When people ask me where I’m from, I end up giving part of my life story. Why? I’m a military brat. Do I throw fits when I don’t get my way? Maybe. But “brat” in this sense is not a derogatory word. Instead it describes the children of full-time, active duty parents in the Armed Forces. Military brats understand the culture and lifestyle that only other military brats can relate to. In our case, “military brat” is a term of endearment.
How does one become a military brat?. First, the not-so-great stuff you must do:
Be the child of an active duty parent and expect them to deploy.
One or both of your parents may be active duty. To have one parent active duty and most likely deployed to dangerous overseas areas is stressful enough… but for those who have both parents active duty? Well, now you’re Super Military Brat.
Do not have long-term childhood friends.
Some branches of the military offer more stability than others. However, chances are you will relocate to different states–or even different continents– several times in your young life. Listening to your non-military peers say, “Oh! I’ve known Timmy since we were in diapers!”… Yeah…that’s not you, Military Brat.
Be ready to grieve the loss of anything familiar.
Don’t get too attached–to anyone , anything, or any place. I know it sounds harsh, but this is the emotional mechanism of protection that military brats must utilize. We learn very quickly that friends, homes, and even cultures will change frequently in the course of our parent’s military career. “Out with the old, in with the new” might be the motto of the military brat as the scenery of his childhood changes frequently.
Adjust quickly and without warning to changes.
You never know when Dad or Mom will come home and announce that they’re deploying and you must go live with Grandma for six months. Or maybe you’ll get to do something really exciting, like move to Europe…but you must be packed up, moved out, and settled into the new country within sixty days. Bon Voyage!
Be brave when Mom and/or Dad deploys.
No one said it would be easy. Living with Grandma while your parents serve the military is an important aspect of being a military brat. Wear that badge proudly: your parent is serving our country, doing things most US citizens do not have to do. You contribute by being brave, helping Grandma do chores, and keeping your grades up in school. That’s a heavy burden to carry sometimes, but you can do it, Military Brat! You’ve been through it before and you might go through it again. It’s building your character and blessing you with some life-long skills. We’ll get to that point soon…
CJ Heath is a military brat. She was born into the military, served for over seven years as an active duty Airman, and is currently still affiliated with the military through her husband’s service. They have four military brats of their own.