By Sally Robyn, wife of Colonel (Ret) Eric Robyn
“You’ve never taken us to Disney World. Why do we miss out on all the fun?”
These complaints came as a chorus from our two sons on arrival back in the States in 1987 from a five-year tour in Belgium and Germany. The boys, Paul at sixteen and Jed at ten, were disappointed that summer plans did not leave time for a trip to Florida from Oklahoma while we waited on housing at Ft. Sill and Eric began preparation for battalion command. They wanted to lay a guilt trip on us, their parents, and they felt very sorry for themselves with this perceived notion of missing out. Military brats do give up a lot, but they (and we) do often forget the many benefits that come our way.
No question that life in the military is often busy just doing the next thing, packing for a new assignment, seemingly on the heels of unpacking the last box at the current one. It is full of adjustments: new schools, new friends, new foods, new experiences, while at the same time full of sad realities: leaving extended family, friends, sports teams and familiar places behind.
While much of this turbulence and change is viewed by the civilian culture as a “negative” we chose to view it as a “positive” influence in our lives and in the boys’ formative years. We and they became much more flexible and adaptable to new situations, learned to extend ourselves in making friends, and grew from the cultural diversity of living in many different places in the US and Europe. Often asked if changing schools so often was a hindrance to the boys’ education, I would enthusiastically say no, it was an opportunity to expand their horizons. They learned first-hand about local customs, countries and history others only read about.
Now back to the boys’ sad lament about not getting to go to Disney. Yes, they missed it
and a few other opportunities along the way. But, hey, Paul and Jed saw the real Cinderella’s castle, Neuschwanstein, and much of what is at Epcot for real! They skied in the Alps, toured the Tower of London, lived in a 2000-year-old city, Augsburg, that began as a Roman outpost, and visited the battlefields of both World Wars. They attended the Passion Play in Oberammergau, a centuries-old retelling of the life of Christ dating to the Middle Ages, and visited the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem as well as the concentration camp at Dachau. These sobering experiences, by being seen up close and personal, taught as no book ever could. So during that summer the boys hopes were thwarted, I reminded them of their unique experiences and Paul, in particular, of his exceptional opportunity of going with his Boy Scout troop to Berlin and his Model UN class to The Hague, Netherlands.
Since that summer of 1987 both Paul and Jed have taken their families to the Disney theme parks. As grandparents we, too, at last enjoyed the trip to Orlando. As with all vacations and travel adventure, it is now a fond memory recalled by pictures in photo albums. What endures is the benefit of our 13 Army moves, the many friends who shared the journey, and the positive way our experiences molded and challenged each one of us.
On balance, I don’t think any one of us would say we missed out.