Navigating Life and My Identity as a Military Kid

By Sarah B., Age 17

Moving is never an easy experience. Leaving behind everything you know about the world around you is like being thrown into the ocean when you have only ever swam in the shallow end of the pool. Everything you know is different when you move to another country, when you hop across the pond.

I was eight years old when I moved to South Korea. Being a military child, moving there was not the particularly hard part; I had moved five times already and my friends had already begun moving. At the time, it was just another move. My thoughts on it were not about being afraid, but rather curiosity and an innocent sense of adventure.

We moved only three days before Christmas in 2014. I asked a Santa whether he’d still be able to find me in Pyeongtaek, and he replied that he knew where it was because he had served during the Korean War. I did not realize the magnitude of moving to another country, and how much it would change the course of my life.

I spent four years of my life in the country, from ages eight to twelve. I loved it there. It was a place that felt like home, even when I could not understand the language and did not understand some parts of the culture. In some odd way, it felt familiar and comforting. My paternal grandmother is from the country, and that is the place I have my first concrete memories of her. I had met her in the past, but I could not remember her well before we crossed paths again overseas.

My formative memories are almost all from South Korea. I do not remember much of my time in the United States beforehand, aside from a handful of memories from rural Alabama. I stated before that moving there was not the hard part, and I stand by that. Leaving was the hard part.

South Korea had become home. It was the longest place I had lived anywhere, and leaving was far more difficult than I ever thought it would be. There is help for immigrants coming to the United States, but there was no help or understanding for a third-culture kid coming back to the United States after growing up into a different stage of life. The expectation is that you will adapt, that this is familiar to you and therefore there will be no culture shock.

The U.S. I returned to was far different from South Korea. It was far different than even my small memories of the United States told me. It felt like I was lost again, not knowing where to go or what to do. I had adapted to another country’s culture and felt lost in what is ‘my own.’ It was hard to talk to people. No one understood how I felt. There was just the silent expectation that I would get used to it, that I would be happy to be back ‘home.’

Living overseas was the most important experience of my life. The experience to understand a new country and to let it shape how I thought about and perceived the world around me. I was shaped by a country that was not mine to keep. I adapted to living in the United States again, but I will forever miss the host nation, the ‘grandmother land’ that made me who I am.

How the USO Supports Military Kids like Sarah

Life as a member of a military family can be challenging for everyone, especially military children who, while not wearing a uniform, still “serve” in their own way. The USO recognizes their sacrifice as well as their needs and continues to find ways to support them.

With over 250 USO Centers around the globe, many military children can turn to a USO Center as a familiar “home away from home,” no matter where they are stationed. Here, they will be provided kid-friendly activities that can help them feel and build a sense of community, as well as bond with other children who are going through the same challenges as they are. These Centers host programs for kids of various age groups and can be anything from arts and crafts activities and family game nights, to cooking classes and scavenger hunts.

Photo credit USO Photo

It can be challenging for military children to move every two to three years, leaving behind their friends, family and homes. That’s why the USO is committed to supporting military kids at our more than 250 USO Center locations around the world, providing a network of “home away from homes” that they can always turn to.

Aside from USO Centers each having their own programs for kids, these Centers are also home to the USO Reading Program, where both service members and military children can record themselves reading a book on camera, and send the recording as well as a copy of the book to their service member or child who is far and away.

USO Centers and programming continue to keep all military community members in mind. Whether it’s stateside, where military children are still often far from loved ones, or overseas where they are both far from home and in a new world completely unfamiliar to them, military children can always turn to their local USO Center for support and community.

Share Your Military Child Experience with the USO Military Kid Creative Showcase

Sarah’s story was shared with the USO as part of our USO Military Kid Creative Showcase - an effort to feature the individual experiences of military children.

Life as a military child can be a wild ride, full of adventures and challenges, as well as new friends, new schools, new cities and new countries. Here at the USO, we want to know what YOUR military life has been like and what makes it unique so that we can share your story with the world.

Whether you express it by art or in writing – via painting or sketches, essays or poems – we want military kids to answer one question: What does being a military kid mean to you?

Enter your military kid art or writing by visiting

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Every day, America’s service members selflessly put their lives on the line to keep us safe and free. Please take a moment to let our troops know how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice.


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