Relocation is hard. For the average military family, deployment orders result in separations from families and goodbyes to friends. The brunt of the relocation typically affects the children.
On Guam, military students from Guam High School shared their experiences. Transition means new friends and different cultures but also distance away from friends and families.
For junior Alex Manlucu, the island is relatively new. Manlucu first moved to Guam in January 2016 after living in Arizona and California.
“I’ve only moved three times because my dad is new to the military, but during those years, I moved schools. Even if I was staying in one place, I still had to move because it’s part of being in the military,” said Manlucu.
When Manlucu moved to Guam, the island’s beaches and hiking spots eased her into the new location. Compared to deserts in Arizona, Guam’s proximity to the waters are more comforting. Manlucu is also grateful she will not move again until after graduation. “That’s pretty cool because it doesn’t happen to us very often,” she said.
Deployment orders vary based on the family. According to Manlucu, some families receive orders a year in advance and others, two weeks before moving.
“As military kids, we go into new schools knowing we won’t build strong relationships,” said Manlucu. Many of her classmates don’t pack their items and instead, keep belongings in boxes to anticipate the next deployment.
When receiving a deployment order, most military kids immediately prepare for the new transition. “Receiving a deployment is not new. Rather being sad, I ask, ‘When are we going to go? How much time do we have? How’s the place like, and what do I expect?,” said Manlucu. Military children are often seen searching up their next home, whether it be a new city, country, or continent. Looking into the new locations is exciting, enthralling, and surprising.
Sometimes, sudden orders are disappointing but not surprising. “It’s disappointing if you really like the place you’re at, but that’s the life you’re given, and that’s how it has been for the majority of us,” said Manlucu. Military children understand the importance of transitioning and adjusting to new cultures.
For a majority of military kids, students value the opportunities to meet new people. “Military kids are lucky to travel and see parts of the world that non-military kids will know about,” said sophomore Shelby Sanders. Born in Louisiana, Sanders lived in Okinawa, Japan for 11 years before moving to Guam.
The relocation was not easy. “A lot of military kids are apprehensive when they adjust to new places. You make new friends, or you don’t make any at all,” said Sanders.
“It’s hard to fit in, trying to find yourself at different schools. Sometimes you pretend to be just to fit in, but that’s not a good thing,” said Sanders. She suggested military children should remain true to their personalities. Friendships may take long to form, but will occur nonetheless.
“When I first moved to Guam, I went on a tour and saw beautiful places. But I also some edgy, sketchy locations,” said Sanders. Though Sanders was initially ambivalent about their island, Guam has grown on her mentally, and she now appreciates the food and warm culture.
For Sanders, new locations complicate friendship developments. For sophomore Lexi Blyth, relocations complicate her sport interests.
“If you’re super into sports, you can’t be on a travel team and stay on for a long time,” said Blyth. Born in Virginia, Blyth moved to California when she was ten, and stayed for two years before moving to Guam. She is scheduled to leave in the summer 2019.
Since Blyth moved to Guam in the middle of her eighth grade year, the sudden transition was difficult. “I had never moved so far away from my family. Meeting new people halfway through my last year in middle school was hard,” said Blyth.
Blyth has since adjusted. Though she misses her softball opportunities and amusement parks, she spends time swimming, hiking, and diving. According to Blyth, people on Guam are more friendly than those in the mainland.
For Guam High senior, Saphira Abrahamson, moving is a tradition. Abrahamson has moved ten times to locations in the US, Turkey, and Spain. In 2015, she moved to Guam.
“As I got older, I understood moving isn’t easy because you have to transition and make new friends,” said Abrahamson. However, she appreciates the opportunities to experience new cultures. When Abrahamson grows older, she aspires to travel the world more than she already has.
For junior Addison Hawkes, Guam was entirely different from her past homes. At the age of five, Hawkes met her step-father at the Utah Air Force base. Her family then moved to Washington before living in Delaware. To date, Hawkes has lived on Guam for a year and a half. She plans to stay until high school graduation.
“When I first get to a new location, I get really really sad,” said Hawkes. Once she starts making friends, she does not want to leave. According to Hawkes, maintaining contact with her friends is hard, considering time zones and social media differences. Hawkes typically talks to old friends through Instagram and email.
Given her trips to different parts of the East Coast, Hawkes remarked how she appreciates new cultures and people. At a young age, she has had the opportunity to visit metropolitan cities such as Philadelphia and Washington D.C.. The fun has its disadvantages.
“I really miss my friends in Idaho, and I get really sad when I see them going to dances without me,” said Hawkes. She regularly reminds herself that she lives on a tropical island, and the beaches keeps her occupied and happy.
Although Guam High is Hawkes’s second military school, Hawkes attended public school throughout her education years. “I’m unique because I’m a military child and I’ve been to many different places. I try to make friends so I can hang out with them, but it’s hard. It took me a really long time to make friends after I left Idaho,” said Hawkes. Making new friends is not an easy task, but Hawkes convinces her to develop new friends.
Despite the friendship difficulties, Hawkes mentioned she is grateful in growing up as a military child. In the future, “it would be cool to move around because you see new places, cultures, and people,” said Hawkes.
For senior Jazen Sotomil, watching his friends move to new places is hard. Sotomil’s parents work at Guam High, so he grew up on island but met military children who come and go. At Guam High, new students are normal, and when Sotomil meets a new students, he tries to stay open and welcome them. Unfortunately, a number of his closer friends have moved away.
“I’ve met my fair share of students who feel both happy and sad. They’re happy being able to move here and excited to move to a different place. But I’ve also met those who are sad because it’s a new place they’re going to, and they’re going to move again in a year or two,” said Sotomil. He remarked that overall, students are open to the new community.
“It is unfortunate that I have met students who feel disconnected because they’ve moved to so many places and don’t have a true home,” said Sotomil. For those who don’t enjoy moving to new locations, “home” is a hard concept to define, and of the many reasons relocation is hard.
“Personally, I never see myself joining the military. But traveling and moving around the world to see different places and experience different communities, I would definitely want to do that,” said Sotomil.
For children of military parents or those who grew up in military affiliated communities, relocation is hard. Whether moving away from friends or family, the traveling experiences ensure different exposure to language, culture, and people. However, one should stay optimistic and embrace the different environments because after all, constant traveling is a rare privilege.