Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Okinawa, Iowa, Virginia, Kansas, Washington, and North Carolina again. No, this is not a travel brochure; these are the places I have lived. When people join the military and become soldiers, their families practically join with them. When pastors join the military and become chaplains, they commit to ministering to those soldiers, the chaplains’ families often helping. When one of those chaplains is GARBC Chaplain Jack Stumme and his wife is Cynthia Stumme, you get me, Clifford Stumme (18), and my three siblings, Jacob (16), Rachel (14), and Titus (13)—military brats.
“Military brats” is slang for “children of soldiers,” and while the “brat” part might be a bit unflattering, we wholeheartedly claim the title as well as the accompanying lifestyle. While moving and seeing Dad go off on deployments are a different life than what most would choose, I am grateful to God that men like my dad are willing to leave their families for a while to protect our country and to minister to soldiers. God has blessed military brats with great experiences, many of which are enjoyable, some of which are difficult, and all of which enable us to mature in Him.
Whether we want to or not, military brats get to see many new places. I love exploring the great diversity that God has given to the earth. Being a military brat gives me the perfect opportunities to do so. My brothers, sister, and I partially grew up in Okinawa, Japan, one of the coolest (not temperature-wise) places in the world. As children ages 2 to 10 over our time there, we got to meet a completely different culture up close. Learning about the Japanese culture, meeting veterans who stormed Okinawa in World War II, meeting survivors of the atomic bombs, playing in the East China Sea, and watching Japanese cultural dance performances excited us and broadened our minds.
As well as traveling, another great privilege of military brats is meeting a number of people. From Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to generals and soldiers to local civilians and friends in the GARBC—Jake, Rachel, Titus, and I have been blessed to meet quite a few different people, and other military brats have met even more! It is also exciting to meet Americans from around the country who pray for us and for my dad’s work. Chaplain John Murdoch, Dad’s chaplain endorser as director of Regular Baptist Chaplaincy Ministries, is a very direct supporter who we get to see quite often and who was at Dad’s recent promotion to lieutenant colonel. My family is also encouraged when we go back to our three home churches (Hagerman Baptist, Waterloo, Iowa; Emmanuel Baptist, Toledo, Ohio; and Walnut Ridge Baptist, Waterloo, Iowa) and meet old friends who welcome us no matter how many years we have been gone.
Being a military brat is not always easy. Watching my dad leave for Iraq was difficult, but the work he did over there convinced me that the separation was worth the discomfort. Some military fathers and mothers miss important events in their young children’s lives: sports, graduations, birthdays, and holidays, to name a few. But as we grow older, we realize more that what our parents are doing overseas is important. Dad was deployed with the XVIII Airborne Corps in February 2010 and got back in November 2011. Besides that, he has been on countless shorter deployments, sometimes stretching to three or four months. The work he does on deployments—counseling, chapel services, and being with the soldiers—is all the same work that he does stateside, but when he works in Iraq, I know that he is in a unique place where soldiers are more likely to ask questions about God and will listen to what God has to say.
The separation of families, be it from our extended family or within our nuclear family, is the most difficult part about being a military family. But we know that no matter what family members we may be separated from at any time, we always have a Father in Heaven Who is with us. God really does provide even in our difficulties.
As far as maturing experiences go, being a military brat is full of them. The one I have learned from the most is leaving old friends and making new ones. When we military brats get thrown together somewhere far away from our old homes and friends, we become friends quickly. As any military brat will attest, the times spent after dusk playing capture-the-flag or hide-and-seek in groups of 20 on a military base will forever be highlights of our childhood.
Of course, there are opportunities for us to serve as well. Being allowed to serve as greeters at many of the chapels that my family has attended has been a great experience for us and has helped guide us to the knowledge that our lives should and can be a service to others no matter where we are.
Being a military brat also allows me to meet people who are directly responsible for protecting our country. Very few experiences are more humbling than meeting men and women who have fought for our freedom—who protect us and preserve the freedom we enjoy.
God needs to be a big part of everyone’s life, and military brats are no exception. I encourage anyone going through difficult times to remember 2 Timothy 1:7. Paul says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” So we military brats know—and everyone else can know—that no matter what difficulties might require overcoming, God has “got our back” and we can be assured that He provides us with power, love, and a sound mind.
My family may continue moving, and we do not know where we could end up in the future. But if the last 16 years of Dad’s service have been any guide, God has the very best for us.
Clifford Stumme, a lifelong military brat, graduated from college at age 18. He is now serving as an intern in the United States Senate and will begin studying for his masters in English in spring 2013 at Liberty University. He is the son of Lt. Col. Jack Stumme, a GARBC Army chaplain.