TEMPE, Ariz. — Channing Stribling grew up by learning how to be self-sufficient. As the son of parents in the military, Stribling grew up having to adjust to new schools, to making new friends, and joining a new football team.
Sometimes he had to be the man of the house when his father traveled overseas. This year as Stribling prepared for his freshman year with the Michigan football team, his mother, Sonja, had to leave for Asia.
“Since I was younger, they’ve always been gone,” Stribling said. “I’m kind of used to it. It’s harder not having my mom here, because I’ve stayed with her most of my life.”
But when the phone didn’t ring for at least a week in late November, Stribling feared he might have missed her phone call.
Sometimes, he feared worse.
“I’m panicking, trying to figure out what’s going on,” said Stribling, a defensive back for the Wolverines, who played against Kansas State on Saturday in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
“I’m watching Army movies and people are getting killed. I’m thinking, ‘That could be my mom.’
“It’s kind of hard just trying to focus.”
Stribling’s mother, an Army captain, was stationed in Afghanistan for eight months. Prior to that, his father, Dennis, was stationed in South Korea for Stribling’s entire senior year of high school.
“I’m used to it now,” Channing said.
Stribling spent his senior year at Butler High School in Matthews, N.C., but grew up an Army brat. He’s lived in several different states, including Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Hawaii, and also lived overseas in Germany.
“Michigan was different,” said Stribling, who has 15 tackles in 12 games for the Wolverines. “It’s a different place. I like to expand out and not stay in the south like everybody else. And Michigan was the first team that really offered me, so it’s a blessing.”
His parents, he said, are steering him away from joining the military.
“My little brother was trying to get into it, but my mom was like, ‘No, you don’t need to do it,’ ” Stribling said. “They had to do it, so they made sure we don’t have to.”
While his mother was stationed in Afghanistan, Stribling communicated with her through the iPhone application FaceTime and email. Because his mother had been stationed overseas, Stribling could not reach out to her by phone — she had to call him.
“I had to see her face at least once a week,” Stribling said. “Things were going through my head, like, ‘I have to call her,’ and I can’t even call her.”
Finally, a phone call came. Then relief. Stribling’s mother returned to the United States in mid-December. Stribling’s parents, he said, are spending Christmas in the Phoenix area as Stribling prepared for Saturday’s game.
Yet his father will have to leave again in the spring.
“It’s going to be hard again,” Stribling said. “But I’ll try to get through it.”