'Dreaming of Grand Forks, North Dakota: My Life As a Military Kid'

Grand Forks, North Dakota.

There was something magical and comforting about Grand Forks that made my 10-year-old self long to move back. Maybe it was the length of time my family was stationed there?

After all, I attended the same school for four years, the longest stretch of my time in any school. Perhaps I dreamed what life would be like if I could be like every other kid in my class, everyone would grow up together and I would be that girl that used to live in Grand Forks.

Grand Forks was comfy and cozy for me and when it was time, at the end of fourth grade, my family was assigned to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS.

You couldn't get any farther in lifestyle and culture than North Dakota to Mississippi. I stuck out like a sore thumb…or like an American flag in a sea of Confederate flags.

My family always PCS'd (permanent change of station) during the summertime.


It made moving easy; my little sister and I were able to finish the school year, say our goodbyes and help with the move. Summertime during a PCS was always kind of boring; we usually didn't know anyone in our new assignment.

My sister and I only had each other for entertainment and while we definitely knew how to push each other's buttons, we also had a fierce bond.

Most tweens and teens tend to despise their parents, but for my family, while I surely thought my parents were inferior, I also felt a strong sense of home and belonging that existed only in our core family.

That sense of home and belonging in my family is something that I cannot explain easily but it's ingrained in me: FAMILY.

Bert and her family today. IMAGE: BERT ANDERSON

It means everything. Places change. People come in and out of your life but your family, they are always there, whether you like it or not.

Your siblings, even though they did everything they could to get on your nerves, and you returned the favor, there's no one else you really felt safe with.

Moving every two to three years gave me the opportunity to reinvent myself in each new place. I quickly learned how to adapt to my surroundings. It only took two months of being called "yankee" in fifth grade for me to adopt a Southern accent like my classmates and take on some of the y'alls and fixin's I was accustomed to hearing.

Kids are resilient and as desperately as I wanted to move back to North Dakota I understood that I had to do my time where my family was stationed. I always held on to hope that we'd make it back to the frozen tundra of Grand Forks though.

Two years passed and I longingly waited for news of our new station. Fingers crossed, I listened in on my parents' discussions, not because they had any real say in where we were going but it was nice to know what might be coming.

Grand Forks was never mentioned by my parents, but my childish mind daydreamed of moving back to be with my friends and resume life where I had left off.

One day, my parents told my sister and me they had an announcement to make. I knew what this was, we were going to be told where we'd be moving next: Grand Forks here I come!

"We're going overseas to Ramstein, Germany," my dad announced. My heart sunk.

"Germany? Why on earth were we going to Germany," I whined to my parents the next morning.

"Everyone has to do a tour overseas, Beth," my mom explained to me matter-of-fact.

We'd done our time though and this was far from fair. We lived in Okinawa, Japan, when I was two-years-old and we moved when I was five-years-old. Our turn had already come and gone.

You know, when you're 12 you think you are the smartest person in the room.

My mom looked at me with understanding in her eyes, "Yes, but that was the Navy. Your dad is in the Air Force now and everyone has to take a turn."

Everyone has to take a turn. That mantra was echoed in my family a lot.

Everyone needs to do their job. Everyone needs to behave because my dad's reputation was everything in a small overseas community.

Living in Ramstein was like living in a small town. Everyone knew everyone else's business and they had an opinion about it. The only difference was that every Summer about half of the population moved out and a new group of families moved in.

I became accustomed to growing close friendships quickly. Not every family was as steady as mine with a set PCS date; some families had to move annually. The only chance I had in making friends was to dive in head first without any caution.

This ability to make friends quickly became my way of doing life. Saying goodbye was easy. I knew it would hurt, I knew that I didn't have any control over where the military was going to send me and I fully understood that everyone has to take a turn.

I bet you're wondering if I ever moved back to Grand Forks…well, I didn't. I did visit on occasion and oddly enough it was not the place that I remembered.

You see, while the Grand Forks I longed to return to stayed the same in my mind, life moved on without me.

It was a cruel lesson to learn but there's something about military life that makes you understand just how small you are in this big world.

Life moves on and you have to move with it. After all, you can't drive a car looking in the rearview mirror.

You have to keep moving forward, making the best of situations because your job is to serve the greater good.

Everyone has to take a turn.


Bert Anderson is a writer and social media manager mom of three living outside of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. She's the author behind the blog , where she honestly chronicles the peaks and valleys of parenting. Even though she has more than one child, Bert maintains that whether you have one child or 19, there's a first time for everything. She's a lover of coffee, conversations, pop culture, healthy living and fitness. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at @firsttimemommn.


This post is part of Spring.St's In Service series. We're looking at military life, and the hard-working families that serve the United States. You can read more here.