I’ve written a time or two before about how Frank and I are military brats. Before landing here in ’90, I never spent more than 1.5 years at any one school due to moving around so much. Frank has a similar track record. Yesterday someone started a “You’re Probably a Military Brat If…” group on Facebook. Sitting side-by-side on separate laptops, Frank and I blew most of last night reading and posting to that thread. People across the country and the world felt like kindred spirits, all because we share this bond of being military brats. It felt like meeting up with old classmates and reminiscing on “the good old days:”
You’re probably a military brat if:
- …someone asks where you’re from and you don’t know what to say.
- …you remember the AFN commercials and the AFN wave.
- …you went to all the dances at the DYA and remember when they started calling it the AYA or CYA or YCA.
- …wish you had some spaghetti ice RIGHT NOW.
- …know that American Haribo is nowhere near as good as German Haribo.
- …couldn’t wait to get your ID card.
- …you think it’s weird when people are born and raised in the same place.
Statements similar to these received many Likes and additional comments. But the ones that made the most impact and were heavily commented upon said something to this effect:
- …racism baffles you because you grew up with friends of all colors.
- …that you were shocked at how kids in your stateside/civilian school didn’t hand out with kids from other races.
- …if you didn’t choose your friends by their color or their culture.
When you’re a military brat, you never have to worry about being the “new kid,” because we were all perpetual new kids, often coming and going in the middle of school years. You don’t really see the de facto segregation that is prevalent in most schools today. In the Facebook group, many of us discussed how our first experience in a civilian school was nothing short of culture shock.
That year came for me in 6th grade. We’d moved from Frankfurt, Germany to Orlando, Florida. Aside from attending private school in 1st grade, it was my first experience in a school that was in no way attached to a military base or had military children in attendance. It was also the first time I had ever experienced any sort of discrimination or racism. Ironically, that maltreatment came at the hands of other African-American children. I was relentlessly teased. I was called an Oreo and a wannabe (as in, wanna be White). The way I spoke (“Why you talk so damned PROPER?”) and the way I dressed (“Why you dress White?”) were easy targets. The fact that I was smart didn’t help matters much. I’d already finished the highest Reading curriculum they had available at the school in the year before in Germany. I was stuck at this little table in the corner of my English class working on some stupid speed-reading drills that my teacher gave me to do independently because she didn’t know what else to do with me (“She think she better than us with her stuck up ass”). That girl who didn’t have any friends whose name (in conjunction with disgusting words and pictures) was smeared all over the bathroom walls? That was me.
I was no different then than I was the year before. I went from having lots of friends and never feeling self-conscious about myself to being a nobody who tried her damndest to melt into the walls.
I’d always felt alone in that experience, like I was the only one who’d suffered from such a stark contrast between that safe, accepting military life and the reality of situations in which people reject, rather than embrace, people’s differences. This is not to say that this type of intolerance occurs in all civilian schools; I know that my experience was largely due to the location of this particular school. But, last night it became quickly apparent that I wasn’t the only military brat who’d endured something similar. Military brats from all races and cultures discussed being made to feel like outsiders in civilian schools, having been set apart as “less than” because they were White, Black, Asian, a Pacific Islander, etc. Of course as we grew up, we adapted – because that’s part of what being a military brat is. We adapted and learned that we were not less.
I think last night, many of us learned that we were more. I’ve always been proud to be a military brat, but that pride rose to a completely new level in the midst of that solidarity. We lived it, we learned from it, and now we pass it on. We are better people because of it – not better than anyone else, but better versions of our individual selves.
We are not, and never were – alone. We are family.
You’re probably a military brat if you know you’ll always be one.