We Are America: 'A Military Family' By Douglas Smith
This essay was written as part of Concord High School's participation in the We Are America Project.
My first Varsity Football game. I wasn't expecting to play at all because I'm only a sophomore. I play center and was the third string. But for some incredible miracle, the two other centers got hurt and I was put in early in the third quarter. I was extremely nervous. I went against kids who were way bigger than I was but I stood my ground. I played a great game and got lots of congratulations from many people, but I missed my brother. Duncan wasn't there but he did call me the next day to congratulate me. He can’t and hasn't come to my sporting events because he’s in the army stationed in Tacoma, Washington. The last time he was able to watch me play was in 2018. It’s tough being a part of a military family.
It all started in 2017. It seemed like a somewhat normal year. My brother and I ended our favorite time of the year (summer) and began school. I was going into seventh grade and Duncan was starting his senior year. We woke up, did our morning routines, and took our first day of school pictures like we have always done. But little did we know, this year would change my family forever.
Duncan and I were about a quarter through our school year when Duncan began to question what he wanted to do/be in his future. Most of his friends were stressed about getting into college and he did not want that. He did not want to feel stressed during his last years of being a “free” teenager. He knew that he did not want to sit behind a desk and be taught pointless lessons any longer. He began to seriously think about joining the Army.
Then it all happened. During dinner Duncan told us he was serious about the military and was considering joining. My parents and I knew that it was likely that this was the choice he was going to make.
“I really think joining the Army is the best decision for me,” Duncan said.
“Are you sure?” both my mom and dad said.
“Do you realize what you'll miss?” I said.
“What do you mean?” Duncan replied.
“You'll miss me in high school, getting my license, playing sports, and so much more.” Then Duncan named the positives and the negatives. He listed off the benefits of the military first. A big paycheck for somebody his age, medical benefits, insurance, discounts, etc. Then we went over the negatives as a family. He’ll be far away from us for a long time, he won't get to see us nearly as much, he’ll be alone, etc. By the end of dinner we had all talked and spoken about how we feel about the decision.
By the end of the school year, our family knew our time with Duncan was limited and so we enjoyed the remaining time left we had with him. It was actually a very enjoyable part of my life and it was most likely the most happy I've ever been.
Then the day came when he had to go. He left on July 9th, 2018. I still can remember that day. After he left I was still happy but my parents were a different story; they were a mess. They realized that their baby boy was not a baby anymore and had started adulthood. While I was having fun in Concord enjoying the summer, Duncan was in Oklahoma in the 100 degree weather doing basic training.
I missed having somebody to hang out with while I was bored, driving around, getting food, and playing video games. Most of all I missed his noise. Our house was much quieter than normal and it was just weird. I’ve come to learn that it’s tough being part of a military family, but Duncan makes it all worthwhile.
Douglas Smith is a student at Concord High School.