Beyond the uniform: A 51st FW family navigates the trials of military lifestyle

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sabrina Fuller-Judd
  • 51st Fighter Wing

With more than 20 years as a military family, the Canizales family views April differently than most.

The 51st Fighter Wing recognizes April as Month of the Military child, where we celebrate and commemorate the perseverance, resilience and sacrifice of military children.

This year the Canizales family shared their story on the struggles of the military lifestyle and how they built resilience to overcome these hardships.

“The reintegration process is difficult. We are adapting to a new environment and family dynamic which is hard,” said Wendy Canizales, 51st Force Support Squadron Exceptional Family Member Program family program support specialist. “My children have to remember that they have two parents, they can come ask me things but also their dad. Whether your spouse is gone for 15 months or six months, it’s an adjustment.”

Wendy explained the importance of preparation for these drastic changes. She expressed that the longest time their two sons, Ayden and Anthony, were separated from their father was 15 months. She has always remained determined to ensure her children have memorable milestones with their father.

In 2017, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Justin Canizales, 51st Security Forces Squadron plans and programs superintendent, wanted to provide his son Ayden with lifelong knowledge prior to leaving for a short tour by teaching him how to shave. Serving for over two decades, this military family has experienced three short tour assignments, two deployments, and six moves.

“As my son [Ayden] has gotten older he's become more understanding, but when he was younger he would often stare at his fathers’ picture and he would wish his dad was here,” Wendy's voice trembled and she quickly wiped away a few tears. “My heart ached. I wished I was able to make it all better; but I think just communicating with him, that this is dads’ job - dad is keeping us safe and so many other people safe, time will fly by and he’ll be home soon.”

With this wisdom, she shared the importance of communication and perspective in regards to helping her children remain tenacious. Wendy would visit her spouse's workplace with her children, to show them the every-day duties their father performed from guarding the gate to working on patrol. The understanding of what their father does and his role in the Air Force contributed to their resilience.

Regardless of the time spent at different military installations, these young wingmen continued to show their adaptability and dedication by finding their roots, utilizing resources within the 51st FW, and attending various events hosted by the 51st FSS.

“We’ve always tried to partake in the deployed or family focused events with the M&FRC,” Wendy proudly stated. “From previous bases, they [Ayden and Anthony] have received certificates saying ‘thank you for serving’, which told them that one, you're not the only one and two, that we recognize your sacrifice.”

The MOMC focuses on recognizing not only the impact of our Airmen, but also their children, and how they play a role in shaping our military population.

“Osan put together several different events to bring the community together,” Wendy elated. “Everytime they attend an event, it gives my sons more tools and support to empower military children to be more resilient.”

Her sons added that their experiences as military dependents has made them grateful because they have had the opportunity to learn new cultures, languages, and make new connections.

“It’s hard being a military child, but you get to meet all different types of people with different viewpoints, and it’s something you don’t really get unless you're a military child,” said Ayden, the oldest sibling of the two brothers.

Anthony added that the military lifestyle has inspired his aspirations to attend West Point and become a U.S. Army officer.

Osan AB continues to pursue efforts to build upon quality of life for Airmen and their families by supporting community members and recognizing the dedication of military families.

“Even though my children had to relocate and say: see you later or goodbye, they still want to serve and that's a direct reflection of our military community,” expressed Wendy. “I am extremely proud of them, despite the challenges they have faced. I can’t wait to see what more they accomplish.”