Certain opinions and luxuries exist in the civilian world that just can’t logistically survive in the military community. Oh, you’ve lived in that house your whole adult life and you’ve etched your kids’ height from birth to adulthood in the doorframe? Can’t relate. You say you just don’t know what you’ll do while your spouse is away on business for 36 hours. Bless your tender heart. And, we’re sorry, did you say you don’t believe in guns?
But, there goes one now. We can see it with our own peepers. It’s on the gate guard’s belt. It’s over the shoulder of that Marine on patrol. It’s on the front of that tank we just got stuck behind on base for two and a half miles.
Perhaps more than ever, guns are a hot-button issue in the United States. In one corner we have people gripping their guns with white knuckles, reciting the second amendment with gusto, and in the other corner, we have folks ready to disarm the nation completely.
Meanwhile, in the military community, we’re just here for the comments. We hear both sides of the debate; we have our own views, sure, but we know guns in our world are here to stay. Think about it, you close down the armory on a military installation and you’re really just left with a bunch of beige buildings with a fence around them.
Military Kids and Guns
For a military kid, there’s no denying guns exist. They’re non-fiction, right there in the pile with other non-negotiables, like moving all the dang time and really wanting dad to be at your soccer game, but he’s off saving lives and protecting freedom and stuff. The military’s mission is defense (it’s right there in the name, Department of Defense). As long as we are to defend ourselves against an enemy armed with guns, it behooves us to also be packing.
Does this mean every service member keeps a gun safe in the closet and every military spouse has a punch card at the shooting range? No, just like literally every other social debate you can think of, there is a wide range of opinions about guns in the military community. These opinions are complex. They’re supported by life experiences, upbringing, and often political affiliation. Complex opinions work in adult brains. They don’t work on young minds, though — for military kids, like any other kids, there is right and wrong, good and bad. This is where the relationship between military kids and guns gets touchy.
Walking by a DoDEA playground, you’re sure to hear a few pew-pews, but we’re pretty sure that’s a universal childhood thing dating back to Cops and Robbers. The difference between military kids and guns and civilian kids and guns is exposure and context.
Military kids see guns on the regular. There goes another armed convoy working its way through base housing. Our kids knock on the backseat window to wave at the armed gate guard wearing a bulletproof vest (quite enthusiastically, we might add). They probably don’t even jump when they’re being pushed in the jogging stroller through an armed patrol on a random Tuesday. Why would they be alarmed? The service members are the good guys, and the good guys have the guns — rest easy!
Dare we say guns are even cool to military kids? Who’s the toughest person a military kid knows? It’s their uniformed parent. (We know, we kind of wanted it to be a dead heat with their military-spouse parent — always a bridesmaid, never a bride…)
Next time you’re at a military ceremony, like a change of command, watch your child’s eyes light up as they follow the twirling guns with pure fascination.
Civilian Cultural Awareness
As protected as we are in the military-community bubble, there’s a great big world out there, and the line between the gun believers and non-believers is a little more apparent. Out in the real world, the good guys aren’t the only ones with guns, which makes that simple black-and-white understanding of guns turn gray really quickly for a military kid.
You’ll likely get all kinds of curious questions. You’ll likely have to be proactive in explaining the difference between toys and real guns. You may even have to do damage control when your child’s teacher tells the class how bad guns are and your military kid cannot compute why his good-guy parent uses one at work.
If you feel like those conversations are still years away (because you can’t even see military retirement from where you’re standing), think about this: In both civilian and DoDEA schools, kids practice active-shooter drills. They see — if even unintentional glimpses — guns on TV and in movies. They hear other kids (likely themselves misinformed) talk about guns. Even in the safety of base, kids are ever-so-slightly exposed to the scary side of guns and misinformation.
For our kids’ protection out in the real world outside the gates, it’s important to instill a basic understanding, if not a healthy fear of guns. No matter which side of the second amendment you’re on and whether or not you choose to keep a gun in your home, there’s no denying guns on base. You can’t ignore them, and in a way, that is an advantage that we have over the civilian world. We don’t have to waste time debating whether or not guns should be a part of our lives and our kids’ lives. They already are. Instead, we can accept that (with whatever level of enthusiasm our own opinions will tolerate), and move on to focusing on protecting our kids with age-appropriate conversations about gun safety.
Photo Credits: Renee Slusser