Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan Haywood, a 26-year-old San Antonio native, spent his childhood growing up as a U.S. military child.
Air Force Father
“My dad was in the Air Force on active duty for 22 years,” Haywood said. “I joined the Marines in May 2012. My dad retired as a master sergeant about a year later and I attended his retirement ceremony as a lance corporal. It meant a lot to me that I could be there in uniform for him at the end of his military career -- as he was there in uniform for me at the beginning of mine – when I graduated Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.”
Being a “military brat,” as some say, wasn’t easy at times for Haywood. But as he grew up, he learned ways to cope with the struggles that he and so many like him dealt with.
“Having to find a new school, find new friends, and get caught up with class work could get tiresome and difficult,” Haywood said. “What made it easier was when I would meet other military brats because we were going through life in a similar way. We, sons and daughters of military parents, would end up getting close because our parents would get deployed. For instance, my mom would become friends with another woman whose husband got deployed and they would have that commonality – and it was nice, sort like having an extended family.”
Now with a family of his own, a wife and two kids, Haywood credits much of his current success in the military and in life to five things he learned growing up in the military. The first of which, was his punctuality.
“I learned that whole saying, ‘Being early is on time, but being on time is being late,’” Haywood said. “That stuck with me, because whether it’s for work or in my personal life, I really hate being late anywhere I go.”
As a prevalent pillar throughout the military, the value of respect was of great importance in the Haywood household, as well.
“I would say the second thing I learned growing up with a military dad was respect,” Haywood said. “I learned how to respect my elders, my superiors and my classmates and [later on] co-workers. I would say an example could be saying, ‘sir’ or “ma’am.’ It was definitely something that both my parents ingrained in me, and I’m glad they did, because it has served me well in life.”
The next skill Haywood learned stemmed from the times when his previously-mentioned “extended family” couldn’t be around.
“The third thing I learned that comes to mind was resiliency,” Haywood said. “There were a lot of times when we – my mother, my older sister, and I – didn’t have our extended family around. I learned how to support myself through my immediate family. I haven't needed to rely on big families. I learned resiliency from that and other kids who were in times where they didn't have their families around. I got used to it and now I use that skill for my military service and my deployments. It means a lot that I can support my family that way, and they support me with their resiliency to stay strong when we are separated, as well.”
The fourth thing Haywood developed from growing up as a military child was his independence.
“I became a pretty independent person,” Haywood said. “I moved out when I was 18 and I was already pretty responsible and self sufficient. I didn't really have to ask my parents for anything once I moved either. I felt well prepared for life on my own. I feel like I was more prepared than most of my peers, namely those who didn’t grow up in a military environment.”
The last of the five things Haywood learned is part of why he joined the military, as his father did before him.
“I gained my sense of patriotism from my father's service,” Haywood said. “I grew up seeing, firsthand, the sacrifices he had to make. And it gave me a stronger appreciation for the military and the military lifestyle.”
When asked what message he would have for his younger self, and for all those children of military parents currently serving, Haywood had this to say:
“I would tell them to just be as understanding as possible. The hard times that they are going through – their parents are going through it, too. It's a worthy sacrifice to make, continuing the country's greatness. Parents themselves don't want to deploy as much as [their kids] don't want them to. But just have respect for what they do and why they do it.”