The American Dream: 14 Years and Eight Moves Later


There are times in all our lives when we reflect on where we’ve been, what we’ve experienced, how we made it through, and where we are headed. While this is true for just about everyone, military families often have a very different perspective on this simple truism.

Kelly Cotton is a Marine spouse, married for 14 years. Her family looks like most; she and her husband have two kids and a dog, enjoy hiking and dinners out, and have family movie nights. Their children go to soccer practice and attend church and sleepovers. Kelly’s own activities have varied from working full-time to volunteering and being a stay-at-home mom (twice).

“Yes, it sounds pretty typical —the ‘American dream’ if you will,” Kelly admits. And yet, in those 14 years of marriage, her family has moved eight times and seen four different medical specialists for a child with special medical needs, and her two children already have attended several elementary schools.

Did she “get what she signed up for,” as people often tell her?

After an eclectic career background that included leaving her dream job to keep her family together, Kelly has learned to take it in stride. In addition to deployment, servicemembers also take part in countless “in the field” trainings, which take place when servicemembers are considered to be “at home,” though they are actually away from their families.

This has left Kelly to act as a single parent to her children, though she says, “It’s not easy, but we love it, and knowing God keeps his hand on my family, we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

How does she do it? How do all military families do it, year after year?

Kelly and her children are proud of their Marine and proud of his service. It’s not always easy explaining why Daddy has to be away for a year or that he could be injured or even worse. But those aren’t things they dwell on.

And Kelly and her family hope you don’t dwell on it either. She just asks for one thing of civilian families wondering about the military lifestyle: “Be our friend, a good neighbor.”

“We’ve learned that good friends, including civilian friends, stay with you wherever you go.”

Watch Kelly Cotton talk about her life as a military spouse: