Only To A Brat

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…

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  1. Hi Jim, thank you for your article. Like many Military Brats, our paths have crossed, but at different times. I too feel that our “hometowns” are disappearing right in front of us and it is sad that the housing areas we played in, went to school in, and lived in with our families while we grew up are no more.

    • Vann…the buildings may be gone but the memories we Brats do pass on in our stories to our children, grand children and thru Military Brat Lives. Thank you for being there for us. Naomi Foy

  2. I experienced the same when I returned to Ansbach, Germany in 2013 to see where I lived from 1963 to 1966. I found the house we lived in on the economy…but when I got to the old military quarters just outside of Barton Barracks and Bleidorn Kaserne……I was turned away by barbed wire and a security guard. the old quarters are now homes to German Nationals, and it is a fenced community due to terrorist security concerns. So sad.

  3. I was an af brat up until 1977 when graduated from KAHS Kaiserslautern. I left Germany in 1997 my parents are still there Dad wanted to retire there and he did. the 70’s were great times there.

  4. Great article. I was there in 62-63. Remember trade comic books? The pill boxes on the dirt road that went to the elementary school. Marbles etc. Good memories.

  5. Wayne,I was an Army Brat until1961 when I became an Army wife. You and
    I and all the Brats were the lucky ones. By the way, the late 50’s when we were stationed In Germany were also GOOD times!

  6. I graduated from Mannheim American High School class of 1976. I lived in BFV when the middle school was built. Even though I realize that BFV and MAHS will never be the same I will never forget how it affected my life. It has been over forty years since I left Mannheim at times it feels like yesterday. Some of the best years of my life.

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