April 30th, 2012
03:14 PM ET

Life as a military child: An interview with Erika Booth, Marine Corps Child of the Year

By Tomeka Jones, CNN

(CNN) April is the Month of the Military Child, which recognizes and salutes an estimated 1.9 million American children of military families.  Meet Erika Booth, the 2012 Marine Corps Child of the Year.  For the second year, Operation Homefront has awarded Military Child of the Year to young leaders, like Booth, from each branch of the military. The winners receive the honor for their resilience and community impact.

CNN Student News recently talked to Erika about her life as a military child.

CNN: What has life been life for you as a military child?

Erika Booth:  I've moved 5 times, been in 6 schools, lived in 8 houses.  I've actually really enjoyed being a military child just because I can say my dad fights for our country every day and that's his job and not everyone can say that.

CNN:  What would you say is the hardest part about being a military child?

Booth:  The hardest thing is the deployments, definitely; I've gone through 10 of them so I definitely know that is the hardest thing.   My dad has missed my first day of school since 8th grade and I'm a junior in high school now.  You just really have to know in your heart that they're going to come back and having family and friends really helps with that.  Military children are always more resilient to things.

CNN: Erika, would you be willing to discuss with us how health issues have affected your life personally?

Booth:  Having lupus has made me more responsible.  When I was diagnosed and I was in the hospital I hit a brick wall and I was like I can either choose to do something or I can sit at home and stop my life.  And I decided I need to keep going with my life it's not going to stop me.

CNN: I want to point out to our viewers that your brother Dylan has autism.  How would you describe your relationship with him?

Booth: He's very independent now, he's 13, he's a teenager.  We're now getting into that brother-sister relationship that we should have had years ago. And we bicker a lot, we fight but we're still very close.

CNN: Talk to us about how you help care for your younger brother.

Booth:  All his motor skills and his sensory things, they're hypersensitive, so things that wouldn't bother us would bother people with autism and other spectrum disorders.

CNN: What advice do you have for students who might have a classmate with autism or a sibling who has it?

Booth:   So really, just have an open mind when you meet someone with autism or another spectrum disorder because that's really all you can ask for, and then try to just understand them, even though it's hard and just take them for who they are.

CNN: Those are greater challenges then most people face.  What keeps you going?

Booth:   Basically, what keeps me going is my love and enjoyment of helping everyone.  I enjoy being on committees and planning things, and volunteering and seeing that I am making difference in my community.

CNN:   What advice do you have for students who are facing adversity?

Booth:  You can face all sorts of adversity but nothing really fits for each problem but really you need to take it full on.  I hope they see that if I can do it they can do it and it will inspire others to face their problems and succeed in life.

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Filed under: Autism • High school • Military • Practice • Voices
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Steve Miller

    Like R.A. I was a "brat" for the first 18 years, then on active duty for 24 years. It was a very educational experience, even though most of the time I didn't realize it, just lived it. As I grew older I realized the "differences" were not as great as they seemed. I was fortunate in having three brothers, so I always had "friends" whenever we transferred. It really was a great life and I do still miss it sometimes.

    May 10, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  2. Tom Miller

    I was (am) an Army brat. A good book on the subject is "Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress". I identified with many of the stories.

    May 7, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  3. Air Force Brat

    I loved being a Military Brat. I was born on an AIr Force Base in the UK. Spent the next 17 years moving from base to base,
    until my dad retired. We were transferred to 10 different locations and I went to 11 schools. I enjoyed every move and meeting new friends. Sometimes at different bases I would meet friends from another base. It was so educational for me seeing how different cultures were. I learnt much more then I could have living in one place. I still miss the life.

    May 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  4. Cathy

    I was a military brat and so very proud of it. I was born at Nellis AFB. I spent 20yrs in with my Dad and then married into it and spent another 21 yrs.....41yrs as a military dependent. Have had an ID card every since I was 10yrs old......I have traveled the world, said good-bye to my family and many friends all my life. I can live out of a suitcase and don't really attach to material things. I adjust to any situation, and make the best of it. You might call me a little thick skinned but needed it over the years. Military families have their blood families and their military families both equally important to them. Proud, Proud to be a Brat and a military wife......

    May 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  5. R.A.

    Best life as a kid and most difficult life as a kid. I was a military child for my first 18 years of life and then went active duty! Was a real hard life growing up and moving multiple times. Taught me valuable lessons I still use to this date some 50 years later. I wrote about it in a book i am trying to get published.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  6. TyQuania Wells/Robinson

    Dhats Very Cool How Yuee Tryin To Bring Others To Like Others Not Just Cause Who They Are But Wahtt They Are

    May 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Jon

      Speak ENGLISH. Thanks.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  7. Really Jersey

    The sad thing is when she gets to 23 she will be forced to give TRICARE $200 dollars a month to have a health care plan with them. Military children have to PAY to have the health care that is free to all students with parents in civil service or civilian jobs. They were made second class citizens by the Affordable Health Care Act because they were excluded. Our Government's Idea of fixing that outrageous oversight is graciously allowing military dependents(active & retired) to PURCHASE health care with the military health care provider, TRICARE. THANKS FOR NOTHING!!!

    May 1, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  8. Anonymous

    As a military child who has an autism spectrum disorder, this is inspiring. For so long as a teenager, I blamed others for all my faults. Yes, I have had some rotten luck in the past. Yes, I've been screwed over by other people. Ultimately though I can't control that. I can only control myself. My failures are mine and mine alone. I've been realizing lately how lazy and disconnected from reality I've been and that I've got no one to blame but myself for my current predicaments in life. No more. It's time I take matters into my own hands. If these people can do it, why can't I?

    May 1, 2012 at 11:34 am |