I never liked the terminology, since it seems to suggest an attitude or a negative mindset--brats are obnoxious, out of control children--but I am one, and so are millions of other Americans. Brats are the children of military people and DoD civilians. We are all different. Some are drawn to military careers themselves, others, like me, had enough of it at an early age and never wanted to be near it again. Some take to the regimented life on the base, others rebel against it.
Some stay put, more or less, in one place. Others, probably more common, move around. Sometimes a lot. By the time I graduated from high school I had been to school in Illinois (1), France (2), Virginia (3) and Germany (1) and lived in multiple houses in all those places, made friends, lost touch with friends, sometimes finding them again and sometimes not. That's pretty typical of brats, I think. Easily uprooted, having to make friends fast because in a year or two you might be on the move again. There are definite pluses--I'm glad for the opportunity to have lived in Europe and learned other languages and cultures. I think it's made me more accepting of other people and other ways of life, and allowed me to see aspects of my own American culture more clearly than I might have otherwise.
Despite our differences, there's probably more about us, deep down, that's the same, because we all went through something that others didn't. We weren't raised in Leave it to Beaver-land, even if we were raised in the fifties. There's never been a TV family that came close to approximating our lives--not even in Major Dad.
Now there's a new documentary movie about the lives of brats. It's called Brats: Our Journey Home. I haven't seen it, although I intend to.
Author Pat Conroy, who strings words together as well as any living person in the United States, wrote an introduction to a book about us called Military Brats: Legacies of Life Inside the Fortress, by Mary Edwards Wertsch (who is interviewed in the film). In it, he says, "I thought I was singular in all this, one of a kind. From Mary's book I discover that I speak in the multitongued, deep-throated voice of my tribe. ...[I]t's a language I was not even aware I spoke... a secret family I did not know I had. ... Military brats, my lost tribe, spent their entire youth in service to this country, and no one even knew we were there."
That speaks for all of us, I think. If you're a brat, what do you think the experience gave you? What did it take away?