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Keeping it in the Family

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by Bianca Strzalkowski

Darian Betancourt wanted to enlist ever since he was a little kid. During his senior year he committed to the decision, but he changed direction on his initial choice after getting some advice from his dad — a Marine.

“It was just something about the culture of the Marine Corps that I wanted to be a part of. Dad, of course, wanted me to do something different, and he said if, ‘I knew what I knew now,’ he would have join the Air Force just because of the opportunities the Air Force has to offer,” Betancourt said.

The 19 year old wants to become a SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) instructor, a job he says will give him the opportunity to learn and teach fellow airmen to survive in the wilderness and survive behind enemy lines. His dad encouraged him to choose a path that he was passionate about, but also one that would provide him with a future after the military.

“To be honest, whenever dad was home he never really brought work home with him. But, he did teach me that if you’re going to join any service, you have to make sure you are doing [it] because you want to and that it will benefit you in the long run,” Betancourt said. “He always stressed to me [to] find a job in the service that will benefit me after the military.”

The Family Business

For others, it was about continuing with the way of life they have always known. Midshipman Maddie Stevens is currently attending the Naval Academy. She says the Navy helped her develop into who she is and she isn’t ready to give that up.

“I used to joke when I was little that I never wanted to ‘join the family business’ and yet, here I am. I think when I was finally faced with making the choice to go to college, I had to decide what I wanted to pursue in life. Did I want to give up the lifestyle and foundation that had raised me?”

Stevens said. “So I applied to NROTC and the Naval Academy in order to continue to serve.” Stevens explains that as a young child she didn’t realize the magnitude of her father’s service in the Navy.

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However, it motivated her to want to do her part.

“Growing up, I watched my father deploy overseas and serve his country in Iraq. Looking back on it now, I think I took for granted everything that my father did, and has done, as a member in the military,” she said. “I think that it’s difficult for children to fully grasp the entirety of what is going on in their lives around them. Before applying to the Academy I had time to reflect on everything I had grown up with, and I finally recognized how much my father is an inspiration to me and my family. He is my hero and I hope to be half the inspiration he is to my family and my future sailors.”

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Army Reservist Christopher Batt, 18, finished boot camp late last year. He says the Army stood out to him because of his father and it seemed right to follow in his footsteps.

“It’s been something that’s been in my mind for a long time, probably since I started to actually think about my future — way back in like the beginning of high school/end of middle school,” he said. “I got serious about it at the beginning of my senior year and that’s when I started talking to a recruiter and I made the decision.”

Growing up around military communities made Batt very adaptable, he says, something that will be valuable to him in his future. While he believes there are many benefits attached to joining the military, like healthcare and housing, he says it also provides a better view of the world.

“You meet all sorts of new people, you get to travel. I feel like it’s an experience that most people don’t have, but it makes you a much better person,” he said.

His surreal moment came the first time he put on his Army uniform.

“It was a good feeling. It felt right. It was sort of unreal because I saw my dad wearing that uniform all the time,” he said. “For me to finally put it on, I felt like I just became a man and I was real proud of that.”

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Military kids have a front row seat to the one-of-a-kind way of life provided to service members and their families. The structure, pride, and ability to connect with diverse groups make children of the military accustomed to a lifestyle of adventure and uniqueness. A large percentage of them choose to follow their parents’ route for a myriad of reasons, but the common thread ends up being the inspiration gleaned from watching service to country up close.