Diary of… a daughter of a soldier

K. Melyssa Murphy is Vice President of the Student Association in the School of Humanities & Social Sciences and is in the application process for the doctoral program in Child & Family Development at the University of Georgia. She is a single mother of two boys and says she is incredibly blessed. Murphy hopes to adopt a third child in the next four years from Ethiopia.

The finish line is so close. After this one, there will be another one because what is life without goals? Thinking back on all the stepping stones that got me to where I am today, I am amazed.

There have been days where I thought, “Nothing beneficial can come out of this.” Some of my earliest memories I have are of my entire family clinging onto each other in an airport and crying. My father was a soldier in the army and he was about to go on his first deployment. I was five years old. When I saw my father cry for the first time, I couldn’t help but burst into tears. After the airport, I felt a need to be strong for my mother and little sister. I never cried in public.

My father was an American soldier and I, along with the other family members in the meeting, were “the real backbone of the Army.”  My heart broke and I couldn’t understand how I was supposed to feel pride at that moment, like the generals had instructed us at the pre-deployment family meetings.  All I could feel was dread. I was a little girl who was going to miss her daddy.

When my father returned, I was burdened with a heavy guilt at the same airport he had left us. I couldn’t remember what my father looked like. The thought of the picture of him on my nightstand was distorted by old memories. When I saw his face for the first time after missed holidays and birthdays, I was the happiest little girl in the world. Our relationship was very strong afterward, and I wouldn’t leave his side.

Seven years later, we were told that my father would have to deploy again. I didn’t think I ever had to relive that nightmare. We were stationed at a different base, but the same familiar haunting thoughts of the pre–deployment family meetings became reality. “You are what make this Army strong,” the man in the camouflage explained to us. He wasn’t loud like I had remembered the last general to be. He was choking up as he looked at his wife and children in the crowd next to my family.

The imprint that these events had in my life, leaves me with a profound thought as I currently study therapy. Where was the help for these families? For my family? We were expected to feel strong when we lost the men and women in our families that made us that way.

I’m now a second-year graduate student in the Marriage & Family therapy program at NSU. Through my studies, it’s been easy to focus on what my passion would be in this field. I believe resources for military families, the forgotten victims of attachment issues, post-traumatic stress disorder and uprooting, should be much more prevalent. With the systemic focus that family therapy allows, perspectives of partners, parents, siblings and children should be explored. I believe more therapeutic tools for military families will allow them to relate to others going through similar issues.

I have two handsome little boys who are the light of my life. I would never want them to have to watch mommy go away on deployment or to experience constant relocation throughout their lives. Going to five different elementary schools as a child really shaped my personality. I’m extremely comfortable in a room full of strangers, but I wouldn’t want my children to have to learn to be outgoing because their mom is in the Army. It’s a very lonely path in society.

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