DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
It’s a typical day for one child in the city of Abilene, Texas completing schoolwork and drinking a juice box with his little brothers. Looking up from his book, he leans over and hands his youngest brother a toy to hush his soft cries before he begins reading again.
This is how 8-year-old Luke Klinger spends a normal day while his father, U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob Klinger, 40th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules pilot, is deployed.
From a young age, Luke says he understood that moving to new places and helping out with his brothers while his father is overseas, is a normal part of being in a military family.
“Luke contributes to this family in more ways than any average 8-year-old,” explained Lindsey Klinger, Luke’s mother. “This deployment has actually been the easiest because he has helped out so much, whether that be by doing extra chores or just helping take care of his little brothers when I’m busy.”
While most children’s’ every day schedule might consist of going to school, coming home, doing homework, and playing outside, Luke’s is a little bit different. Some may see it as picking up slack, but this child sees it as the norm.
“When my dad is gone, I help take care of my brothers and my mom a lot,” explained Luke. “I have a lot of chores like changing the kitty litter, putting the dishes in the dishwasher, making my bed and sometimes I even get to help my mom cook.”
While a child’s parent may be gone for long periods of time serving their country, they contribute more than some parents could imagine.
“He takes on the role of the man in the house when his father is gone and I couldn’t be more grateful,” said Lindsey. “His maturity level is so much above other kids his age because of his experience with his dad constantly working.”
Although he has more chores to do while his father is hard at work, Luke believes being a military child is a great experience.
“My dad being in the Air Force definitely has its benefits,” said Luke as he jumped out of his seat in excitement. “He brings us souvenirs from all the different places he goes to and we get to travel a lot.”
Children who aren’t part of military families often grow up in one place and don’t have the opportunity to move around very often. However, Luke’s changing of locations every couple of years is just a part of the gig.
“Sometimes it’s hard moving so much because I just want to stay in the same home, but it’s also cool because I get to see new places and make new friends everywhere I go,” Luke said.
While he doesn’t mind taking on extra work around the house, moving to new bases or helping take care of his brothers, Luke doesn’t enjoy his father being gone for long periods of time.
“The worst part of my dad being in the military when he’s gone on deployments,” Luke explained as he slumped back into his chair. “I always miss him so much when he’s away from home.”
Living without a parent for long periods of time is one of the many sacrifices military children endure. Most often, their only chance to talk to their parent during a deployment is over the phone.
“If I could talk to my daddy right now I would tell him I miss him so much, like this much,” Luke raised his voice as he spread his arms out wide to show just how much he had been missing him. “I would also tell him I love him and want to him to come back so we can play again.”
As his mother laughed at his sudden outburst when Luke imagined talking to his dad, she expressed how thankful she was for her son growing up faster than he needed to.
“I am extremely proud of how much he has grown and been flexible to his father’s schedule,” said Lindsey with a smile adorning her face. “He has helped me in so many ways, and he works really hard to help me keep things running. He’s an amazing kid.”
As the rest of April goes on, many military children will be recognized for the hardships and sacrifices they face every day in a military family. Luke is one of many of the amazing kids celebrated during the Department of Defense-recognized Month of the Military Child.
Editor’s note: This article is the first in a two part series on the contributions of military children recognized during the Month of the Military Child.