Military child combats challenges with scholastic, athletic success
Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Gregory Sanders, 85th Civil Affairs Brigade Public Affairs
Taking a seat and waiting for the game console to boot, Master Sgt. Robert Madden, retention NCO for 85th Civil Affairs Brigade, begins to explain just how things are going to happen before the game begins.
“The first rule before we get started—no chicken dancing after you score.”
That’s what he told his son, Robert, jr., as they began a game of football. The two customarily sit down to a quick game when their busy schedules allow for it. By all appearances, the 12-year-old Robert seems an ordinary kid with an ordinary routine—school, home, tennis practice, home, homework, chores, dinner, sleep.
As a military child though, Robert Jr. understands his role and the amount of effort he must put forth to succeed; in school and in sports.
“We can’t give up on anything,” said Robbie. “We have to follow through and complete everything we start.”
The deadpan seriousness and poignant gaze of the boy contradicts his youth. In just more than a decade he has faced a slew of challenges, like the first time his father was deployed.
Anyone that has had a loved one deployed can identify with the initial sadness that comes with seeing them leave. Robbie has experienced that sadness on two separate occasions.
“The first time I was sad a lot. I was younger and really didn’t understand why he was gone,” said Robert Jr. “The second time though, I used humor a lot to get past the sadness.”
To occupy his mind and help with staying happy for those around him, Robbie took up sports. Competing in track, tennis and football at Lampasas Middle School, he felt the “thrill of competition” and transferred his classroom success to the athletic arena, where he placed in the 100 and 300 hurdles, and a recent tennis competition as well.
The drive to succeed and the motivation to be the best seem a characteristic common among the military child according to Robert Jr.
“We are determined to find a way to get victory. Most kids are happy to get a 99—I’m wishing I could have gotten that extra point to earn a 100,” said Robbie. “I’ve got to find a way; I have to push myself more. When you fail you can’t keep living in the past, you just have to go on to the next thing.”
The effort outside of the house does not go unnoticed by Mom or Dad.
“It feels good. Makes us feel like we are doing something right,” said Robbie’s mom Sherry.
The normal challenge of motivating children and young teenagers to accomplish more is usually a monumental task. Not so for the Madden family.
“I think he was born with it. He drives himself to push and keep going,” said Sherry. “We still nudge him when he gets a 95 and encourage him to get that 100.”
By all appearances, Robert Madden Jr. looks just like any other kid. As with many military children, it is what cannot be seen that separates them from others in their group.
Master Sgt. Robert Madden, 85th Civil Affairs Brigade retention NCO, talks to his son, Robbie, during a football match at home April 26. The two sit down for a quick game when their schedules allow the time. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt Gregory Sanders, 85th CA Bde Public Affairs)
Robert Madden Jr., son of Master Sgt. Robert Madden, practices his hurdle technique at Lampasas Middle School April 18. Madden Jr. took spots on the podium for his performance during the 110 and 300 meter hurdle events during the school’s final track meet. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Gregory Sanders, 85th CA Bde Publi Affairs)
Robert Madden, Jr. shows off his medals won from track and field and tennis competitions during the school year. Madden, Jr. began focusing on academics and athletics competitions initially as a coping mechanism when his father was deployed, but now he enjoys the competition and sense of accomplishment winning brings. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Gregory Sanders, 85th CA Bde Public Affairs)
85th Civil Affairs Brigade
Fort Hood, TX 76544