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PHOTO CAPTION:  Staff Sgt. John M. Richardson, an air traffic controller with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, stands with his wife, Sarah, and children, Zoey, Emmy and John, at their home in Cameron, N.C. The Richardson children say they are happy to be military children despite the challenges having a father in the Army brings.  Photo Credit:  Staff Sgt. Mary Katzenberger

April 11, 2013
By Staff Sgt. Mary Katzenberger

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Zoey Richardson is a typical 13-year-old kid. She loves to bake cupcakes and is a self-described gamer, not a nerd - there’s a difference, she said. The teenager and her family live in Cameron, N.C., just a half-hour away from Fort Bragg, N.C.

Zoey is also a military child. She, along with her 11-year-old sister, Emmy, and her 7-year-old brother, John, talked in April during the Month of the Military Child - a month that pays tribute to the sacrifices children make so their parents can serve - about the places they’ve been able to live and visit and the challenge of living apart from their Army parent.

The Richardson children have “served” alongside their father, Staff Sgt. John M. Richardson, most of their lives. Richardson, an air traffic controller with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, has been in the Army for 12 years.

Unlike most military families, the Richardson’s have only experienced two duty stations thus far - the family was stationed in Germany for 10 years, and they have since been at Fort Bragg.

Zoey said Germany was an amazing country to have spent most of her life in.

“Probably my favorite thing was the food,” she said. “They make … the breads and the pastries, oh, they were so good.”

The Richardson’s went to the bakery every Saturday to indulge in their favorite baked treats, and they traveled throughout Europe, the teenager said.

“We went to a lot of countries. We went to Spain. We went to Italy twice,” Zoey said. “We went to a whole bunch of little places I can’t even name. It was pretty awesome.”

Emmy said she enjoyed her life in Germany as well.

“We had a big house and we used to have a pool,” she said. “We didn’t have a very big backyard but we had a lot of forest and swamp behind it. I’d go back there and catch tadpoles. It was fun.”

John said all he remembers about Germany was the snow. He said he has made good friends in his new neighborhood in Cameron. Zoey and Emma said they made friends pretty easy as well when they moved.

“They’re very resilient,” said the children’s mother, Sarah. “They pack up and move easy. They’ve flown across the ocean I can’t even tell you how many times. They’ve got some frequent flyer miles under their belts.”

Besides relocating a few times, the Richardson children have faced another challenge common to the military child experience - their father has deployed twice. Zoey said she missed her dad when he was gone but always knew he’d come back home.

“They make it seem like it’s going to be really hard, but he never went for like two years, he went for six or nine months,” Zoey said. “All my friends, their dads (have gone) like six times already.”

Zoey said she and her siblings kept in touch with Richardson via Internet calls and letters that they sent in care packages. Emmy said she was comforted by a doll that had her father’s picture attached. She said she slept with her “daddy doll” beside her every night he was gone.

Zoey and Emmy agree that it’s great being military children, despite having to relocate or be separated from their father during deployments and training exercises.

“It’s not awesome but it’s not bad, so it’s like in the middle,” Emmy said. “I like it … and I get to see him a lot.”