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What it means to be an American to me is to be free. My parents are both retired military personnel, and growing up on military bases is all I’ve known since before moving to Harrisburg. I got to live coast to coast and experience so many cool things. I have friends all over the world. These are the nice things about being a military kid.

The not so nice thing is having your parents leave for long periods of time. The longest I went without seeing my dad was 9 months and my mom was 7 months. Together, my parents have gone on nine deployments, two times at the same time. My sister and I lived with my grandparents until they came home. We had to adjust to different schools. It’s been taught to me my whole life that freedom is never free and never comes easy. Many people have fought and died for me, for this life I get to live. Many moms and dads have had to go overseas to protect us and leave their kids behind.

I learned from a young age what sacrifice meant, and how families also serve and make sacrifices right alongside the military members. My parents have missed birthdays, Christmas, and other important events. I learned how to stay strong when my parents were away and how to support my friends when their parents were away. Although there’ve been hard times. I’m so thankful to have had these experiences and proud to be a military kid.

I’m also so thankful my parents are now retired and don’t have to be gone anymore. I’ll never forget when my parents said, “Rachel, we are moving to Harrisburg SD.” My mom is from South Dakota and she wanted to move back to finish raising us around her family. I have a lot of family around Sioux Falls. I was nervous to move to Harrisburg, because I’ve never experienced life that wasn’t by a military base. Although I had moved several times, I didn’t know what to expect with this move.

I had butterflies in my stomach as I walked into the school the first day and I was a quiet kid. The first person I met was my friend Kenzley, and then I started to feel more comfortable. After I met Kenzley I met my best friend, Harlee. Her and I clicked right away, and I thought she was hilarious with all of the funny stuff she said. In the middle of the school year I started to make more and more friends and I just felt right until I found out Kenzley was moving and I felt sad. The day came, and Harlee and I were sad to see her go, but we had to stay strong. Since she moved I still talk to her and she told me that she is going to come back and visit in December to hang out.

Harlee and I are excited to hear that Kenzley is coming back for a visit. I miss Kenzley, but I’m so thankful for my other friends I’ve made in school. They have made my adjustment easy and fun. I really enjoy coming to school and being able to see them every day. Harlee has become my closest friend and I hope we are friends forever. She is always there to put a smile on my face.

She just gets me, and I get her.

After all this, I’m thankful to be an American, and I’m thankful for my friends. I’m able to live a great life and I’m able to laugh with my friends. I guess I can say I have a ton to be thankful for in my life.

© Rachel Kelly. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.