Maggie Rochon was our Military Child of the Year for the U.S. Coast Guard in 2011. We were honored to have Maggie with us this year in DC, helping to present this year’s MCOY award to our Coast Guard recipient. We also had the chance to touch base with her recently to learn where life has taken her since we last met, including working with her good friend, Nicole Goetz, MCOY for U.S. Air Force 2011.
It’s been over six years since I was honored as Military Child of the Year for the Coast Guard, and I’ve been through a lot of transitions since then.
As one can expect in life, not much stays the same for very long. This was a lesson that was learned and reinforced on several occasions being a military child. Within a few months after Operation Homefront’s MCOY gala in Washington, D.C., I would decide where I was going to spend the next four years of my life, graduate high school, and move across the country to start on the college journey.
Moving to Ohio for school didn’t seem like too big of a deal. Growing up with a parent in the military, you grow accustomed to moving every few years, so what was one more move? What I didn’t know at the time was that my decision to attend The Ohio State University would be both a culture shock and a catalyst for many subsequent, major, transitions.
Growing up, no matter what new address I had to learn, or friends I had to make, or school I had to attend, I always felt a sense of comfort being surrounded by at least a few others who were also military children. There was a security blanket of sorts knowing that someone else had been in my shoes and could understand what I was going through. There was someone who knew what it was like to miss a parent that was deployed overseas, or how to start a friendship with the new kid because they were once the new kid, but college wasn’t like that. I was suddenly dropped into a setting with 50,000 other people and it felt like not a single other person had even a similar life experience to mine.
The first few weeks in college were a whirlwind of learning a new place, living without my parents for the first time ever, introducing myself what felt like a thousand times, and of course getting to know all these new people. I should have been an expert at that, and thanks to every experience I had as a child, I fared pretty well, at least for the most part, but that’s also when I was confronted with the gap between military families and civilian families. It started with the simple question: “Where are you from?” Well, as a military child, how do you answer that? Do I ask how they are defining “from”? Is it lying if I just name only one place? Will it be too long of an answer if I go into depth about all the places I’ve lived? Do I explain that I was born in one state, started school in another, and graduated high school somewhere else? But that doesn’t even touch on the two other states I lived in.
I felt like I was an anomaly among peers that had never moved from the town they were born in; some had never even vacationed out of the state of Ohio. By the time I explained why I had moved so often, I had been bombarded with so many more questions about my childhood. Next thing I knew, I had to explain what my dad did, what it was like for him to deploy so often, what my childhood was like, and so on. Even at the time of my freshman year in college, my dad was deployed to the Middle East.*
While at the time it was a little isolating to be the only military kid in my friend group, I also realized there was an opportunity to help connect a part of our population with the much smaller military community. So many people shared their gratitude for what my dad did for this country and what my family sacrificed so that he could do that. It was actually amazing.
The transition from a military community to a civilian world was possibly one of the hardest transitions I’ve had to go through, but it was an important learning experience and opportunity that I am glad I had. The appreciation I gained for my childhood, and for what my dad did, is something I can never thank God enough for. Knowing that so many people felt touched by the service of our men and women in uniform, knowing my dad was one of them, made me so incredibly proud of this country, but especially my family.
Undergrad flew by in the blink of an eye. Even though the first year was a little tough adjusting, I found my niche, including finding friends that also were transitioning from the military life to college. In particular, I became friends with a Marine, Alex. Alex came from the Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, area, much like myself; we even had quite a few mutual friends. Alex spent four years on active duty before pursing his degree at Ohio State. We are engaged, and we’ve been together for four years, a part of three units, and are currently residing in the central Ohio area.
After graduating from college, I became actively engaged in state and national campaigns, and started pursing my career. I currently work as the Director of Constituent Affairs in Governor Kasich’s Office, and am a graduate student at Ohio University.
Thinking back six years to the gala weekend, it’s hard to believe that so much time has passed. It seems like just yesterday we were in Washington, D.C. for the event. I remember the night of the gala looking at my mom and dad, seeing how proud they were of me, and seeing that they were relieved that my dad’s decision to serve our country didn’t burden my childhood, but enriched and shaped who I was. There wasn’t a moment that I remember more than that feeling and sharing that special time with my family.
Surprisingly, too, I met a lifelong friend that weekend, Nicole Goetz. That weekend was so overwhelming, I remember thinking that it was nice to meet so many other great, and inspiring, military kids, [but] there was no way in one weekend we would bond in such a way that we would ever be more than pen-pals. I was wrong. About halfway through our freshman year in college, Nicole messaged me on Facebook about a project she was working on. Outside of the project, it was an opportunity to connect with another military kid going through the same transition to college as I was. Now Nicole and I are dear friends and try to hang out as often as we are in the same state. We’ve even started working on a project this fall, an online forum to connect and share experiences among military families so whether they are across the street or across the country, they always have a friendly connection.
By Maggie Rochon
Please check back with us as we bring you more “Where Are They Now” stories from our previous Military Child of the Year Award winners and their families.
Thank you to our presenting sponsor United Technologies for making the Military Child of the Year Award program possible. We’re also grateful to the following additional sponsors: Booz Allen Hamilton, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, MidAtlantic Broadband, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Veterans United Home Loans, Under Armour, Tutor.com and Military Times. #MCOY2018