“We saw the world, and were fortunate to have the opportunities we had to visit places and meet people most of our extended families and friends only dream about. All of that comes with a price—we have no where to call ‘home’.”
During the last 15 years or so, the Military has been ordered to close many Military bases throughout the world, which they refer to as “realignment”.
They have consolidated many Bases and Posts and turned a lot of property back over to the municipalities from which they had borrowed the land for decades.
Overseas bases were turned back over to the governments of that Nation. Our homes, schools, churches and all we knew as children are gone.
I had a discussion recently with one of my favorite cousins. We spent a lot of time together as teen-agers as she would travel from Michigan each summer to stay with us on Ft. Devens, Massachusetts. She got a summer job at the same Post pizza shop I worked at, and she did get a small taste of what it was like living on an Army Post.
We have had several discussions throughout the years on their feelings toward us being out of their lives for long periods of time, and then come ‘crashing’ in for the Holidays or summer break pretty much disrupting their lives. They loved having us home as much as we loved coming home, but as children they did experience some jealousy over the attentions stolen from our grandparents.
Our parents had always been close, and my other cousins were close, but my brother and I never got to experience this, as I sometimes felt like an outsider when arriving to visit my close-knit cousins. It was not that they treated us as outsiders, they were in fact very nice to us, but when they talked about things that they had been doing while we were away, and adventures they shared I was not able to participate in their reflections.
My grandparents would, each year, take a grandchild on a special trip to Florida, where they could spend one on one time with that grandchild. My brother and I never got a trip but we understood why. While we never got to spend our ‘alone’ time with them, we got so much more. When living in Germany, they flew over and spent about a month with us, touring Bavaria, and Camping in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy.
I swam with my grandparents in the Mediterranean. My grandmother would often, I think, feel guilty she never took us to Florida, and would unnecessarily defend their reasons by bringing up the trip to Germany, and that we always got to travel. I always agreed with her, even as a child.
In the discussion I had with my cousin, I mentioned I was writing and going to have published some of my experiences and sense of loss I sometimes feel at being an Army brat.
Initially, of course, she didn’t understand why I would have a sense of loss. “You had a great life!” While she didn’t come right out and say it, she eluded to the fact that there was a little jealousy of us when we were kids.
I started to explain the loss of roots, of a home. Just about every base we grew up on has been closed, and I have nowhere to go back to. She argued that her parents sold the two homes she grew up in, and therefore doesn’t have a home to go back to either. When I pointed out that her town was still there, she did agree that yes, it was different.
It is hard for the non-brat to understand that while yes, many of us brats had great opportunities as children, there will always be something missing.
We will always feel like outsiders to civilians, and while we consider ourselves Military we are outsiders there as well. As children in school, we were often moved to a new assignment, and the other students had known each other since kindergarten and had grown up together, thereby making us the outsider.
As adults we cannot even answer the simple question at a dinner party, “So, where are you from?” We no longer can carry a Military ID, and we are no longer welcomed on the Military Installation, and in fact, the Military does not even recognize our existence.
We can not even qualify for a discount at Government held landmarks. They have taken our homes, our towns, our privileges, and we are left to ourselves to adapt to a foreign, civilian world. There are no numbers kept as to how many of us there are out here.
The second we resign our ID card, we resign our identity.
Yes, many of us do feel a sense of loss of our childhoods. Not because we feel cheated out of our childhoods, but feel cheated of our past.