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Month of the Military Child: Meet Brailen – Military Child and Gold Star Family Member

April is the Month of the Military Child, a time to recognize and honor the sacrifices made by children of military service members and celebrate their bravery, resilience, and unwavering support for their loved ones.

We’d like to introduce you to Brailen Mills, the inspiring military child and Gold Star Family member. Brailen's story offers us a unique perspective on what it means to be a military child and member of a Gold Star Family, reminding us of the sacrifices that they make and the strength and determination that is required to overcome the difficult times.

Brailen (left) playing with Max (right), fellow military child.

About Brailen Mills

Brailen is currently a junior at Virginia Tech, where he is studying criminology and national security. As a member of a Gold Star Family, he has experienced tremendous heartbreak at the loss of his father, who died battling post-war challenges. Despite this, Brailen has remained a strong, involved student in various capacities. He leads Young Life, a Christian ministry that helps adolescents to grow their faith, and is a member of Beta Upsilon Chi, the largest Christian social fraternity in the United States. He also spends his time studying and supporting others, including serving as a tutor for student athletes.

After he completes his education, Brailen aims to work in federal law enforcement in some capacity. It is his way of giving back to the country and playing a role in making the world a better place.

Brailen's father's military service

When asked about his father’s military service, Brailen acknowledges, "His willingness to make sacrifices for our family and community is what helped to shape me." He watched his father's work, commitment, and devotion throughout his childhood, learning and growing from it. Brailen looked up to his father and respected him greatly.

As with all children of military personnel, Brailen's life was influenced in multiple ways by his father's military service. Despite facing difficulties such as missed family occasions and moments of worry, there were several significant benefits that arose from this experience. Brailen at a young age understood his father’s unwavering bravery and commitment to the country, and grew up with a community that had the same experiences which he cherishes to this day.

His father may have been a military professional, but he was also a great dad. He was heavily involved in his children's sports teams throughout the years and supported community sports programs throughout his lifetime, always playing a positive, encouraging role in the lives of young athletes.

Honoring his father's memory

Brailen talks about his father to anyone who will listen. "I see him in the things he loved—BBQ sandwiches or a South Carolina football game," Brailen remarks, sharing that he's reminded of his dad often.

Today, Brailen and his family participate in Gold Star Family experiences and traditions to help honor his father's service and sacrifice. They recognize not just the loss of a loved one and the way that impacted their family and lives, but also the importance of his father's commitment to the country he loved.

Life and challenges faced by military children

Children of military families face a unique set of challenges due to the nature of their parent's profession. Frequent relocations, long periods of separation, and the constant uncertainty of their parent's safety are just a few of the difficulties they may encounter. They often have to adapt to new environments, schools, and social circles, which can be stressful and disruptive to their lives. Not to mention the emotional toll of a parent being deployed and the fear and anxiety that can come with it.

As a military child, Brailen remembers many good things about his experience, but there were also challenges that continue to impact his life. One of those was the difficulty in making lasting relationships. "Starting over, remaking friends, and building up a reputation again in a new place" are challenges, according to Brailen. It was very hard on his sister, too. "She was starting all over as she was going into high school."

Military children develop unique qualities from growing up in this community. They learn the importance of community as well as how to build new friendships and relationships on a continuous basis. "Military children learn to adapt and change quickly," Brailen says.

Supporting Gold Star Families

How can the military and community better support Gold Star Families? While military support is available to guide and support individuals walking this path, there's still a lot of work to be done.

The most important way to help is to be there for the Gold Star Family. Friends and family within the community did this for Brailen's family in many ways, coming together to support them, whether through being a shoulder to cry on or providing for some of their needs.

It's also essential to have a support system to help manage the day-to-day tasks of living. Navigating things like finances, end-of-life planning, relocating, and mental health all require community support.

Providing practical support can also be helpful, such as offering assistance with funeral arrangements, housing, and other practical needs. These tasks can be overwhelming, and having support can make a significant difference for families in the aftermath of their loss.

For a non-military family, it's hard to understand the depths of the sacrifice when a loved one is lost in such a tragic way. Honoring the sacrifices made by Gold Star Families is important. We can recognize their loved one's service through ceremonies, memorials, and other forms of recognition. This is not only a way to show gratitude for their loved one's service, but it also acknowledges the sacrifices that the family has made.

Brailen's story showcases military service in a new light

Brailen's experience offers a glimpse into the exceptional fortitude and endurance exhibited by children in military families. It's imperative that we recognize and assist these children not just during this month dedicated to honoring them and their distinct challenges, but on a daily basis as well. We want to express our appreciation and offer our support to these youngsters and their loved ones for the immense sacrifices they make in service to our nation.

Forever Warriors is dedicated to building a sense of community and promoting a greater understanding of the unique challenges military families face, including deployment, loss, frequent relocation, and other obstacles. To learn more about the resources available to help with these challenges, visit our partnering resource section on our website. Come out, get involved, and support your local military community.


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