Every Veterans Day, we celebrate those who have sacrificed so much to ensure freedom both at home in the United States and abroad. Today, we at the University of North Georgia Press celebrate both veterans and their families.
Corey Parson, the Managing Editor of the UNG Press, spent half her childhood growing up in a military family. Below are some reflections from her and her parents about moving, home life, and staying close during their time as a military family.
Kelly, what influenced you to start a career in the military? How did your training and experiences affect your post-military career?
Kelly: For the first sixteen years of my life, my dad was enlisted in the Navy, and I was later active duty military. During my sophomore year of college, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I visited the nearest military base with my parents. Being back on base, the sense of community, the sense of commonality, I realized I missed that sense of belonging to a special group. Shortly after that trip, I met with one of the officers of the Navy ROTC unit, signed my paperwork, attended my version of boot camp (called the Naval Science Institute), and became a midshipman at Iowa State University NROTC.
While in the Navy, I learned leadership, team work, self-direction, and bringing value to the organization beyond a mere job description. I earned medals and the rank of lieutenant commander. I received my masters in management through the Naval Postgraduate Schools while on active duty. I continued to use the skills and the lessons learned in the military throughout my professional life.
Rich and Corey, how did being a military spouse and “brat” impact your career choices?
Rich: It is very hard to have a career as the spouse of a military member. I think it is kind of understood that the military career comes first. As long as that is understood, and it was in my situation, you can work on other things so that when the time comes and the military is no longer in the picture, you are ready for your career. In my situation, I was the husband of a naval officer. This gave me the opportunity to further my education and have the opportunity to take a more hands on role in raising my kids, something that not all dads get a chance to do.
Corey: Given that my mother, uncle, and my grandfather all served in the military, I expected myself to follow in their footsteps. I did give it a go, kind of, when I joined the Police Explorers in Alpharetta, GA. The program gave teenagers a chance to experience police training and exercises, working alongside commissioned police officers as their teachers and trainers. After that first meeting/training exercise, I quickly learned that the military life was not for me. They had me running in the rain in the middle of winter! My parents never pressured me to serve, and for that I am thankful. Instead, they encouraged me to follow my dreams. After getting married and having my first child, I enrolled at the University of North Georgia, the senior military college of Georgia. In the end, I ended up serving in a different way as Managing Editor of the UNG Press. Through our partnership with AUSA, we publish military titles and support military members and veterans as our authors and readers.
How did you share the load of the household responsibilities and chores? How did you provide a safe space for each other?
Kelly: My spouse was able to take several months off of work and/or school to care for our two children after they were born. That allowed me to continue to serve on active duty. We looked for shortcuts to household chores, and at different times, individually, we did more than the other based on what else was going on with work and family. We often chose more time with family and lived with a messy house.
Rich: As a military family, you realize very quickly that you must work as a team. There is no such thing as “that is not my job.” You do what is needs to be done. You support each other and help each other so that the family thrives. We found ourselves 1,200 miles away from any family just weeks after being married. All we had was each other. This made our relationship stronger and forced us to work together.
Corey: I will always admire my parents for their ability to keep a home while they both had so much on their plates. Home was always a safe place for me as a kid. To hear them tell it, we lived in a pig sty, but that is very far from the truth. No matter how many different houses or apartments we lived in, they always managed to make it feel like home. Shelter and security are very important for children as they grow up. I lucked out by having two great parents who provided both shelter and security in more ways than one.
What were the pros and cons of having to move so often due to Kelly’s career in the Navy?
Kelly: As I child, I lived in four states, three countries, and two U.S. territories. For me, it made it easy for me to make friends each time I moved.
While active duty, moving gave us the opportunity to live in three different states and experience travel across the country. I always felt guilty because my spouse didn’t get to use his college major and didn’t get much of a chance to build a career because of our moving. Eventually, we decided to send him to law school, with the hope that he’d also be able to join the Navy and we could both have flourishing careers. Unfortunately, my spouse was not able to join the JAG Corps. At about the same time, I got a terrific opportunity in the private sector, so we made the difficult decision to leave the military so that we could both have the careers we wanted.
Rich: Moving is hard, but it gives you the opportunity to experience new places and things. Moving is stressful and can take a toll on kids (friends and school) and relationships. Having a career is very hard when you move a lot. I loved all that we got to see and do. I worked a number of jobs, but did not have a career until my wife left the military.
Corey: Moving as a young child was difficult as I would have to leave my friends and my school and start some place new. As an adult now, I consider myself very lucky to have lived on both coasts of the United States. I traveled more as a child than many adults ever have the opportunity to so I consider myself very blessed to have had that experience. Meeting so many new people also helped me to develop my social skills and other soft skills from a very young age.
How was childcare divided up? How did you handle school events? How did you support the children when moving schools?
Kelly: After initially staying home with the children when they were infants, my spouse eventually returned to work full and part time and completed his undergraduate degree full and part time. Depending on schedules, one of us would drop off and pick up the children from daycare. Sometimes it was more mom. Sometimes it was more dad. While I wasn’t deployed away from family for long stretches like many military members, I did have temporary duty assignments that caused me to travel around the United States. During those times, it was all on my spouse to keep things going at home. He used to joke that his job was to keep the kids alive when mom was gone. And if they were still alive when I got back, he’d done his job.
Rich: As I stated before, we are a team. We did what needs to be done. Whoever could take the kids took the kids. We made sure that they got to events and were supported in any endeavors they wanted to undertake. One of the reasons that we decided to get out of the military was so that our kids could feel more secure in their friendships and schools. We decided to get out of the military so that the kids could feel grounded.
Corey: I was very lucky that throughout my childhood, my mom remained stateside, though she did sometimes travel. I had more time with my mom than many other military children have with their servicemember parent. I also had a lot of time with my dad growing up. I have fond memories of both my parents attending important school functions. I also had a lot of time with my dad while he was between jobs after a move, so that improved our relationship tremendously. I still fondly remember seeing his smiling face in the afternoons after getting off the school bus.
How has being a part of a military family helped you?
Kelly: As a child, I benefited from meeting people from all walks of life, races, and all parts of the United States. When my dad was stationed in Europe, my parents did an outstanding job of introducing us to other countries, cultures, art, environments and experiences.
As an adult, I’m very proud of my service and extremely grateful to my husband and children for their support. My husband was my biggest supporter of my military career and proud of his wife, the Naval officer.
Rich: The military allowed me to see and experience a lot of things. It help me build a strong relationship with my wife. It helped me take on a more hands on experience with raising my kids. It made me realize that, as a team, a family can accomplish anything.
Corey: The greatest gift being in a military family has given me is the appreciation for diversity. Especially when we lived on base, there were families of all colors, cultures, religions, etc., all gathered together in one place. It helped me to appreciate the melting pot of the United States and how we all contribute to this country in different ways.
I also learned how to persevere from my parents. Throughout their relationship, they faced many unknowns and many hardships. Yet they never quit. Instead, they depended on each other for stability and found a way to move forward. This is something I hope to teach my children.
Corey Parson is the Managing Editor of the University of North Georgia Press. When not working, she enjoys watching horror movies with her husband and spending time with her two daughters.
Kelly Vandever served as an officer in the US Navy from 1985–1996 rising to the rank of lieutenant commander. After leaving the Navy, Kelly was a leader in corporate America for thirteen years, then became a professional speaker and trainer working with leaders from over two hundred organizations for ten years. Kelly is currently a real estate agent with Keller Williams, an online teacher with the award-winning online training platform Bigger Brains, and a certified RiderCoach with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
In her free time, Kelly loves to hang with family, friends, and grandchildren. Or you might find her riding her Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 XL or her Ninja 400. She’s also active in the Speakers Roundtable Advanced Toastmasters Club and Alpharetta Presbyterian Church. At home, she’s happily married to her college sweetheart, mom to two wonderful children, mother-in-law to awesome children-in-law, nana to three terrific grandchildren, and the pet guardian of a goofy lab mix named Dude.
Rich Vandever is a husband, father and grandfather. He has been an Assistant District Attorney for the last 25 years. He and his wife and enjoy riding motorcycles together and planning cross-country motorcycle trips. He says being a grandparent is great! He has two granddaughters and a grandson with whom they love to spend time with.