April, the Month of the Military Child, ends today on a high note of acknowledgement.
Today is National Military Brats Day, and its intent is to inform Americans about the service and sacrifices made by military brats while their loved one(s) actively serves.
“It takes courage to be a military brat,” wrote Kristin Wilda in a 2016 article entitled, National Military Brats Day.
“You leave behind the comfort of what’s familiar and adapt to a new environment again and again.”
Most current and former military brats embrace the term as an expression of endearment and as an acknowledgment that their multiple changes of address are a positive in their lives.
“I moved six times as a kid,” continued Wilda, “and that breeds an inner strength.”
The origins of “Military Brat”
According to British professor Grace Clifton and American professor Becky Powell, the term may first have originated in the lyrics of a song written by Englishman George Farquhar for his 1706 play, The Recruiting Officer.
The queen commands and we’ll obey
Over the hills and far away.
We all shall lead more happy lives
By getting rid of brats and wives.
In his 1936 novel Old Soldier Sahib, Frank Richards, a British soldier, suggested that “barrack’s rats” is the source.
Some American researchers claim that the 1942 term of “Army Brats” gave rise to today’s use of the term.
Most recently, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Dunn wrote in 2011 that the word is an acronym for the British army’s British Regiment Attached Traveler status.
“I must confess that I have come across no archival or print material that offers a clear indication of how the term ‘military brat’ emerged,” concluded Canadian historian Dr. Jennine Hurl-Eamon.
Signs of Strength
Word origins aside, military brats possess notable characteristics of confidence, awareness and resilience.
Sociologist Morten Ender found that they average eight moves before graduating from high school, spent about seven years in a foreign country, and that over 80 percent speak at least one other language besides English.
A study by Henry Watanabe showed that the multiple moves experienced by military children gives them opportunities and experiences generally unavailable to their civilian counterparts.
“I got to see that each country, city, and state had its own culture …. I had to learn the culture of each new place we went,” Roberta Kyle wrote in an email.
The National Military Brats Day Initiative
Since 9/11, more Americans now understand the sacrifices made not only by soldiers, airmen, Coast Guard personnel, Marines and sailors, but they also appreciate and respect the sacrifices made by the families of servicemembers.
“My childhood was chaotic but interesting,” continued Kyle, who relocated nine times during her youth.
“It was chaotic because we were always moving, and I was always changing neighborhoods and schools and curtains from the old house never fit right in the new one, and you would be surprised how different third grade can be from one state to the next.”
The chaos of change from one duty post to another combined with the worries of having a spouse or parent deployed in defense of the nation defines many of today’s military brats.
In some cases, this is problematic; in most instances, however, it proves beneficial.
“The moving around was a useful life lesson that taught me open-mindedness and flexibility,” continued Kyle.
“It also taught me that people, underneath it all, are pretty much the same no matter where you go.”
April’s High Note
Today’s National Military Brats Day offers an opportunity to take a moment to reflect on what these silent heroes have done, do and will continue to do in support of this nation.
And that is a high note of acknowledgement.