Tyler Larsen, 8, has already lived in four different states. In addition to regular extended training sessions, his father, Brandon, a U.S. Air Force explosive ordnance disposal technician, has been deployed twice in Tyler’s young life.
Tyler’s little sister, Charli, 4, struggles with her daddy being gone. She’s a “daddy’s girl” and doesn’t quite understand extended absences.
That’s just part of what it means to be a military child. Over the next few years, the family will surely move again. Tyler and Charli will certainly change schools repeatedly. They will still miss their dad. And they will carry on.
“For a kid that’s moved so much and experienced so much change so young, he is so resilient and always ready for the next new thing — that’s how we approach every move,” his mom, Allison Larsen said of her son.
According to the American Association for School Administrators, there are currently 1.2 million military children of active-duty members worldwide. Nearly 80% of those children attend public schools throughout the U.S. The average military family moves three times more often than their civilian counterparts.
Military parents and spouses are resilient, too.
Ms. Larsen didn’t grow up in a military family, so the whole military lifestyle was brand new to her. When she and Brandon Larsen began dating in high school, he talked about joining the Air Force, but ended up going to college for a year. In 2011, he decided military was the way to go and they have been serving ever since.
His first deployment left new mom Ms. Larsen home alone with 4-month old Tyler. Originally from Michigan, they moved back from where they were stationed in Alaska to be with family.
“The first time he deployed was hard, being a new mom, but Tyler of course didn’t know,” Ms. Larsen said. “Back in Michigan, we had lots of help from family while Brandon was away. But now I think this deployment has been more difficult emotionally because both kids understand it this time.”
As a mom, Ms. Larsen worries about how the kids will handle being away from their extended family (grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) as they get older. Fortunately, unlike many military families, they have the opportunity to visit and go on vacations with family, so their children will still get those special memories.
“Holidays away started out hard for me when Brandon first enlisted and we left Michigan,” Ms. Larsen said. “But the longer we’ve been away, the more we’ve come to really love having our own quiet holidays or celebrating with friends.”
In April, the Month of the Military Child, Peoria American Legion Auxiliary Unit 62 hosted Ms. Larsen, Tyler and Charli, along with 47 other Luke Air Force Base family members, at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park, 16501 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield Park. The event was coordinated through the Luke Air Force Base Family Readiness Group.
Along with entrance to the zoo, each family member received complimentary ride tickets, a backpack with snacks and a $10 McDonalds’s gift card.
“A big portion of this event was paid from proceeds from the sale of photographic art donated to our unit,” President Tammy Early said, extending extra thanks to Sun City resident Roberta Durbin, whose Marine Corps husband, Larry, was an active member of the Sun City Camera Club, respected artist and mentor, and a big fan of the zoo.
Ms. Early also extended thanks to the Post 62 American Legion Family, city of Peoria and the local community for their ongoing support to military families.
For more information about Unit 62 or to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and get involved.
Editor’s note: Marge Christianson is a volunteer with American Legion Auxiliary Unit 62 in Peoria.