Military children have always faced challenges of separation, transition and mobility, with service member parents moving frequently from state to state and out of the United States.

Post to post

Rahzel Lemott is a 15-year-old military student whose life differs significantly from those of his Virginia born-and-raised peers. Rahzel was born in Okinawa and both of his parents are marines. Rahzel has moved six times already and says it is sometimes hard to readjust each time.

When he was younger, the changes were easier, but getting older has presented challenges such as trying out for sports teams or transferring school credits. Educational standards vary from different states and countries and can cause military-connected children to fall behind or be too advanced when arriving at a new school.

Identifying a population

An obstacle affecting military children, and their performance in school and beyond, has been the absence of a nationwide military student identifier that would enable future studies to include data from each state, since military children live in every state in the nation.

"Mobility, transition, and family separation are just a few elements of being a military or veteran-connected child."

In December 2015, Congress passed the inclusion of a Military Student Identifier in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), enabling military leaders, educators and elected officials at all levels of government to understand how military-connected children are performing in school.

Today, nearly two million military-connected children and youth (birth through age 23) live with perpetual challenges presented by frequent moves, parental deployments and a host of life transitions that include reintegration and dealing with profoundly changed parents. The well-being of these children depends heavily on a network of supportive adults who are trained to identify early signs of emotional or physical challenges. The inclusion of the identifier in ESSA will provide the information needed to keep these adults informed.

Growing up fast

Military children are forever resilient. Despite the trials of relocating every couple years, Rahzel enjoyed the process. He says seeing new places is important to him. Rahzel has already traveled across a third of the planet, and he’s not yet able to legally drive.

The part of being a military child that is tough, to Rahzel, is seeing family leave for deployment and trying to persevere through their absence. His father has served three tours in Iraq, and Rahzel remembers that lacking a male role model was difficult for him. His mother, who builds aviation command control systems, was a great source of strength for him, but the absence of his father still affects him. Even though there were shifts in the family when his father returned from deployments, Rahzel says, “No one minded. We were just glad to have him back.”

Mobility, transition, and family separation are just a few elements of being a military or veteran-connected child. These children have grit, determination and perseverance pumping through their veins; they are proud to be a part of a military family and community. There are individuals and businesses across the world fighting to provide resources for these families. We thank these children for their sacrifice and will continue to fight for the children of those who serve us all.