WHAT’S A MILITARY BRAT?
“The short answer is anyone who grew up in a military family and moved from military installation to installation, with one or both parents being “career” military, serving 10 to 30 years (or more) in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines or Coast Guard.”
This definition is from an excellent website called Military Brat Life…a great resource for those of us who have had this unique upbringing and for those who want to learn more about it.
I’ve spent a lifetime answering the question “Where are you from?” with a very long pause…trying to figure out which answer to give the person.
Do I quickly say “Everywhere!”
Do I give the slightly longer version, “Well, I’m an Air Force brat and I grew up mainly overseas and came to the States when I was a teenager.”
Or do I go into the more accurate version which would take about 15 minutes and detail all the countries, states, bases, and towns where I “grew up” and the culture shock I experienced which has made me the person I am today?
“BRAT…Born Rough And Tough”
Being a military brat isn’t a choice that a child makes…it’s a lifestyle that you are born into based on a choice that your parents make…and you are along for the–sometimes wild–ride.
There are advantages and disadvantages to a life that involves almost constant moving, often to foreign countries.
Brats get to see things, do things, learn languages, meet people, and have experiences you would never be able to have staying put in one place.
I’ve gotten to climb around on Stonehenge, run through so many castles in Germany I lost count, and have acquired and lost both a Queen’s English and deep Southern accent. (I’ve kept my Midwestern one!)
Brats also are the new kids in class a lot, often don’t get to see extended family for years, transition into and out of schools frequently, and miss out on seeing childhood friends grow older alongside them.
I learned some of the most important lessons about life and how to cope with the things life will throw at you growing up as a military brat.
Along with a lifelong respect for anyone I see in a uniform, this is what sticks with me decades after leaving the last Air Force base I would ever set foot on, and maybe it will mean something to some of you:
LIFE LESSON 1: BLOOM WHERE YOU’RE PLANTED
Brats learn to make the best of wherever they are, and this saying has come to symbolize to me not only what being a military brat’s life is about, but what being a healthy human being is about.
No matter what life circumstances you were born into or where you find yourself at this very moment, all you need to do is the best you can where you are right now. Find out how you can be the best you that you can be here, now.
You don’t have to wait until all the conditions are “just right.” They may never be. And they’re going to change again, anyway!
Just see what happens if you put down your roots and soak up what sun and nutrients there are around you (and they are there!) and just bloom where you are planted.
LIFE LESSON 2: EVERYBODY HAS TO SAY GOODBYE
What I learned moving to a new place every few years was not to get very comfortable where my roots were growing…because there was going to be an uprooting a’coming.
No matter how good (or how badly) things were going, I was going to have to say goodbye to every best friend I made, to every teacher I loved, and to every special place I bonded with.
As painful as that was for me, I learned that “goodbyes” are a part of life. They are as normal as the “hellos” and the conversations that take place in-between.
And just because there are going to be the inevitable endings, it doesn’t mean that you don’t give your all to create meaningful friendships, relationships, and experiences before it’s your time to go.
LIFE LESSON 3: THERE ARE ALWAYS SECOND CHANCES
I count as one of the incredible blessings of being a military brat the fact that with every move to a new country, base, or town came the opportunity to re-create myself.
Not one person in my new school or neighborhood (other than my immediate family) knew who I was, how I had done in school the year before, what my personality was like, if I excelled or sucked in sports…there was literally no past to haunt me.
I could start over again fresh that year…with a clean slate. It taught me the power of believing that anything is possible, that you can be anyone and anything that you want to be, and that the past does not determine your future…you do.
IF YOU HEAR ME GIGGLING IN A MOVIE THEATER…
To end this, I have to tell you one of my favorite memories of being a military brat…and it has to do with going to the movies on base as kids.
Movies shown on a military base began with previews just like in civilian theaters, but after the previews of coming attractions the movie did not start immediately.
Instead, there was the playing of the National Anthem…and everybody would rise, place their hand on their heart, as best you could with hands full of popcorn and candy, and often sing along.
To this day when I go to the movies, after the previews are over, I start giggling.
I’m waiting for all the jawbreakers and lemonheads to start pinging off of my heels the way they always did…because inevitably some poor kid behind me would lose control of their candy trying to stand for the National Anthem!
So if you hear me giggling in a theater after the previews are over…that’s just me “being a brat” again! 😉
This post is dedicated to all the military brats out there who have served and are serving their country by being such an important part of the families who keep our servicemen and servicewomen grounded, no matter how often they may be deployed or stationed abroad.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart.