Lessons Learned from My 25 Years as an Army Brat
Being an Army brat has shaped me into the person I am today and I have learned SO much from it. This year, my father *officially* retired from the Army after 28 years of military service. During his military career, he held many positions at many different bases, around the world. Our family moved no less than 8 times, not including his 4 tours-of-duty overseas. I may also add that he began his career as a fresh, green "Private" and through his hard work and determination, rose through the ranks, retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Through all of this he managed to stay the amazing father and husband that he is today. I had a long, adventurous childhood. It was amazing and tough and fun. You learn a lot; about yourself, the world, and your family.
Home is Where The Army Takes You
This is a very common saying in the military world, and the most relate-able. This is one of my favorite things about myself...I LOVE to travel. Anywhere. Anytime. I know this stems from growing up and constantly being on the move, and I love it! Not only did I move around a lot, but my parents always tried their best to show us the world and we explored every location the Army sent us! We spent 6 years in Europe, and we traveled almost everywhere. I ate croissants in Paris, rode a gondola in Italy, visited Oktoberfest in Munich, rode a double-decker bus in London, skied the Swiss Alps...I could go on all day. I feel very blessed and thankful for all of this. You learn to make the best out of everything around you, no matter where you live. We were stationed in Oklahoma a few times, and while it wasn't our favorite place, we made the best of it. From this, you learn to find cool places wherever you go, and I am glad I have brought this into adulthood with me.
Pride + Respect
This may sound cheesy, but being an army brat for my entire life, fills your heart with pride and patriotism. I truly LOVE my country and respect our freedoms. I always support our military service members and their families alike, especially during patriotic holiday's like Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, etc. Growing up, I was surrounded by honorable men and women who sacrifice so much for our country. Having a heart full of pride becomes a part of who you are. I am proud to say I am an American, and an Army brat! It's an amazing experience. Along with my pride for America, I learned a genuine respect for those in uniform, our flag, our rights. Every active duty person walking around the PX growing up was most likely deployed at some point and sacrificed something special to them. Respect them, and respect their families who have also been through a lot. And always stay humble.
This hashtag started when I was training for my first half marathon. My dad would drive to Statesboro for the day to train with me on our long run days (yes I'm a daddy's girl I know) and he would whisper "Ripa's Never Quit" in my ear when I wanted to slow down. LOL. It always worked, and it always made me faster! The hashtag started later in life, but the idea of it was always around. Being a military brat and having a military father makes you tough! You learn that things could always be worse, be grateful for what you have, and never give up...and RIPAS NEVER QUIT.
Everything is Temporary
This is something I always repeat to myself, and others around. Everything is temporary. Nothing is permanent. This may sound silly, but if you are having a bad day, tomorrow will be better. If you hate your job, you won't be there forever. Basically, if you are sad or unhappy, it will change. As long as you move towards changing that. This sounds like it is turning into a therapy session, but the point I am making is that nothing is permanent. When my father was deployed, it was hard, but we all knew he'd come home and it would be better. Traveling and moving made me realize how big the world is and how not to get upset at the little things. This too shall pass, so don't get too invested in something that is making you unhappy. I am a firm believer of living in the moment, trusting your gut and doing exactly what you want to do. This can be referred to many life events, whether it is a tough time or a life decision. Travel. Take that job. Move to that city. Go on that date. Take a chance. You can't go back and make something happen, but you can always change what is currently happening because it is temporary and it will change.
Being an Army brat has allowed me to be very outgoing and able to adapt in many environments. Whether its a new city, friend, school, etc, you have to force yourself to get used to the new surrounding you are in. You had to learn to make new friends every time you moved, and you also had to learn to let go very easily because you were probably moving again. I feel very blessed with a great group of friends that I made after moving to Georgia and and going to high school and college with. They are basically my family and I love them like they are blood. I met my best friend, Mariana, when she moved across the street from me the summer before 8th grade. Being the Army brat I am, I heard someone in my grade moved across the street and I ran over instantly and knocked on the door and asked if she wanted to be friends, LOL. Well the rest is history and she's still my best friend to this day. If I was not a military brat, who knows if I would have had the courage to do that. I am always trying to include friends and family in things, because I hate being left out, and I know how it feels. To move and know nobody. Having a childhood where you constantly have to move and meet new people will basically force you into becoming an extrovert.
Family is Everything
My biggest takeaway from being a military brat: my family is my life. We all stuck together our whole childhood. We always stuck up for each other, because we only had each other. My brother was my best friend growing up. We were always attached at the hip and in the same group of friends, and it is still this way to this day. Moving and traveling so much has made us all very close, no matter what is happening. Through the good times and the bad. My extended family all lives in Newport, Rhode Island, and as much as we all love them and love visiting, we are very distant from them. This is another thing that made my immediate family extremely close. At the end of the day, you can always count on your family. Most people learned this after they grew up, but being a military brat made me learn this from day 1. Now we are not perfect - and we've all had our fights (like going on road trips for hours throughout Europe and wanting to kill each other), but at the end of the day they are my best friends.
Through all of the travels, laughs, and tears, I wouldn't change it for the world. I am so thankful for such a wonderful life and a wonderful family. Thank you, Army. And thank you LTC Ripa. We love you and we are so proud of you and thankful your service, and we can't wait to see what you accomplish next!