GMP continues its celebration of The Month of the Military Child
Military brat is a title many of us wear with pride. After we hit 23 and lose our Military ID Card, along with our dependent status, we leave the military world. Many people we encounter outside that familiar world don’t understand our experiences. There is one question military brats have more distaste for than any other. “Where are you from?”
We know the myriad of answers that are suitable for this question, but what’s important for us to remember is that where we are ‘from’ doesn’t define us. Experiences and people, not just one place that we can claim as home, shape us. Our ability to adapt and thrive in many environments is what makes us who we are.
To this day my parents still remind me of my response to our impending PCS (Permanent Change of Station) from northern Virginia to Hawai`i when I was fourteen. My PCS count with the family was up to nine, and it was our first move since both of my older sisters left for college. As the sole child of the household, my parents decided to ask my opinion on our move.
I thought it was an odd question. They had never asked my opinion before. Moving was a fact; whatever I said would not change the outcome. In mild confusion, I responded to my father by skirting the question. “It’s my job to support you in your career and go wherever the family is sent.”
It was the third time we were leaving Virginia—the only place I ever lived for more than two years.
By then, they probably thought I was ‘from’ Virginia and called it home. They were concerned that I would struggle with a move immediately following my first year of high school.
The meaning they pulled from my response was that I was a mature fourteen-year-old who understood duty and responsibility and put his family before himself. I was acting in the most ideal fashion—making the transition easier. I had grown up with change. Moving every two or less years is what I did. It was simple for me. I was a military brat; my job was to support my father.
After graduating from college, my first job required me to travel the country, moving on to a new location every four days. A stable job, living in a city, going into an office every day. These did not appeal to me. I flourish in the unknown. ‘Uncomfortable’ is not a feeling I experience. These are my talents because of my lifelong training as my father’s son, but these talents come with a cost.
I have no home. Some military brats can identify one station they call home. The rest of us are wanderers, some settling at their parent’s last post before they lose dependency, others continue a life of travel searching for where we fit in. I still haven’t found a home. I fit in everywhere and nowhere.
What a transient lifestyle has taught me is that places don’t define military brats. The experiences we live and the connections we make with people are our ‘home.’ It’s important for me to find the people who understand me–that I have no home and I am ‘from’ nowhere. I need the people who are able to understand why I can leave a life behind and move at a moment’s notice. None of this is possible without letting people know who I am.
The disadvantage for military brats is that no one can see this invisible identity. You can’t observe how a person interfaces with the world and definitively know that he or she is a military brat. It is our mission to share our unique experiences, skills, and insights with those we interact with in order to bring light to the unique abilities of military brats.
To my fellow brothers and sisters who wear the uniform on your heart: share your story.
Image credit: Judy **/flickr
Previous Month of the Military Child Articles:
Four Ways to Support and Appreciate Military Children– Jeff Pelletier