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Military Child Laura Woods Shares Her Experience


The month of the military child is a time of the year for people to show their appreciation for the armed forces and acknowledge that it’s not just service members who make sacrifices to serve their country – their children make sacrifices as well.

We spoke with Laura Woods, daughter of Warrant Officer Brenda Morris, to hear about her experiences as a military child, and understand how they might differ from the child of civilian parents. Warrant Officer Brenda Morris has been serving in the Canadian Army for over 35-years. She has been on three overseas tours during her career, in Egypt, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. Laura explains some of the unique challenges she’s faced in her life as a military child.

“I feel like a lot of people don’t think about the family of Canadian Armed Force (CAF) members, let alone their children specifically. A CAF member needs to be strong, and they get trained to be so, yet there is no training or courses for the military children. We just endure. We learn life skills at accelerated speeds compared to other children our age.”

Being away from her mother for long periods of time, who was often in unknown situations, affected Laura in a way that is difficult for many of us to relate to. But Laura said these circumstances helped her to build a strong relationship with her mother.

“I’ve always been close with my mother – when she was deployed to Afghanistan we would Skype when I was getting ready for school, when she was finishing her workday, or when I was done with my homework in the evenings. We didn’t always get to speak, but when we did, we made it count and always expressed our love for each other.”

Laura has some traditions to honour and commemorate her mother’s service in the military.

“Remembrance Day ceremonies, we always attend together,” she says. “[In] 2023 I got to lay a wreath on behalf of the Mainland BC MFRC at the Victory Square Remembrance Day ceremony! I always treat my mum to dinner on her anniversary each September (when she joined the CAF).”

Another one of the constants in her childhood was moving. Born in Edmonton, Laura has also lived in New York State, and spent ages 9-12 attending four different schools in two different countries (USA and Canada), before spending her final high school years in Edmonton, where she asked her mother if she could manage her work so that Laura could graduate in the same city. Although it was difficult for Laura constantly being the new kid in school, she found some benefits along the way. Laura noted that constantly moving and being forced into new situations made her acutely observant of her surroundings, as well as introducing her to new experiences.

“[I’ve] definitely been exposed to more cultures and heritages having lived in many different places, but also having met so many different soldiers throughout my mother’s career. It’s beautiful to me that there are so many walks of life, backgrounds, ethnicities […] of our CAF. They all have different backgrounds but once they don their uniforms, they become one!”

The Canadian Armed Forces military children are bonded by circumstance. They are thrust into situations that force them to adapt and become independent more quickly than most of their peers. Although many of them are constantly on the move, the community is welcoming and supportive regardless of what country they’re in.

“When we lived in upstate NY is when I felt the most connected to other military families,” said Laura. “There were only a handful of other Canadian military families there, so the Canadian MFRC did such a good job at connecting all of us to each other and it really felt like a home away from home. We grew as a community together and having friends that have gone through or are currently going through the same things as you are, really helps you feel like you’re not alone.”

The Canadian MFRC’s ability to foster a welcoming and supportive environment is important for military children’s ability to adapt and cope with their given circumstances. Laura highlighted some of the most important lessons she learned on the move as a military child.

“I think it’s taught me resilience amongst other things. The resiliency to continue through all the unknowns. Growing up where you don’t have a family home because you move around so much, you don’t get the same kind of childhood as other kids do. I learned to make the most of wherever we were living at the time and make the most out of the friendships I’d form everywhere we moved to. [I learned] that home was who you surround yourself with, not just a house.”

Laura is part of a massive community of military children and has some advice for those in the same situation.

“From a young age we are challenged with our family member(s) going on work related absences whether that be training, or deployments, etc. Yes, a lot of civilian jobs have travel for work. But that travel for work doesn’t have the same sense of urgency or fear because we don’t know what will happen to our loved one whilst they are away. We know they are facing sometimes unmentionable experiences that will change them, but they are serving their country with pride and that gives us military children so much pride too. To my fellow military children, no matter what age you are, no matter which family member(s) are serving or have served: we are strong, we are resilient, and we are not alone. You never leave the community – once you’re born into a military family, you are family for life.”

Stories like Laura’s illuminate the importance of the month of the military child and increasing our collective understanding of the experiences of military children and the sacrifices they and their families make.

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