VAFB honors military children, high school seniors’ sacrifice during COVID-19

VAFB honors military children, high school seniors’ sacrifice during COVID-19

“'Brave, resilient and tough' is what we like to say the acronym 'brat' stands for when referring to a military-affiliated child,” said Karen Cook, Vandenberg school liaison, as military children are often brought up in an environment of frequent moves, changing schools and family separations.

“Yes, they have become resilient due to the nature of their existence,” she said. “Frequently leaving friends behind and having to forge new relationships in new towns, 'military brats' can be quick to adapt.”

This year, amid COVID-19 health protection measures, many military children are being asked to forgo some of the biggest milestones in their educational experience: team activities, prom and, even, their graduation ceremonies.

“We cannot minimize this, this matters to these seniors and their families, but our military youth are better equipped to deal with this,” Cook said. “They are taught to adapt, overcome and put their best foot forward.”

Seniors in the area typically graduate in early June.

“Schools just sent out parent surveys this week,” she said. “Parents are already picking up caps and gowns in preparation for adjusted graduation celebrations.”

Military seniors continue to adapt and overcome unforeseen challenges, this time, in the form of physical distancing.

Cabrillo High School senior Nathaniel Colgan said, “I made peace with COVID-19 restrictions as my new normal, accepting the things that I cannot change, and did my best with the things I have.”

He added, “I found it very helpful being creative and keeping myself busy with having a daily routine: exercising, playing my guitar, socializing with my friends online, attending virtual classes, spending time with my family, doing my homework, and assisting my mother with editing her videos while she is trying to lift up the spirits of the people on base while they telework.”

For his next chapter, Colgan plans to study computer engineering at University of California, Santa Cruz with goals of continuing his family’s legacy of service by eventually commissioning as a cyber officer.

When asked how the health protection response has impacted his lifestyle, Cabrillo High School senior Josh Wulfestieg said, “I have become nocturnal, sleeping during the day to avoid going outside, and then at night playing video games, watching movies and videos, and sometimes even doing a little bit of homework.”

Wulfestieg still is considering his options for school following high school, “assuming we return to in-person classes.”

Homeschooler and Voyager Classical Academy senior Grace Pennington plans to study aerospace engineering at the University of Alabama this fall. She has a different approach to life under COVID-19.

“I spend more time on my back patio working on schoolwork to get out of the house,” Pennington adds, “I have also enjoyed spending extra time with my family.”

For many "military brats," graduation culminates the journey of service as a military child. This year, VAFB seniors are being recognized by base leadership for their resilience despite these uncertain times.

“Our community would not be the same without the continued resilience of our military family,” said Col. Anthony J. Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander. “Team Vandenberg recognizes our high school seniors for the contributions they make every year as part of our community but especially this year as they sacrifice or adapt many of the traditions that culminate their service as military children. We salute each Team Vandenberg military child Class of 2020.”

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When I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1973, I had the standard prejudices common to the rural, southern Indiana small town in which I was raised. I was racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and white privileged without any conscious thought of the basis for these beliefs.

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