Story of an Army Brat

Jensina describes her memories and the things that made her life that of a Miltary Brat, in Story of an Army Brat.

I barely know where to begin.

My father, Master Sergeant Gene Noel Anderson, enlisted in the US Army in 1973. I wasn’t born until 1976. He recently retired in 1997 so as you can see he was in the Army my entire life. Being an Army brat is the only thing I know how to be and the only thing that I am really good at.

Some of the other people that have posted stories here have already expressed the feelings that I am about express as well but, I am glad to know that I am not the only one who feels this way.

One thing is that I don’t have a place to call home.

I was born in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky in 1976. My sister was born two years before me in the same hospital. We transferred to California when I was 1 year old and stayed there until I was 3. My next younger sister was then born in California. We moved to Oregon so that while my Dad was gone to Korea for a year my Mom would have help from his family raising us kids.

When Dad finally returned we moved to Fort Benning, Georgia. This is where my memories really begin. My dad became a Drill Instructor and we never saw him for five years while we lived there. It was really tough. I started school there and attended Dexter Elementary School until the second grade.

Then we moved to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina where I went to fourth, fifth and sixth grade. I don’t want to tell too much or I could write a book. From there we moved to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. My dad worked in Schofield but, we lived on Aliamanu Military Reservation closer to the airport.

Hawaii, I guess, is where I mostly consider home because I attended Aliamanu Intermediate and Radford High School (for only three years). This is where I consider I spent the most important years of my life. Life was very hard but, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I then graduated on the mainland (Oregon) from high school. Then I did what I had dreamed about since I was five years old. I enlisted in the Navy.

The Navy wasn’t my choice until very recently when I realized that I didn’t like the Army because of the things I had gone through with my dad. I married in 1995 to another Navy member and in December 1996 my military career stopped short due to a medical condition with my ankle. Now I am a military wife and in a position that my mother was in for so many years except subtract the kids.

My dad retired this past May of 1997. His speech was so wonderful for his retirement ceremony. I just want to share one part. My father was very emotional because military life was all we had ever known and now it was going to end. It is so very scary to become a civilian.

I have never been a civilian and won’t be one for a little while because my husband is still active duty. It scares me to death. My Mom and Dad and my younger sisters are scared too.

My Dad said in his speech that when we add up how many years our family has served on active duty in the Armed Forces that it totals over a century. Like I said, what is a civilian? It must be such a different way of life.

I thank my Dad everyday now for raising me as a military brat. Of course at the time I didn’t like it but, now that I am a little older and out of the house I realize how many skills and responsibilities I was taught by being an Army brat. It makes me cry tears of joy now that I see that I am not alone in the experiences I had growing up as a military brat.

Thank you all for sharing your stories. Here is my small contribution.

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  1. I understand the fear of being a civilian.  While I couldn’t join active duty service (medical DQ), I am now a DoA engineer, so I’m surrounded by the military every day.  I wouldn’t know how to act if I wasn’t.  While some folks complain about noise pollution when a C-17 or UH-60 fly overhead, I just smile and send up a thanks to the folks behind the controls.  Drop me on any base/post in the world, and I’m instantly “at home.” 

    And my father learned that he couldn’t stay away after he retired.  Three years to the day of his retirement, he was back in Germany, doing much the same work as he did when in the service (minus the 0300 alerts and PT).  He remained in Germany, happily serving the military he loved so much until his (all too early) death in 1997 at the young age of 56.

    • This message is for Jensina.  I am a Freshman at the u of m and we have been working on profiles in class.  I would really love to do my profile on you because I need someone who understands how it feels to pick up and move out of nowhere. I would like to email you some questions, but only if it’s ok with you. please reply. thank you

  2. My father was a career Army Seargent.  I am 59 years old and recently a doctor who I had met for the first time asked me where I was from.  I struggled and struggled to name a place.  To make matters worse both of my parents were from Ireland. I kept thinking I was from Ireland BUT I’m NOT.  Born in fFt. Monmouth NJ. Lived in Ft. Bragg NC for six or seven years and so on. Finally I told him I was an Army Brat and described my nomadic childhood to him as he stood speechless staring at me.  We are from a LIFESTYLE not a place.  We are from a privileged lifestyle that made us who we are. BE PROUD.  YOU ARE SPECIAL

  3. I am 73 yrs. old, born in Pensacola, Florida, where my dad was staioned at US Naval Air Station and where he met and married my mother. I was born in 1939 when things were heating up in Europe. During the war we lived at my grandparents home until 1948 when we moved to CA where my father was recuperating from a knee injury. After a brief time there we eventualling took shipping to Pearl Harbor, T.H. I loved the trip over on the MSTS ship. I was 8 yrs old. I went to school at Pearl Harbor Elementary School. Part of the USS Arizona was still sticking up out of the water and we had a bomb shelter in our back yard. Someone had carved in the tile above my bedroom window that they had watched the bombing of Pearl harbor from that window. I enjoyed being in hawaii but felt that people back in the States must be a lot different.

    1950 saw us at US Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, IL, until 1953. These were the best of my school years in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades. We lived in a big farm house with a cellar and coal-burning furnace and loved to watch the snowflakes softly falling in the street lighting outside my bedroom window. I was active in Boy Scouts. We had a dog which we had to give up when we left for japan but he had a nice home at a local farm.

    We lived in Tokyo, Japan from 1954 to 1956. I attended Narimasu H.S., a DOD school; was in the band; played football; climbed Mt. Fuji; took judo lessons; and was in the Explorer scouts. I had a few close friends and we would jump on the Army bus and go into Tokyo. Our school played a japanese college because we were so much bigger than the japanese equivalent high schools. Good teachers and we had a three bedroom house. My parents enjoyed the social life. My dad was attached to the UN Hqtrs in Tokyo.

    My last year in high school we came halfway around the world to Bainbridge NTC in Maryland. I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school. My friend said: “Why not go to Penn State? So, I did and was a miserable failure.

    Let me just say that being a military dependant all your early life until HS graduation is tough. Few friends; always moving; no roots. Even today I almost feel like a starnger in my own country. I identify closely with foreiners who come here. I am so open-minded that I feel estranged from those who grew up in one location. Some feel it was an adventuresome life and I guess it was but was the price worth it? Not to me, but we had no choice as to our father’s occupation did we? I guess it’s a matter of “making lemonade when life gives you lemons.” I am proud of my father and his service to our country and my mother’s shouldering the burden most of the time while was away, especially during WW II. I was in the USAF, Medical Service Corps from 1961-64. As the saying went, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” A military cxareer was not for me.

  4. Hi Charles,

    Thank you for such a detailed and enlightening comment about your brat life. It is great to hear from from those who right there at the beginning of the Cold War, so to speak.  I was born in 1956, so my brat life started a few years later through my graduation from high school in 74.

    Like you I am neither a civilian nor part of the military, and I miss life on post and being with other nomadic kids who had dads being posted wherever the Army wanted them to be. Even so, I am glad to be a Military Brat and I wouldn’t change anything.


  5. Hi, I am currently 14 years old and a freshmen. My father has been out of the military for a few years now, but nothing is the same. I have lived in the same town for about 4 years and nothing is the same. I don’t have a set home. Being in the military for that long, you start to hate not having a normal life… Now I miss that life so much. I want it back. I am not normal and nor will I ever be. I hope and pray that my kids will have a father that is in the military so they can experience the amazing things I did.

  6. I am looking for a Drill Sergeant Anderson who was at D-3-1 at Sand Hill, Fort Benning in 1984. I was a fellow Drill Sergeant and a SGT Isnardi, Flora, Guilluime were also in the unit along with a Capt. Martinez. I would like to know if this is the same Drill Sergeant and how to contact him or have him contact me. Thanks for any assistance you can give. P.S. If I remember correctly he and his wife had 4 or 5 girls and a large station wagon during this time.

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