“Personal not Personnel” Wisdom from an Army Colonel

This week we’re getting advice from the parents. How do they help their children with deployments and tough transitions? What words of encouragement do they have? I was lucky to sit down and talk to Colonel (ret) Robert Campbell about his family’s experiences in the Army. Col. Campbell stresses the importance of staying positive and seeing the rewards through the conflict, while not undermining that it is certainly a challenge– sometimes even more so for the family. Here is an article he wrote in honor of his children, and for this month as we celebrate the month of the Military Child. Watch the interview with Col. Campbell this Thursday!

Col. Campbell has written books and does consulting in leadership. You can visit his website here.

Month of the Military Child
Colonel Rob Campbell
US Army Retired

Attention all military children, past present and future!  Welcome to the Month of the Military Child.  In April, we celebrate you who stand by your servicemember father and or mother, especially when they are called for service in combat.  I am the proud parent of two military children who have become fine young men.  They bore the brunt of separation and the demands of a profession which required a lot of me.  Along with this they benefitted greatly from a life in the military encompassing their entire childhood.  I’m proud of them both for what they endured and who they are.

Too often we speak of only the hardship placed upon these children and overlook the benefits of military life.  I’ll start with the hardships then finish on the positive.  My sons lived through three combat deployments where I said goodbye then shipped off into harms way not knowing if I would ever see them again.  Each goodbye, where I clutched them tight, told them I loved them then turned and walked away was probably the most difficult thing they could endure as children.  They were boys who struggled greatly with their emotions watching their father depart and living day by day not knowing if he was ok or not.  They witnessed their mothers’ anguish as she assumed the duties of mom and dad and dealt with her own torment.  They are both scarred from this experience I know.  We consider ourselves lucky.  They seem to have survived it though I know it still haunts them.  My oldest has a reoccurring nightmare where he and I are waiting in line to use the men’s room.  I enter a stall without him and do not come back.  I can only believe this represents my leaving him when he was only 11; his cost of ensuring a military childhood, especially one under a nation at war.

On a positive note, my sons grew up in a values-based society.  Often, I would come home talking about selfless service and duty to the unit, my soldiers and the mission.  They were witness to me talking about someone who had violated integrity or another one of our cherished Army values and they would often see me speak to audience about service to our nation and care for our soldiers and families.  The Army values permeated my personal and professional life and I know it had an impact on them.  Yes, they moved several times.  My youngest went to three different high schools.  While this was certainly not our preference, he and his brother came out of this experience more resilient, able to survive change and function in new environments.  They lived in places like Alaska, Hawaii, Germany, the Pacific Northwest and South East to name only a few.  This alone was a source of education for them.  We traveled from post to post across the United States and overseas enjoying cherished family time seeing places we never would have seen had we not been forced to move 14 times in a career of 27 years.  My sons made lifelong friends across the world and, thanks to social media, remain in contact with them.

I’m proud of my sons, what they endured, what they have become.  I am thankful for the military, more specifically the Army, who embraced them, my wife and provided experiences of a lifetime.  Happy Military Child month to my sons and to all the military children out there.  I wish all of you health as you overcome the challenges of military life and ask each of you to be thankful for the life you have been given and the strengths it has given you.

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