UNLV student reflects on life as an Army brat

Jonathan Edwards in the studio. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Edwards.

Since the age of 5, Jonathan Edwards has spent his life seeking the true meaning of home, after growing up all over the country.

After three years of attending the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Edwards decided to take a hiatus for the spring semester in hopes of saving enough money to cover his fall tuition. Currently employed at the Nellis Air Force Base Commissary, Edwards anticipates the day he’ll  branch off and pursue his dream of going into radio sports broadcasting.

“I’d really like to get involved with the UNLV radio station,” said Edwards. “I’ve been saying that for years but sometimes I have a reluctance or fear of getting involved with things because all my life, I’ve had to randomly pick up and move.”

Las Vegas, Nevada is the longest residency Edwards has had anywhere, living in the city for 10 years. He dreams of pursuing his career in Las Vegas and hopes to shake the fear of not finishing what he started, as a result of his frequent childhood relocations.

One of the most significant parts of the American Dream involves  having a place to stay and having a place to call home. Many active military people choose to defer this dream in order to serve our country. They have families who don’t get to spend their lives growing up in one city with the same friends and having a place that they can truly call home. 

Jonathan Edwards, a 27 year-old student at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), experienced this lifestyle growing up the son of an active Navy Chief.  The average American moves 11 times in the course of a lifetime. From the age of 5 to 15, Edwards had already moved six times to different states, struggling to acclimate to each one. 

“Some people can handle it, some people can’t,” Edwards said.  “It’s not the lifestyle I asked for.”

The first major transition for Edwards happened when he moved from Florida to Hawaii at 5-years old. He remembers feeling apprehensive about having to leave home and start a new life in an unfamiliar place. After living there for three years, Edwards finally began to adjust to his new environment.

Just as he began to adapt to Hawaiian society, the next abrupt relocation for his family had approached.  The next stop was San Diego, an easier transition for Edwards because his only close friend in Hawaii moved out of state.

“I was in a good neighborhood, surrounded by good friends and I went to a good school,” Edwards said.  “San Diego feels the most like home to me.”

All his closest friends lived in his neighborhood, he recalls it feeling like a family. Everyday he and his friends would get together to play outside, have cookouts or play video games, Edwards finally felt like he truly belonged somewhere.

After four years of bliss in a city that Edwards considered a paradise, his life as he knew it would soon turn upside down. Another relocation to a new military base had set its sights out for his family like the Grim Reaper. Naturally, the time to say goodbye to what was once perfect and start a new life had begun. This tumultuous transition afflicted Edwards mentally and emotionally. Everything familiar to him slowly started to slip through his fingers, like a child assigned to a new foster home. His closest friends, who he saw as family, his neighborhood that served as his haven and his American Dream lifestyle suddenly started to fade from existence.

“You meet all these great people and build relationships and it’s like the next day you have to move on,” Edwards said.

While mourning the death of his former great life, he found himself forced into another unfamiliar city. This new land was called Virginia Beach, and everything about it made Edwards uncomfortable.

“Virginia was the hardest because I was moving from the West Coast to the East Coast,” Edwards said.  “People were different, schools were different, it felt like a twilight zone.” 

Throughout his first year of adjustment, Edwards found himself feeling homesick on several occasions, wishing he could return to San Diego.  He acquainted himself with one of his neighbors and they soon became best friends. Although he favored his former school in San Diego, he began to grow fond of his new school, where he got involved in orchestra and developed many friendships.

“After about my second year of living there I started getting really close with my friends and that’s when I got more adjusted,” Edwards said.

Things started to look up for him, it was almost as if he’d been able to recreate the life he once had in San Diego. Little did he know, the ominous god of relocation would greet him at the door with dire news.

At this point, Edwards had gotten more into the swing of things.  He realized that having a place to call home-having a normal childhood, would only happen in his dreams. Packing up and abandoning his Virginia life, his family relocated back to their hometown in Georgia. Less traumatic than the transition from San Diego to Virginia Beach, Edwards handled this move with more optimism.

His family only expected to reside in Georgia for a year and afterwards return to Virginia, where Edwards would have his old life back.  To his dismay, the plans of returning went awry and his family settled down in Las Vegas instead.

“I was between pissed and devastated,” Edwards said. “I thought I’d be going back to Virginia where I could go back to my school and be with my best friends again.”

As usual, he got acclimated over time.  He knew some of the city because he had visited Vegas many times when he lived in San Diego. 

In retrospect, Edwards has no regrets about having to grow up in a military lifestyle. Over the years, he’s managed to keep in contact with the friends he’s made in different cities. He hopes to return to San Diego one day and spend his life there.

 “There were times I wish I grew up in one particular place instead of moving around a lot, but after meeting new people and traveling to new places it was worth it.”