Operation Senior Project

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Photo courtesy of Hania Passin

Benton senior writes about life as a military child

If you ask Hania Passin where she’s from, her answer may surprise you.

“I’m originally from England and recently from Turkey.”

Not many teenagers can say they’ve lived in five countries before the age of 18. Hania, though, has seen the world.

Hania is a senior at Benton High School and the oldest of three children. Her dad serves in the United States Air Force, where he met her mother while stationed in England.

England is home, Hania said. She can remember a time when she played at the castle ruins down the road from their house or when they walked to the corner shop in town for a treat.

She lived eight years in England before her family moved to Okinawa, Japan. Of all the places she has lived, this was her favorite.

“The people are some of the nicest you’ll ever meet,” she said. “The food…the culture…the beaches…the weather…I loved it all.”

Specifically, Hania remembers visiting the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium and being mesmerized by whale sharks swimming around her as she walked through a glass tunnel. After four years in Japan, the family moved to a naval base in Spain.

“It was a huge culture shock,” Hania said. “Japan was friendly and functional. Spain was more laid back and made any excuse to party.”

But it was a beautiful place…everything from the architecture and white sand beaches to the dancing horses and flamenco dresses. Hania remembers rock climbing in Tarifa, a small town in one of the southernmost points of geographic Europe.

“You could look out across the water and see the African continent,” she said, describing her view from the “top of the world.”

The family stayed in Spain four years before moving to Turkey. Hania said it was rich in culture, but there was poverty and it was a dangerous place to live. 
They spent two years in Turkey before moving to the United States.

Being here has been quite a change and she’s experiencing many firsts.

“I’ve never lived anywhere with a lake,” she said. “I didn’t know what mudbugs were before I came here. I still haven’t eaten one.”

And that’s not all.

“I’m going to places I had always heard about — Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart. There are similar stores in the other countries I’ve been to, but I’m finally getting to go to these popular American places.”

Photo by Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune | Benton senior Hania Passin met and interviewed Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker while working on her senior project. Their interview focused on Walker's Air Force experience and how Bossier supports its military community.
Photo by Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune | Benton senior Hania Passin met and interviewed Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker while working on her senior project. Their interview focused on Walker’s Air Force experience and how Bossier supports its military community.

When it came time to do her senior project, Hania decided to combine her passion for writing and interest in news media. With help from project mentor Amanda Simmons (BPT Managing Editor), Hania wrote an article about what it’s like to be part of a military family.

The goal, she said, is to offer a better understanding of what military families endure and what they can bring to a community.

“I’m proud of it,” Hania said of the final product. “I said everything I wanted to say.”

Below is Hania Passin’s senior project article. It is printed in its original, unedited form.

I remember walking to school past machine guns trained on my back and barbed wire catching on my shoelaces. I remember the miles-heard call for a bomb drill every week, the sounds of missile strikes taking off, and the complete base shutdowns from civilian protests who didn’t want us intruding on their country. Instead of cushy economy seats next to a perhaps slightly smelly neighbor I flew red-belted by military craft, if we were lucky they might let us nap next to the combat vehicles that were also being flown strapped down. But, I also remember endless blue oceans and smiles in every language. I remember the steps to flamenco at fería and that I know how to catch pufferfish or scale a mountain face, and yet at nearly eighteen I’ve never driven on the right side of the road before. Or the left, really.

Being a child of the military is in a word: complicated. Mostly due to the fact that no two military brats are the same, and the differences between us all, while not vast, are noticeable. There are the children of long-deployed soldiers, left to wait and worry. There are the domestic brats, who move from base to base so frequently they might as well be on an extended road trip. The internationals, born in Korea, England, Germany and any other country that doesn’t completely hate America you can think of, exotic in experience and third-culture by birthright. Then, finally and most importantly, you have the absolute pick-n-mix of all of the above to result in an insane development of mature and veteran children.

Military-issue kids are inherently influenced by the cultures they’re raised in. The single most common culture being the armed forces themselves. Open-mindedness, adaptability, ingenuity, and blunt experience are necessary to survive surrounded by strangers and soldiers alike. This comes into play especially in US bases that occupy the towns they’re in, such as Barksdale. In an interview with Mayor Walker, he expanded upon the importance of the military to the Bossier community, not only the members and spouses themselves but how the integration of so many different lives impacts students especially. “Students get to see the sort of knowledge military children have to offer, from all around the world and they share that with one another here,” Mayor Walker states, “I think people know we’re a military town and we’re proud of it.”

I take pride in that I’m a military child, but being here is still difficult. To see men and women off-base in uniform is staggering; I still have to suppress the survival instincts for being so open about the military. For my entire life, I have lived in secondhand service to this country, going wherever it needed my family and sacrificing a true home, friendship, and at some points education or even safety. And now that I’m finally here, it feels surreal. My indoctrination into being an American who actually lives in America is still ongoing, but I can say with confidence that for this peace, I would go through it all again in an instant.