A Lifelong Military Child Reflects on her Military Upbringing During Month of the Military Child

By Winifred Brown

Harmony Jones, a senior in high school and member of the military community in Monterey, California, has been a military child since she was born.

In her 17 years, Harmony has lived in six places — spanning from Virginia on the East Coast to California on the West Coast. While the moves have presented challenges, they have ultimately contributed to her success. Her achievements include stellar grades, athletic success in field hockey, leadership roles at school and the title of Miss Monterey County USA 2022. April is the Month of the Military Child, and Harmony shared how focusing on the positive has helped her thrive as a military child.

Harmony Jones wearing her Miss Monterey Teen USA sash. | Photo credit DVIDS/Winifred Brown

Just stick with it. Every turn is going to be a new adventure and it’s going to be difficult,” Harmony said. “But as long as you just keep some core values with you and learn from everywhere you are and not see it as an unfortunate circumstance [you’re going to be successful].”

Harmony is one of 1.6 million U.S. military children, and each year the military community celebrates the Month of the Military Child in April to thank and support them for the unique and invaluable role they play. Harmony said she is thankful for the recognition because the military lifestyle can be tough, and it is important to recognize the fact that it impacts not just service members, but their spouses and children as well.

Military kids go through a lot as well and they deserve a little extra support and extra appreciation for what they do for their country,” she said.

Harmony’s family includes her father, Marine Corps Capt. James Jones, an aviation supply officer stationed at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.; her mother, Brandi, organizing director for the Secure Families Initiative, a nonprofit organization that represents military spouses, family members and veterans; and 15-year-old brother, Jett. A senior at the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, Harmony plans to attend the University of Southern California next year and major in human biology with an emphasis in pre-med. Her goal is to become a surgeon.

On average, military children move every two to three years, and this causes unique challenges due to changes in schools and support networks, according to the Department of Defense.

Harmony Jones, right, with her father, Marine Corps Capt. James Jones; her mother, Brandi Jones; and her brother, Jett Jones. | Photo credit DVIDS/Winifred Brown

As someone who has experienced several military moves, Harmony urges military children to focus on the positive. She says doing so builds resiliency.

“I developed a lot of resilience from constantly having to rebuild myself everywhere I have gone and make sure that I can still hold some core values,” she said. “That’s helped me get to where I am now.”

Harmony also says a core value that has helped her throughout her life is having respect for everyone.

“I think that’s a huge one, regardless of what they’ve done or where they’ve come from,” Harmony said. “Just appreciating everyone for who they are and kind of that they’ve made it this far, and then having compassion for everyone. I would just say being a kind person in as many ways as you can.”

Harmony is also thankful for the support and guidance her family has provided her throughout the years.

Brandi Jones said she is proud of her daughter’s achievements and believes that acknowledging the Month of the Military Child is important.

In fact, Brandi, who was a military child herself, said she thought it was so important when the family lived in Seal Beach, California, that she became involved in her children’s parent and teacher organization. Brandi and the organization helped organize Month of the Military Child events at her children’s school, where about a quarter of the student population was connected to the military.

That was in 2013, and the school has continued the Month of the Military Child events ever since.

It’s impacted thousands of military children over the years who have been stationed there and it gives me so much peace knowing that they’ll never have to be not recognized or not included the way the first year was for our family,” Brandi said.

As she looks to the future, Harmony says she is thankful for her military upbringing. Although she is still young, living in different places has allowed her to understand people have different perceptions of the world, and she has been able to take aspects of those places and implement them in her own life.

I continue to remember everywhere that I’ve come from and how those places have impacted my life.”

The Challenges of Military Life and How the USO Supports Military Brats

Life in the Armed Forces can be challenging – and especially for military children, the youngest members of our nation’s military community.

After all, military children are often faced with constant change and uncertainty. From their family’s PCS moves every two to three years, to finding their place in a new school with each new duty station, to their service member parent deploying suddenly for months – or even years – at a time, these realities of military life can take a toll on these so-called “military brats.”

Photo credit USO Photo

Service members and military families sacrifice so much on our behalf – the absolute least we can do is to support them in return.

Although they don’t wear a uniform, these military kids still “serve” in their own way, and as members of the military community, they deserve our support. That is why the USO has specific programs, events and spaces in our USO centers to support military children.

The USO supports military kids through our USO Reading Program

Deployment and separation from family members can take its toll on military kids. But luckily, military children and their deployed parents or relatives can remain connected through reading via the USO’s Reading Program. This program is a two-way street – on the one hand, a service member can walk into a participating USO location where they are deployed, record themselves reading their child’s favorite story and have that recording emailed to their child – and a copy of the book shipped home.

Photo credit USO Photo

Military kids can stay connected to their deployed loved ones by recording themselves reading a book and having the recording send to their service member.

On the other hand, the USO Reading Program also allows military children to share books with their military parent as well. The children can, in turn, record themselves reading a book on camera, adding that book to their personal collection and sending the recording to their deployed father, mother, brother, sister or other family member.

The USO offers military children a chance to make friends who understand what they’re going through

At many of the 250+ USO locations around the globe, military children can turn to the USO for kid-friendly activities designed to help them make friends with fellow military kids, or bond with their families.

Photo credit USO Photo

At USO Centers, military kids can find comfort in spending time with other children who understand the unique challenges they face in the military.

USO programs for military children can include everything from arts and crafts activities to family game nights, to cooking classes and scavenger hunts.

No matter what activity they are engaged with, USO programs are designed to give these children a little fun so that they can forget, even if for just a moment, the stress of life as a military child.

The USO keeps military kids entertained

Military kids are also supported by the USO through one of the organization’s best-known services: USO entertainment.

From NFL handshake tours, to community concerts, to virtual meet-and-greets where they can talk experiments with Bill Nye the Science Guy – through the USO, military kids have the chance to meet some of their biggest heroes and connect with a piece of home. This all serves as a thank you for their own personal sacrifices as military brats.

The USO provides military brats with a space to just be themselves

USO centers are not just for service members – they are also for military spouses and, of course, military children. Stateside, many USO centers offer military kids and families a home-away-from-home where they can spend time with their families and friends. When stationed far from everything familiar, especially in distant locations overseas, military kids can turn to their local USO center as a place of comfort and fun, where they will be surrounded by a supportive community and other military children who understand the unique challenges they face in their lives in the military.

-This story was originally published on DVIDShub.net. It has been expanded and edited for USO.org.

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