Time to PCS!

Posted: March 9, 2013 in Uncategorized


Hi brats….as you can tell, I haven’t been keeping up this blog very well and that’s because I’ve been focusing more on my author website/blog, ashleecowles.com. Two blogs are a little much for me to manage, so I plan to delete this page and instead write about military teen issues and brat stories on my other blog. Please make the move with me and keep following @


The Hunger Games (film)

The Hunger Games (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay, I said I was going to review the books listed under my “Books for Brats” post, so I decided to start with MOCKINGJAY since THE HUNGER GAMES movie opens this week! Like most fans of the series, I can’t wait! 🙂

That said, of all the books, I think MOCKINGJAY was probably my favorite (or a very close second after the first book)…which is interesting, since it appears to be the least praised by fans and some of the reviews on Amazon are downright scathing.

So why did I like it? I think it has a lot to do with coming from an Army brat perspective.

MOCKINGJAY is a war story, and wars are messy, ugly things, no matter if the cause is just or not. In this final installment, the story is about so much more than Katniss or any one character…and it certainly is a lot bigger than a teenage love triangle. Beloved characters are lost, and others will never be the same.

How like…war.

Some reviewers called MOCKINGJAY “hopeless” and “absurd.” I think many who were displeased with the final book wanted a fairy tale story with a neat happily ever after ending. But wherever there is violence, death, and oppression, sometimes the best one can ask for is a let’s see if we can put the pieces back together ending. That’s real hope—“the thing with feathers that perches in the soul,” as Emily Dickinson says. It is as enduring as the Mockingjay and not easily silenced.

Suzanne Collins surely knew the nature of this tattered hope, being an Air Force brat and the daughter of a Vietnam vet. The brutal realism is what I loved about the last book—as depressing as it was at times—because it told a truth more meaningful than Gale vs. Peeta. MOCKINGJAY culminates the message of the first Hunger Games book in a powerful way: when we substitute reality-TV gladiators for real people, we numb ourselves to the ways violence affects those who must take part in it. Just ask the thousands of U.S. troops “coming home to a country that doesn’t know them.”

Thankfully, Collins stuck to her guns and gave us real characters, even when the masses were screaming for panem et circenses.

Edwin Jackson

Image via Wikipedia

Washington Nationals pitcher Edwin Jackson Jr. has been traded many times, but at least he’s used to moving. After all, he’s a military brat.

In the Washington Post, the pitcher’s father, Jackson Sr., compares baseball and the Army: “I loved where I was at, but the military said you had to leave. Baseball is a business just like the Army.”

Jackson Jr. seems to take these trades in stride: “I mean, I can’t be worried about something I can’t control…If anybody wants to trade me and that’s the route they feel is best for their organization, so be it. I’ll just say, ‘Thank you for the opportunity I had to play here,’ and take my journey somewhere else.”

Maybe that’s what helps military brats deal with constant change–viewing life as a journey that was never meant to be static; an adventure filled with both walks and strike-outs.

Top 5 books for older military brats (15+) and adults (in no particular order). Stay tuned for reviews!


1) Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

2) The Yokota Officer’s Club by Sarah Bird

3) Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford

4) Durable Goods by Elizabeth Berg

5) The Great Santini by Pat Conroy


Like most military brats, I loved traveling, but hated moving. There was nothing more terrifyi"Adolescence"ng than the first day at a new school, where I was expected to “put myself out there” and speak to kids I didn’t know anything about, and who knew nothing about me. In middle school, I can still remember sitting pressed against the window at the front of the school bus, lost in a novel that transported me far, far away from the snickering older teenagers behind me.

My shyness started to fade by the middle of high school, and I like to think a military upbringing had something to do with that, since I was forced again and again to confront the fear that rises up from a sea of unfamiliar faces. But I am still an introvert, and it took a little longer to see that trait as a strength, not a weakness. Contrary to popular belief, being an introvert is not the same thing as being “shy” or “reserved”…it has more to do with how you recharge your batteries. Whereas extroverts thrive off the energy of large groups, introverts are drained by extended social interaction and need time to retreat into their thoughts.

We live in an extrovert-dominated world, however, so many introverts grow up believing that something is wrong with them, that they just need to “come out of their shell,” otherwise people are going to associate them with the anti-social crowd who wear trench coats. The thoughtful, more reflective kid may make a loyal friend, but he will likely never be the life of the party (not that he would want the spotlight anyway), so it’s especially easy for teens to internalize society’s message: boisterous is better.

I first confronted this “lie” my freshman year of college when I wrote a research paper on philosophers and writers who were introverts, or some might say, “loners” (Emily Dickinson, Henry David Thoreau, and Franz Kafka, to name a few). My professor gave me the most glowing remarks I have ever received on a paper, spawning not only a new found interest in the world of academia, but confidence that the world is far better off thanks to creative introverts who had the courage to be themselves.

So if you are raising a teen who is an introvert (or are one yourself), encourage them to search for wisdom in their own minds and virtue in their books. The world needs innovative thinkers who can venture into the wilderness alone.

Susan Cain makes this claim very clear in the TED lecture below, as well as in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts.

TED Talk: The Power of Introverts

One of my favorite T-shirts as a little kid had a globe on the front, along with the phrase: “Army Brats Go Places!” While there are probably a few locations we’d rather the military not send us, Army life can definitely take you to some amazing spots.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany—an alpine resort town and a popular “R&R” destination for American soldiers and their families—is one of those places. My family was never stationed in Garmisch, but I had the opportunity to live there later on as a Department of Defense employee for one blissful year. Reading this NY Times article made me quite Garmisch-sick. So what exactly do I miss?

I miss the quaint winter scenery, hikes to castle ruins in spring, the turquoise waters of Eibsee in summer, and golden afternoon bike rides in fall. I miss cow staus and angry old men in Lederhosen, warm Apfelstrudel and beer that’s cheaper than water. I miss the simple lifestyle, the constant adventures, and a community of likeminded travelers to share it all with.

What memories or ‘misses’ do you have of Garmisch?