Editor’s Note: Only To A Brat was first published in Military Brats Online, June 7, 2011
It had to happen. Though I’d been dreading this for years, I knew the day would come, though I’d hoped I’d never see it.
The final class to graduate from Mannheim American High School accepted their diplomas this year. A large piece of my personal history is beginning to slowly fade away. Oh sure…like many other installations that close down, the buildings will likely remain. But the reason for it’s existance will forever be altered, most likely never to hold a full compliment of American high schoolers again.
We’ve all been here. Each one of us has borne witness to the closing of a chapter in our lives as buildings and installations disappear. And yet, it is no less sad each time it happens. Many of our fellow citizens cannot comprehend the complete eradication of their hometown, but that is something we all face, and many have experienced. Though hard to explain to a non-Brat, WE get the emotional turmoil that accompanies such news.
Our childhood, the ties that bind our growing up…the foundations that partially made us who we are…gone. And while some buildings might remain, we honestly can never go back because those buildings will never be what the once were ever again. For me and MAHS, teachers will never stand behind desks and lecture…students will never wander the halls, or gather outside to gossip and hang out.
As more and more of “our” hometowns fall away, I am also deeply saddened at the thought that we were (are) a special and unique caste of our society. With the drawdowns, there will likely be fewer and fewer new Brats that will get to experience what we were most fortunate to witness. How many of us can recall castles visited in the summer, carnivals and fairs right down the street on our own installation and small villages passed through that will see fewer and fewer of us wander their prisitine sidewalks? The age of the Brat is a dwindling enigma, and while I understand the need for a changing military mission around the globe, I also see the loss of several thousand “Goodwill” ambassadors for the United States, for that is exactly what each of us was.
The school will close, and the base (eventually) will be handed back to the German people (as it should be)…but those streets of BFV will never echo with the same sweet reverberations as it did for the last several decades. And for that, I am mourning the loss of the bedrock of my most cherished childhood memories…