’ve enjoyed wonderful experiences as treasurer of a national pharmaceutical student organization, captain of an elite dance troupe, and one of the lead pharmacy interns at work. I can confidently say that through my experiences and my parents’ examples, I’ve attained the trait of leadership. It’s a very dynamic quality that involves teamwork, stamina, honesty, and commitment.
I saw my father’s grit and endurance following deployments and training missions. And I witnessed my mother’s stamina parenting alone when he was away. I saw my parents’ commitment to our family and their careers—and their honesty through it all. My family has nurtured me into the adaptive, committed leader I am today in my school and community. I’m honored to say that my skills and strengths come from being part of a military family.

To learn more about how to build your mental toughness and persistence, visit HPRC’s Mental Fitness section.

* The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences or the United States Department of Defense.

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