Most of my life has revolved around the military. Both my grandfather, Thomas Henry Bond, and my dad, Thomas Henry Bond Jr., were submariners in the Navy. Now, my older brother Thomas Henry Bond 3rd is a Super Hornet fighter pilot in the Navy. For the first eleven years of my life, I was a military brat. I got to travel, live in different countries, and experience things that most kids my age have not. Growing up as a military kid has taught me life lessons that I will hold on to forever.
Having a loved one in a deadly situation has been one of the hardest parts of military life for me. Yet as a person of faith, I have been tested many times through my life, in the end making me spiritually stronger.
My dad was stationed in Iraq for fourteen months when I was seven years old. During that time, my family would have morning devotions every day. We would pray for my dad’s safety and protection as he would go about his daily life overseas. Once during Christmas when we were all at my grandparents’ house, my dad called from Iraq to wish my mom a Merry Christmas. During their conversation, he panickily said, “I got to go!” and abruptly hung up. My mom quickly ran into the house and told my family. We all started praying for his safety.
Later we found out that a missile hit part of the building he was in. An alarm had gone off and he quickly hung up with my mom to take cover on the floor and brace for impact. Similar situations happened two other times during his deployment.
He later told us that when alarms for incoming missiles would start going off, there would be from three to eight seconds to take cover before impact. If they were within reach, my dad would grab his helmet and flak jacket for extra protection. My dad was once as close as 60 yards away from an explosion. Another time during a troop transport, a Humvee had just left the gate and went over an explosive device, killing all the passengers. At that time, my dad was from 100 to 200 yards away. During his time in Iraq, there was an understood rule that whenever he was standing in one location he should be swaying, never staying in the same spot for too long. This would make getting shot by a sniper, a common thing, much more difficult. In one of my dad’s many missions, he provided deterrence against Russia in Operation Desert Storm.
One of the incredible parts of being in the military was traveling. I moved to four different states and one country before I was nine. When I was five years old, I lived in Italy for two years. During that time, I had unbelievable experiences traveling through Italy and to other countries. I played with monkeys in Gibraltar, camped in France, and learned to ski in the German Alps. I have visited about 17 countries in my 17 years and only have three US states left to travel to. Although I was only five years old, with the help of pictures and videos, I have kept many memories from my adventures.
There is an incredible feeling one gets when a military jet screams by through the sky. Two summers ago, I had the opportunity to watch my brother, the Super Hornet jet pilot, do touch-and-goes on an airstrip in Virginia Beach. When Henry told us that we would be watching him fly, I thought that we would be watching him from a building off to the side away from all the action. My, was I wrong. We went to the military airport and followed Henry as he gave us a tour of the facility. We took pictures next to jets and got to sit in through a real preflight briefing. All the pilots left, including my brother, leaving us with the instructor. He told us the plan and gave us directions to the runway. My family and the friends with us all climbed into our car and drove to the site. We drove through the gate and proceeded to take a road leading directly on to the airstrip. We followed the instructor’s car to a small control room surrounded by windows in the middle of the runway. The instructor proceeded to walk us out to the runway where the jets would be landing. We saw the seven jets out far coming closer to us.
That day I stood several yards away from a landing jet. As my brother would land, he would sometimes give us a wave. We got incredible pictures of a landing jet right behind us. I even got to give the landing commands to my brother on the radio right before he did his touch-and-go. I will never forget that day as long as I live. I left the airstrip with black streaks of jet fuel all over my clothes and a smile on my face.
All of these cultural experiences have helped shape me into who I am today. I have been trained to embrace diversity and adapt to change. I have had to learn how to live without any friends. I have had to say goodbye to friends. Being in a military family has taught me the importance of family as well. Although military life as hard, I would not give it up for the world
I am thankful for my dad, grandpa, and brother for putting their lives on the line to protect my country. I am thankful for all of the hard nights of crying in my mom’s arms, fearful for my dad’s safety. As I sit here today knowing that my brother is on an aircraft carrier this very moment, I am thankful for God, and knowing that He is protecting my brother. Having people I love put their lives on the line helps me appreciate all of the veterans and current military personnel so much more. Throughout my military life, I have had many insane experiences. I know that as my life goes on and I get older, I will have many more stories like these to tell.