Military children, our strength

Photo By Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey | Joey and Tess Landon, daughters of Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Landon of the 104th Fighter Wing, spend time with each other enjoying time as sisters.

Military children serve with strength in support of our nation, contribute to our country and are the heart of the mission as they sacrifice while supporting their military parents. April is dedicated to our military children every year, starting in 1986 as an official Defense Department commemoration, and is a time to celebrate their contributions and service to our country.

As the 104th Fighter Wing celebrates “Month of the Military Child,” we take a closer look into the lives of our exceptional children. Joey and Tess Landon are daughters of Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Landon, a 104th Fighter Wing member.

Joey is a freshman in high school and was looking forward to a career day before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 hasn’t affected my health, but I do miss social interactions,” said Joey. “Being confined with the same people is a little difficult.”

Her sister is quick to interject, “I thought you missed me.”

Tess Landon, another of Sgt. Landon’s three daughters are home from college and continuing her classes online due to the pandemic.

As the Landons talked about how they’re passing the time during the state-wide shutdown, and what helps them in this challenging time, the conversation shifted to their experience as military children.

“Knowing your parents could be called into danger or unsafe situations could be frightening for a child,” said Tess. “I remember worrying, but you don’t really understand. I was 7 and was busy with school,” added Joey.

The lessons that many military children have learned during deployments could also be applied to children of military members and first responders going through the current crisis.

“It sounds selfish, but it was realistic at that age. I understood a lot, but not that much at 7 years old. I didn’t understand why he had to go away or why I couldn’t talk to him. It didn’t mean that he didn’t love us any less. He was supporting his country, and he was supporting us,” said Joey.

Landon’s daughters also shared how they got through those times away from their father.

“I’m glad we got to Skype with him because people deploying in the 1980s wouldn’t even see their loved ones for months or communicate as much,” said Joey.

Tess and Joey managed to find unique ways to stay connected with their father, though.

“It was near Christmas and he sent us a book with his voice recorded, reading us the book. It was hard – I remember crying because I missed him. I remember we did a lot of Skype,” said Tess. “I remember making my dad comics. I was into comics and would make him these military comics.”

The pair also mentioned how those around them provided supported and encouragement during their father’s deployment.

“The school had a whole assembly,” said Joey. “A member in my dad’s unit flew an American Flag.”

The girls also had family memories of buying gifts and supplies to send to their dad.

“We would have fun family times going to stores and picking out things for him. We would choose, but always had to balance between the wants and what he needed,” said Joey.

Looking back, they noted how the experience had affected them.

“Deployment made me more mature while he was deployed. It inspired writing, as I asked a lot of questions. After that, I was more aware of what was going on in other countries – I wanted to know what was happening to my Dad.”

The two sisters shared advice for those growing up as military children today.

“We want military children to know their parents still love them, even if they do not get to see them a lot,” said Tess.

Looking at how she had overcome the challenges of being separated from her father during his deployment, Joey shared some advice that is relevant for many of us today.

“I would say stay in contact as much as possible,” she said.