My Life as a Military Brat
The title of “military brat” is used to describe the kids of the men and women in the armed forces, and it’s one that I myself, and millions of others, wear proudly. Unlike our parents, serving the USA isn't a choice that we make. We're born into a life full of brown boxes and strangers, and it's up to us to remake ourselves after every relocation.
Being a military brat is full of ups and downs. Moving is a perfect example of this. We’re envied for our amazing experiences, sure, but at the same time we receive sympathy for having to constantly start anew. Personally, I have always enjoyed PCSing (PCS stands for permanent change of station). The idea of a new school, friends, and house excites me; I live for the anticipation of my dad’s orders, and the butterflies I get when thinking about my new life!
But I’ll admit, as I’ve gotten older, the moves have gotten harder. It’s the realization that I will never be the same girl I was in Florida, or Korea, or New Mexico that really hurts. I will never be able to have the life I once had. In each move I am once again leaving everything behind, ready for an entirely new life. Many of my friends who have parents in the military feel that moving is the worst aspect of being a military brat. Imagine having to be the new kid every year, and at the same time having completely new surroundings in a new state or even a different country. Moving is a double-edged sword for anyone, particularly for military brats who have to do it so often.
Military brats also have to deal with seeing very little of their parents. Some jobs require parents to frequently leave on long trips, while others may require them to deploy to war zones. Both are hard to deal with as a kid, especially deployment where a parent’s life is on the line. I have been fortunate enough that my father deployed a lot when I was a toddler, so I don’t really remember it. Absence of a parent is one of the worst downsides to military life, and it affects most all military children.
Living overseas is another huge, and wonderful aspect of the life of a military brat. We get to spend a year or two in an entirely new culture and we gain tons of amazing experiences from these moves. I’m currently living in Korea, where everyone needs to be ready just in case Kim Jong Un decides to do something crazy. But seriously—we have a bag full of non-perishable food and clothes ready to go in case the loud speakers come on with bad news. In some places like Egypt or Turkey, Americans are not welcome; so people there don't do anything remotely “American” off-base out of fear. Especially overseas, these military bases become a safe space where people share the same experiences and form a tight knit group that understands each other.
I’m constantly surprised by how little people seem to know about the military lifestyle. I have heard many weird (and sometimes troubling) assumptions about what military brats go through, including having abnormally strict parents, carrying a gun, waking up in the early hours of the morning for exercises, and even having to live in a bunker. Yes, sometimes I have to live on a military base, and yes, the housing is often outdated, but it would be a little bit of a stretch to call it a bunker! These ideas are perpetuated by inaccurate TV shows and pop culture. We’re just like our civilian counterparts. We wear hoodies and jeans to our siblings’ soccer games while talking about how easy Ms. Navaro’s English homework was with friends. The truth is, we are just normal kids.
The life of a military brat is a bittersweet one. It’s full of loss and grief, and yet at the same time fresh beginnings and new connections. Parents deploy and we tough it out. We get our next assignment, and we start anew. When there are bumps in our road, we adapt and then we hurtle over them with strength and confidence. The life of a military brat is a sad and wonder-filled cycle. It’s more than constantly leaving your home...it’s a way of life, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.
By Hala Andersen, 13