Two years ago, Alex Hall was introduced to a new lifestyle filled with both rigidity and opportunity when her mother married a lieutenant commander in the Navy, compelling her to leave her school, friends and home, when the family was moved from San Diego to Newport, Rhode Island, and then to Carmel.
According to the Carmel High senior, one of the most advantageous experiences the military provides is the ability to travel to new places. After her graduation, Hall will be moving to Korea, where her step-dad is currently stationed, and she’s looking forward to teaching English while taking classes at Coastline College, an online site provided by the military. At the end of a year, Hall says the military will help her move back to Southern California and aid in her transition to a four-year university.
Alex Hall is just one of several CHS students who are a part of military families, part of a unique culture that offers possibilities for both new starts and sorrowful goodbyes.
But the former cheerleader is not the only CHS military child using online school while in a foreign country. Sophomore Natascha Togan moved to Carmel from Germany at the beginning of this year, and online school allowed her to be able to travel in Europe with her mother and father, a lieutenant colonel in the Navy. However, like any situation, there were also negatives.
Togan found it difficult to make friends while attending the online school for obvious reasons, but relationships are just as difficult for military children while attending typical schools.
“Military kids usually keep to themselves because we know we are going to be moving and no one wants to become friends with kids who are going to be leaving in three months,” Hall comments. “The ones who really keep to themselves have been in a military family since they were born.”
Most students admit that one of the most difficult aspects of military life is leaving friends behind and trying to keep in touch, although tools like Facebook and Skype have made it much easier.
“It has been a little difficult to find friends and always difficult to leave friends behind, but I’ve also learned how to find new friends,” Togan says.
While life can be challenging at times, military kids are also able to gain new skills, one being the ability to experience and understand new cultures.
“I definitely got an interesting cultural perspective [after living in Germany] and can view America in a different way now,” Togan adds. “There are things that bother me [about America] and things I missed when I was there.”
After living in Florida, Georgia, Colombia, California and Japan, sophomore Tiffany Guevara has similar thoughts.
“I have been to so many places and seen all kinds of people,” notes Guevara, whose father is a chief foreign officer in the Navy. “It enriches your life in a way,”
Sophomore Kent Burns says that while the two favorite places he has lived are Orlando, Fla., and Carmel, each place has given him new opportunities, like taking cooking classes in Texas and volunteering at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Burns also applauds some of the benefits the military offers to families like free health care and discounted tuition to in-state universities or free tuition if the military member is disabled.
According to Burns, the military also tries to keep children in mind when families must move, so usually a move is scheduled for the end of a school year. However, like in the case of Guevara and Hall, their fathers have already left for their next assignment, and the rest of their families will wait to move until the school year is complete.
This is also the circumstance with Togan’s family who was supposed to move to Carmel after being stationed in Germany, but were then given orders to go to Washington, D.C., at which point her father decided to retire and sent Togan to the Monterey Peninsula six months early, in order for her to start the school year on time.
While a lot of military life is based on the experiences individual families create, much of it depends on the decisions of the military itself. In the end the negatives and positives blend together, allowing the possibilities of adventures in each new home, giving military kids a remarkable childhood which most would never give up.
“I think it is a good life, but it is what I grew up with,” remarks senior Jenna Riley, the daughter of a Naval petty officer first class, fire controlman technician. “I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in one place my whole life, but I’m glad I didn’t because I feel like when I go to college I’ll already know what it’s like to not know anyone and learn how to make friends, unlike some of my peers that have never been the new kid at a new school before.”