Posts Tagged ‘Military brat’

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.

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I’ve decided to do a short blog segment just for fun…a weekly mention of a well-known musician, actor/actress, writer, or politician who happens to be a military brat. It’s interesting to think about how a military childhood may have shaped a person’s artistic or political career. And since I’m a writer, I thought we’d start off with a writer. 🙂

Cover of "The Great Santini: A Novel"

There probably isn’t a writer out there more influenced by military brat life than Pat Conroy, New York Times bestselling author of novels such as The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline. Conroy was born in Atlanta, GA to a U.S. Marine officer and moved 23 times before he was 18 years old! He’s also spoken out on the ‘invisibility’ of military brat subculture and the unique challenges these kids face.

“We spent our entire childhoods in the service of our country, and no one even knew we were there.”

The Great Santini in particular–and its film adaptation–most reflects Conroy’s upbringing, with an almost comically stereotypical “military dad” who was  based on Conroy’s own father.

If you’re a brat, would you say military life pushed you to excel and–as the Colonel so eloquently puts it–“chew nails while other kids are sucking cotton candy”? 🙂 Or was there a darker side to this “best and brightest” achievement mentality?

I came across this documentary on military brats–Brats: Our Journey Home. I’m looking forward to watching the entire thing, but here’s the trailer in the meantime!

A fellow blogger and military mom has a great post about resources for children struggling with military brat life: Advocating for Our Military Brats

I think getting access to the stories of other “brats” who have experienced a similar upbringing is another great resource for kids currently going through it. That’s why I find books and film so helpful–stories give us meaning, and there’s nothing quite as meaningful as hearing another’s story that could very well be your own.

Lubriderm

Image by bizzlenj via Flickr

Something starts to happen to me every 2-3 years that most military brats will surely recognize. I start to get the itch. Yes, Colorado is a very dry climate and you have to wear extra lotion here in the winter, but that’s not what I mean. I start to get what I have fondly come to call “the three year itch”—to move. It’s hard to know whether such an urge is a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, it definitely keeps things from getting stagnant. On the other, it makes it difficult to be fully present in the place you’re at. I imagine (though I’ve yet to experience) that this itch can be relieved if you just sit with it for a while and don’t scratch—which means, gasp, staying in one place at least 4 or 5 years. But in an age where college programs and a lack of job security have more people mobile than ever before, I bet military brats aren’t the only ones who need the number for a good dermatologist. A lot of brats—and other transient beings—just get used to “the cycle,” almost likes it’s downloaded onto our systems.

It goes something like this:

Year 1: CHANGE. You pack up everything you own, move to a place you’ve never been, and hate life for a good 6 months because you have no friends and this place doesn’t have nearly as much to do as the last place you lived (it doesn’t matter if you’re moving from Kansas to Hawaii, by the way…this is how your warped little brat brain will feel). By the end of the year, you’ll have a few friends—at least one of them will undoubtedly move just when you’re starting to get close—and all your schemes to save up extra cash so you can go back to visit Location A will become less intense. Your skin, by the way, is healthy and glowing.

Year 2: You’ve settled in and are finding your groove. It’s smooth sailing, but occasional exfoliation may be necessary and don’t forget the sunblock.

Year 3: One of two things will happen. Either you will be ready to move on to the next place—at this point the itch will be breaking out in full force—or you will meet your soul mate and/or bosom buddy. Oh the irony. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made a really close friend about 9 months before we must inevitably separate. Fortunately, some of those friends are still really close…one of the upsides of relationship-building with a ticking timer in the background.

When the timer goes off, take a deep breath and let cool for about 5 minutes, then repeat.

I’d love to hear the thoughts of those who’ve had similar experiences! 🙂

Bullying

Posted: December 6, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

This heartbreaking video by Jonah Mowry has received a lot of media attention over the past few days. Bullying is certainly nothing new—there have been bullies as long as there have been schools. Yet studies show that bullying has grown more intense and complicated in recent years, largely due to the added element of “cyber bullying” made possible by social networking sites and texting—mediums far more difficult for the Hall Monitor to police.

According to Army Times, 1 in 4 U.S. school kids is regularly bullied and military kids are especially susceptible due to frequent moves and a constant “new kid” status, plus the added stress and fear associated with one or both parents being deployed to a war zone.  Jonah’s video also points to the specific problem of bullying directed at gay teens, resulting in a number of tragic suicides every year. The power of Jonah’s words and tears are that they’re universal. Everyone must pass through the brutal gauntlet that is adolescence, but few people would ever want to go back that stage of life—regardless if you were the Prom King or a band-geek.

Dealing with the emotional, hormone-crazed, identity search that makes up those awkward teenage years is difficult enough without the added trauma of bullying now capable of following teens far beyond the schoolyard. Thank you, Jonah, for being brave enough to post such a raw message and moving cry for tolerance. It has already touched millions.

Growing up on military bases means experiencing one of the most bizarre American sub-cultures—one that has existed for generations and impacted millions. It’s a sub-culture not many people outside this “invisible tribe” know about or fully understand. It’s also a lifestyle of many paradoxes. Military kids often feel physically homeless, and at the same time, experience a greater sense of “home” based on the close-knit, we-will-survive-this-together relationships established within their immediate family.  Brats never feel completely rooted in one place, and yet can live practically anywhere. We may have trouble investing in short-term relationships if we don’t see ourselves sticking around too long, but many of us also have enduring friendships that span decades and continents. Often we never feel we truly “belong” in the civilian world, but will experience an immediate connection with other brats and have a strong sense of belonging to a tribe made up of many races, economic backgrounds, and religions.

Like I said, paradoxes.

According to Operation Military Brat, there are currently 1.2 million military kids scattered across the globe and 15 million American alive today who are former brats. I have to admit, I never really knew what the acronym B.R.A.T. stood for until recently. I always thought the person who made it up was just trying to be cute, but it turns out the U.S. military borrowed the term from the British. It stands for British Regimental Attached Traveler.

That kind of makes me feel like a piece of luggage, but whatever. The military is nothing if not practical.

The big news in the realm of YA-book-turned-teen-movie was the recent release of the new Twilight movie, which raked in $283.5 million over the weekend.  If, like me, you are not one of the millions of twi-fans bursting with delight at the thought of Bella and Edward walking down the aisle, the trailer for another popular YA series–the most important of the last decade, imho–also debuted this week:

I had my reservations about this book being turned into a movie, but based on the trailer, I’m excited! In addition to a kick-a*$ heroine, The Hunger Games is a story with strong characters and powerful themes. Not only does the author create a terrifying world ruled by a gluttonous, reality TV entertainment-driven,  government–the Capitol–THG deals with the brutal reality of violence, the fight for freedom in a totalitarian system, and the lasting effects of war.

It was not at all surprising to learn that Suzanne Collins, the author of ths hit trilogy,  is a military brat.

Collins’s father, who served in Vietnam, was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and a professor of military history at West Point.  In a New York Times article–“Suzanne Collins’s War Stories for Kids”–Collins shares her thoughts on dealing with the absence of a deployed parent.

“If your parent is deployed and you are that young, you spend the whole time wondering where they are and waiting for them to come home. As time passes and the absence is longer and longer, you become more and more concerned — but you don’t really have the words to express your concern. There’s only this continued absence.”

I’m curious to hear the thoughts of other military brat fans of The Hunger Games. What is it about the story that impacted you the most? Do you think the movie will live up to the book?