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’.”
“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:
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.
“Children of the world, blown to all corners of the world, we bloom anywhere!”
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.
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.
In anticipation of National Military Brat Day, the Museum of the American Military (MAMF) is showcasing Brats through two initiatives.
We’ love your participation in the following:
Send MAMF a postcard with your Brat memory on it. Please write only your first name, your years affiliated, your branch, and a short story or memory.
We will add the postcards to our Brat Display celebrating National Military Brat Day in April. Postcards will be added to the nearly 500 in our collection– they get scanned and posted on our blog and then are stored permanently in our Special Collections Library. We really need more Brat stories represented.
Postcards can be mailed to:
Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center
PO Box 5085
Albuquerque, NM 87185
DANDELION PHOTOS for our Facebook “Garden”:
We would like a photograph of Brats holding a dandelion, real or otherwise. ( We’ve seen postings of paintings and necklaces and beer coasters and pins of dandelions that you guys own, so we’d love to post you with the item) Please send your digital photo with your first name and branch of affiliation to:
These photos will be posted on our FB starting 1 April and going through the 30th. Let’s aim for 100 photos from Brats!
This time of year inspires me to reminisce about my childhood in Germany, and to the places my husband and I were stationed during his military career. Judging from the message boards on social media, many military families do the same thing. Many American service families have fond memories of visiting the Christmas markets in Germany, attending luaus in Hawaii, celebrating Eid Al-Adha in Morocco, or ringing in the New Year overseas.
Our military family moved a lot, and we’ve blended holidays, customs, foods, traditions, and music along the way, hopefully making good memories for our children.
As an American child growing up in Germany, I made paper lanterns every November in my DOD school, and on November 11th, Saint Martin’s day, I would join dozens of German children parading through the streets of Karlsruhe singing songs by lantern light.
Years later, our family was stationed back in Germany, and our son Erik, who was attending German kindergarten, paraded through the town of Niederaula with his classmates. Saint Martin, himself, riding on horseback, led the parade to a bonfire in a field just out of town. We adults drank mulled wine and watched as our children played together.
In Puerto Rico, our neighbors introduced us to the custom of paranda, and we went from house to house singing and drinking coquito into the wee hours of the night. Later, we joined our new friends in a community feast and enjoyed slabs of a whole pig, which had been slow roasted all day over coals in a pit.
Until we were stationed in the Deep South, I had never seen a black eyed pea, let alone eat one. So, while living in South Carolina and Alabama we ate black-eyed peas for New Years.
Facebook is full of stories from military family members who have incorporated elements of the host nation’s holidays into their own lives and who introduced their host nation neighbors to traditional American holidays. This blending of traditional American and foreign elements into our holiday celebrations is something many of us consider normal.
Military Brat Amber recalls, “Our tradition was to be nontraditional! Whatever country we were in, that was the “flavor” for the holidays! So typical turkey, ham and beef were replaced with German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian or other countries’ dishes! I share this tradition of being non-traditional with my kids today!”
Especially overseas, we celebrated together—with greatly extended families of married couples, single service members and, with our civilian neighbors. Those memories have lasted a lifetime.
Jim says, “My wife and I still talk about spending Thanksgiving dinner with our fathers and the troops in the mess halls as Brats.”
Candalee recalls, “We were always living overseas. My mom would cook her butt off and invite all the men in my dad’s troop to come for dinner. It was awesome. Always festive and a house full during the holidays…”
Military wife, Ursula, agrees, “ We always invited single soldiers from my husband’s unit who had no place to go. What an experience that was!”
The children of military and DoD personnel overseas walk between worlds—their own American one, their military one, and that of their host nation. Because of their unique circumstances, they create their own cultural identity, and it is, for the most part, inclusive.
I grew up knowing I was an Ambassador for America—as did most of my peers–and I believe that feeling of responsibility extends into today’s military families.
By living overseas, learning new customs and meeting new people, we represent the best of the United States.
Being an Ambassador meant learning diplomacy as Air Force daughter Misty learned: “…My first Fourth of July outside of America… in England, waving a flag while living on the economy in this particular host nation could easily be considered an insult. Considering how warmly our particular group of neighbors had welcomed us, the last thing we wanted to do was insult them.”
One young man says of his military upbringing: “Germany exposed me to many other cultures… Before Germany, I never had friends who weren’t of my own race and I am forever in debt as a result.”
Deborah remembers a Thanksgiving years ago: “My father’s secretary and her parents ate with us one year in Morocco, and her father fell in love with jellied cranberry sauce. My parents gave them a couple of cans and her Dad kept hugging and kissing my Dad, back and forth, cheek to cheek.”
As military families, we represent the United States of America; and through our exposure and embracing of many world cultures, we have a greater appreciation of people who live outside our bases and posts—and as a big, extended Service family, our mobile, global lifestyle is another bond we all share.
(Circe Olson Woessner is the Executive Director of the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center. The museum collects the stories of military families of all branches and generations to preserve their heritage, record its evolution and share their experiences.)
Dr. Allen Dale Olson
MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN MILITARY FAMILY & LEARNING CENTER (MAMF) LOCATES AT BATAAN MILITARY ACADEMY (BMA)
Groups Call Move a “Good Fit”
Albuquerque, NM – An Albuquerque charter school has just joined forces with the only museum in the country dedicated to the collection and preservation of the stories, documents, and artifacts of America’s military families. Both the Bataan Military Academy Charter School (BMA) and the Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF) have moved into 5555 McLeod Boulevard NE, Albuquerque.
BMA serves grades nine through twelve, meets U.S. Navy standards in curriculum and in Naval sciences, including standards in physical fitness and in honoring traditional Naval standards. The school is in partnership with parents, teachers, military organizations, and with the military services. Principal, “Captain” Jan Zink, works closely with the Academy’s Board of Governors, chaired by Dr. Alan Holmquist.
BMA students are cadets grouped as in a military organization and follow the rank structure of the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Corps (NJROTC). In addition to traditional high school activities and sports, BMA cadets also form color guards, drill teams, and rifle teams. The school is named for the 70,000 soldiers and sailors forced to surrender on Luzon in 1942, some 70,000 of whom died during the infamous “Bataan Death March.” Many of those who died were from New Mexico. Annually BMA cadets simulate that march in a 26-mile hike at White Sands Proving Grounds.
MAMF, founded four years ago by Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, a DoD “Brat,” an Army wife and an Army mother, has been active throughout Albuquerque– even without a facility– by presenting documentary film programs, stage performances, military ceremonies and major exhibits in various venues, including the National Nuclear Museum, the South Broadway Cultural Center, the International Balloon Museum, and the Wheels Museum.
MAMF’s volunteer Board of Directors includes an Artist-in-Residence, a Writer-in Residence, and liaison chairs to military spouses, military organizations, “Brats” and Veterans’ organizations. Its programs reach throughout the country through its Operation Footlocker, mobile exhibits which go to public schools, nursing homes, USO events, and to reunions of former students of Defense Department schools. MAMF is a 501 c 3 not for profit.
MAMF has a partnership with the American Overseas Schools Historical Society which represents thousands of former teachers and administrators in the Defense Department world-wide school system and with “Overseas Brats,” representing thousands of adult military “Brats.”
Till this semester, BMA had been on Mountain Road in Albuquerque, and MAMF existed as an on-line presence. In the McLeod facility, MAMF occupies the second floor; BMA the ground floor. Both Captain Zink and Executive Director Woessner believe the shared home makes a “good fit” for the school and the museum. They agree that the MAMF library, archives, exhibits, and historical folios of military family life are valuable resources for the cadets, who in turn, provide ceremonial support for MAMF programs.
The Museum is open by appointment only.
For additional information, visit:
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Exhibit on Department of Defense Schools Worldwide Brings Back Memories for Military Families Who Were Stationed AbroadPosted: July 28, 2015
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEContact: Dr. Allen Dale OlsonPhone 505-400-3849 firstname.lastname@example.org|
Exhibit on Department of Defense Schools Worldwide Brings Back Memories
for Military Families Who Were Stationed Abroad
ALBUQUERQUE, NM, July 27, 2015—A special exhibit at the Special Collections Library’s Botts Hall chronicles the experiences of families who were based in locations around the world: Military families whose children might attend five or more schools by the time they graduated from high school.
“Schooling with Uncle Sam,” is focused on the history of the 181 schools for military dependents located in the U.S. Spread from the Far and Middle East to Western Europe. Self-titled “Military BRATS,” the children of military families, from lowest to highest ranks, attend Department of Defense Education Agency Schools and build strong ties and cherished memories through their varied experiences.
|The exhibit features comments from dozens of students, teachers and parents remarking on their experiences during various tours of duty—which involved the whole family. “Together We Serve” is the tagline of the Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center, an organization whose mission is to bring together people with shared experiences showcasing and honoring those who also served–America’s Military Families. Artifacts from school experiences provided by those who attended or taught at DODEA schools bring the story home to the many retired military and BRATS who live in our area, as well as those who did not serve in the military, but want to learn more about the experience of those who do.|
The new exhibit includes detailed information about the history and growth of the schools, anecdotes from students who attended them, and a host of artifacts that include: a 1948 report card; teachers’ guides; books on learning to speak, write and sing in the language of their new home; school flags and pennants; posters; school photos; yearbooks; athletic jackets and trophies; a high school diploma; a bison head that was worn by the varsity mascot at the Mannheim, Germany high school; a statement from General Colin Powell, US Army, Ret.; and much more. Many of the artifacts in the exhibit are provided by the American Overseas Schools Historical Society (AOSHS), based in Wichita, Kansas.
“Schooling with Uncle Sam” is free to the public and available at the Special Collections Library, 423 Central Avenue NE (corner of Central and Edith). The library is open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, except for Thursdays, when it opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m. Please stop by and learn more about how children of military families received excellent education in places around the world thanks to “Uncle Sam.” To access the exhibit, please check in at the library’s Information Desk. The exhibition closes on August 22.
The Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center (MAMF) collects and preserves the stories, experiences, documents, photos, and artifacts of the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, spouses, siblings, and others who have loved and supported a member of America’s military services from Revolutionary War times to modern times. MAMF is an all-volunteer not-for-profit online entity in quest of a permanent home in Albuquerque and is launching a capital campaign to support that quest.
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After years of looking, the Museum of the American Military Family has found a great building in a perfect location in Albuquerque, NM.
It will cost around $220,000 to buy. With your support, we can create a physical museum dedicated to our unique culture.
Your tax deductible contribution in any amount will help us continue to:
- Honor America’s Military Families
- Share their stories
- Preserve their legacies
- Recognize the countless men, women and children who stand beside America’s Service Members
We are a 501c3 nonprofit with an all-volunteer Board. Your support will be acknowledged in the museum building.
It will take all of us to create this unique museum–we appreciate your support!
please donate here: