Friday, April 8, 2011

April is the Month of the Military Child - Hear from Shaquille O'Neal about his Military Childhood

In Shaq’s Words

Military Kids Speak: Your stepfather was in the Army. Who else was in your family growing up?

Shaq: My mom, one brother and four sisters. I was in the middle.

Military Kids Speak: Where did you live growing up?

Shaq: We lived in New Jersey, Georgia, West Germany, and Texas.

Military Kids Speak: Which place was your favorite and why?

Shaq: Wildflecken, West Germany, was my favorite. I liked adapting to the German culture, especially the food. There was a place called “The Shack” that served bratwurst, bread, and French fries that were my favorite things to eat. I worked mowing lawns or doing whatever I could to get five dollars so I could go to “The Shack” and eat bratwurst, bread, and French fries.

Military Kids Speak: Was it easy making new friends when you moved to a new place? If yes, what did you do that made it go well?

Shaq: Yes. It was hard for me to leave my friends each time we moved. It would be easier to maintain friendships now with technology like Facebook. We used to write letters to each other. But two guys writing to each other wasn’t cool, so that never lasted very long.

Military Kids Speak: How did you feel about the military lifestyle—deploying, relocating, making friends?

Shaq: It was fun. We got to move every four years. It prepared me for my professional basketball career.

Military Kids Speak: How do you think being a military kid built your character?

Shaq: It taught me discipline, honor, respect, and responsibility. It taught me how to deal with all kinds of people. I met my stepfather when I was two years old, and left home at age 18. Those were the most influential 16 years of my life. My stepfather raised me to be a man with a drill sergeant lifestyle. I am the military. I owe everything to my military upbringing. It made me the man and the athlete I am today.

Military Kids Speak: By what motto do you live that relates to or might inspire other military kids?

Shaq: Be leaders and not followers. Follow your dreams. Work hard. I practiced in the parks in Texas all the time, even in 110-degree temperatures and in the rain. I used to get dogged out by other kids for being so tall and not playing basketball well. I had a choice. I could have given up, but I chose to work harder. It built my character.

Military Kids Speak: What was the hardest challenge you had as a military kid and how did you handle it?

Shaq: I can’t think of any big challenges. I got a job at McDonald’s when I was young. My dad gave me the choice of babysitting for my younger brother and sisters or getting a job. Our mom had a job to help make ends meet. Even though I worked at McDonald’s, I still helped take care of my brother and sisters, being responsible for them and protecting them from bullies. I helped with chores like cleaning the house and cutting the grass, too.

Military Kids Speak: What did you learn as a military child that helped you become a superstar athlete?

Shaq: I learned how to be humble. Here’s a true story. When I was in high school, I was the first guy ever to get his name in the newspaper for a basketball game. I acted like I was God. Then, as I walked down the halls in school, everyone moved to the other side of the hall. When I sat down at a table to eat lunch, everyone moved away from me. I finally asked my friend what was going on. He said, “You’re too good for us now. But just remember. You can’t pass the ball to yourself, and you can’t make those big plays alone.”

Military Kids Speak: If you could tell military kids just one thing what would it be?

Shaq: Enjoy the experience. Take advantage of all of the opportunities you have being in a military family. Enjoy learning to deal with all kinds of people from every religion, race, and culture. All of the activities kept me out of trouble.

Read more from Shaquille O’Neal in Military Kids Speak. Essays by military kids and interviews with celebrity military kids like Shaquille O’Neal can be found in Military Kids Speak, Proceeds from sales of Military Kids Speak go to programs for military kids.

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Julie Rahm

Mindset means everything. And no one knows this better than Julie Rahm, aka America's Mindset Mechanic. A former naval physicist, Julie applies physics to the energy of human thought and the results thoughts create. As a military daughter, spouse and mother-in-law she has experienced the challenges of deployment separations, frequent moves and telecommuting careers while remaining happy and achieving her dreams. With her passion and people-loving style, Julie has provided the metaphorical tools for thousands of people to bridge the gap between their thoughts and their lives. Julie Rahm, M.S., is a certified Frame of Mind Coach who has appeared on numerous television and radio broadcasts, including The Phil Knight Show and ABC affiliates. She hosts The Mindset Mechanic LIVE on Saturdays and Sundays on FM107.1 WTKF and AM1240 WJNC in Eastern NC. Her weekly column The Mindset Mechanic appears in The Pamlico News. She has been quoted in numerous newspapers, and on the web at and Julie is an inspirational keynote speaker conveying life lessons through a blend of intuitive success strategies, enlightened wisdom, humor and fun. She is the Champion of Military Kids around the World. Julie's latest book is Volume I of Military Kids Speak.

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