April is also the Month of the (Adult) Military Child.

In 1986, Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger established April as the “Month of the Military Child”, recognizing U.S. military children ranging in age from infant to 18 years old, who have one or both parents serving in the armed forces.

Recently, a group of adult military brats began a grass-roots movement to make April 30 the official National Military Brats Day. Like so many grass-roots efforts, the movement began in small discussions on social media, quickly became organized and gained momentum.

Why April 30th?

Through discussions and polls, participants agreed that April 30, the last day of the month honoring military children, would be most meaningful to adult brats. It would symbolize the time many of them– at age 18—or 23 if they were in college– had to give up their ID cards and leave behind the only lifestyle they had ever known.

“The worst thing about being a military brat is not being a military brat anymore. When they take away your ID card, they take away your life. Everything you’ve known. Everything that is security to you.” –Marc Curtis, founder of Military Brats Registry.

Curtis estimates there are about 15 million military brats – those who are, or once were, the children of active duty service personnel.

Military Brat Cultural Identity

Best-selling author Pat Conroy was a major supporter of the research and writing efforts of journalist Mary Edwards Wertsch and filmmaker Donna Musil, who have both devoted their lives to studying the effects of military life on children. Conroy’s novel, The Great Santini, was inspired by his life growing up under the strict discipline of a US Marine officer, and his story resonated with many military children.

In 1991, Wertsch’s book, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood inside the Fortress identified common themes, special challenges and strengths and the unique subculture experienced by American military dependents.

Conroy wrote the introduction to Wertsch’s book, saying,

“Her book speaks in a language that is clear and stinging and instantly recognizable to me, yet it’s a language I was not even aware I spoke. She isolates the military brats of America as a new indigenous subculture with our own customs, rites of passage, forms of communication, and folkways…”

 Conroy also authorized the use of his work in the award-winning documentary Brats: Our Journey Home, directed by Donna Musil, founder of “Brats without Borders.”

Musil explains, “Growing up ‘brat’ has a profound effect on a person’s life. It shapes the way one thinks, feels, and behaves—as a child and as an adult. Brats without Borders has been a voice for this invisible subculture–from advocating for after school Brats Clubs, the new BRAT Art Institute, to keeping our name. Brats without Borders raises awareness of the culture, contributions and challenges of brats and ‘Third Culture Kids’.”

 Unconventional Childhoods

“An adult military brat is a very unique person, as (he or she) grew up unconventionally… some brats hold dear the [military] and its bases, longing to return ‘home’; others walk away as soon as possible and then stay as far away as possible”-Gene Moser, Army brat and Army veteran.

Army brat Anita Pope says, “I feel like I had the best childhood ever.  We grew up with such a diverse group of people over the years; we did not know prejudice.  Everyone was treated equally, and we grew to be super flexible people.”

Some Brat Culture:

 The Dandelion

In March of 1998, another grassroots movement online chose the dandelion as the “Official Military Brat Flower.”

“ The [dandelion] puts down roots almost anywhere. It is almost impossible to get rid of…It’s a survivor in a broad range of climates… This just illustrates my motto, which is ‘bloom where you’re planted’.”–Anne Christopherson

And so the dandelion was adopted. Over the years, dandelions have cropped up on pins, bumper stickers, tee shirts and insignia—instantly identifying military children to each other.

 Motto:

“Children of the world, blown to all corners of the world, we bloom anywhere!”

 “Purple Up”

Purple symbolizes all branches of the military, as it is the combination of Army green, Marine red, and Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force blue.  During the month of April, people are encouraged to wear purple to show support to military children.

 “Brat”

According to Wikipedia, “the origin of the term ‘military brat’ is unknown. There is some evidence that it dates back hundreds of years into the British Empire, and originally stood for ‘British Regiment Attached Traveler’. However, acronyms are a product of the 20th century and all attempts to trace this theory have failed to find a legitimate source.”

Overseas Brats founder, Joe Condrill, elaborates, “Today’s U.S. military dependents also use: ‘Born, Raised And Trained’; ‘Born, Rough And Tough’, and a number of other explanations.”

No matter where the word originated, many military children have embraced the term, although in recent years, there have been other alternatives proposed.

Misty Corrales, who, along with her husband Jon, created the National Brats Day logo says, “[Some] view it as derogatory or insulting. How can it be when our culture identifies with it and embraces it? At its most basic translation, ‘brat’ merely means ‘child of’. Military brats are children of the military. But we grow up. We’re not always children. And trust me, we’re not spoiled.

“We’re working to gain recognition, not just for the active duty brats, but for veteran brats… We plan to raise $1,500 to have “Brat’s Day’ placed on the National Days Calendar. We’ve claimed April 30 as our day, and we want to make it official.”

In addition to having National Brats Day placed on the National Days Calendar, many people are asking that Congress set aside a day each year as National Military Brats Day, so “Americans can thank these patriots, young and grown, for their dedication and sacrifice in the service of their country.”

For more information on the National Brats Day Initiative, please visit http://MilitaryBratsInc.org.

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