The Lost Ones

“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.

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25 Comments
  1. Well said.  I totally understand.  I was a “brat” from the 1970’s until 1992 when I married a fellow military brat! The base where my husband and I met is now closed and was given back to the German government.  I attended the University of Maryland in Munich….it’s long gone now also…the post it was located on was given back to the Germans also. Although I don’t think I would have ever traded the experiences I had as a military brat, I do sometimes feel sad that the places that I have such wonderful memories of are no longer there.  

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  2. Dawn, I know the sense of loss that comes from not being able to visit childhood haunts. the base we lived on in Germany has reverted back to German ownership, but you know what? I got on Google Earth a while back and purely from memory as to where the base was in relation to the city center, i found it! Most all the buildings are still there and look like inhabited apartments. the Germans kept most of the street names too but put allee instead of street…it was pretty cool.

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  3. I know exactly how you feel. All my life I have avoided the question “where are you from?” because I feel like I am not “from” any one place!  Every school I went to except the military ones made me feel like an outsider. Even now I don’t know where most of my friends are because once you move you usually gave up your life and friends. We lived mostly in Europe and some states but it is hard to go back to any of your old homes because most of the bases are not there anymore. We were never close to any of our extended family and my grandmother always acted jealous whenever we did come to visit. Yes we were cheated  out of a past and no one but one of us understands this.

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    • Yes, the where are you from question. My answer is I am an Army brat. Very few ask beyond that answer. The few who do, don’t undstand the answer. 3 states before I was born, kindergarten, Germany, first grade Virginina, 2nd Kansas, ect., ect. Some times I just tell them the base I was born on and they don’t know where that is either. Now I just say I call Texas home because it is the longest I have ever lived in one state. Civilians don’t understand my life lessons & I don’t undstand theirs. Example: parties where every one has known each other from elementry school to the current 40th B’day. Feel like a chameleon. I can blend but don’t belong. As an ex brat for 39 years only a few friends have explored brat life, most never ask again. Would never wish to undo my expierences, I saw may places, experienced different cultures & foods. Some over seas, but most different parts of the US. Foods from diferent locals vary by region & country. Yum. We paid a price but I count the price worth the experiences. Not to mention the foods. 

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  4. I attended Elaki School in Kifissia, Greece, from 1974-1976.  It was in a former hotel, and we had open classrooms.  The high school (7-12th grades)  was closed my last year there, and the few remaining high school students attended the American School. 

    A few of years ago I started looking up my past, starting with classmates.com, I believe, and I couldn’t find my school.  I searched the D.O.D. website where military schools are listed and it wasn’t there.  I began to question my sanity, as over the years I searched military brat websites for any mention of it.  Finally, I came into contact via email with someone who at least remembered the school existed, and then I found the sister of a classmate who attended the school.  I learned that the school was shut down shortly after my family left.  Apparently it was only opened for a short time for the Navy kids who came in on the 7th fleet and then was closed after the fleet pulled out. 

    I also lived at Ft. Allen Puerto Rico in the late 70’s and that base was shut down shortly after we left.  Since my yearbooks were thrown out by my mentally ill husband, I have only my photo albums left to remember everyone.  Thank goodness my mom always took pictures and passed that interest on to me.

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  5. Colleen, your comment about some schools being imaginary struck home with me. Over the years people have asked me about alumni for this or that school and there just didn’t appear to be a website for some schools.

    Since alumni groups are typically all voluntary and given that some schools may have been small I fear a lot of schools have fallen through the cracks. Recently, i was trying to find websites for several overseas schools and Google came up empty handed.

    Also, many well meaning volunteers will start a website within someone else’s domain like geocities or other domains that seem to run a limited lifespan then all the websites built within it go away.

    Fortunately, all the schools I went to were fairly large and there seems to be alumni groups spanning many generations so there will hopefully be a history to be passed on in the future, but given there is not any sort of systematic saving this history and with an ever aging baby boomer population, a lot of our Military Brat experience won’t be passed on, which is why I encourage all Military Brats to blog about themselves in multiple places on the Internet, including Military Brat Life and Military Brats Online, the companion website to this one.

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    • I was a military brat from 1941 to 1960.  I started grade school in Sapporo, Japan in 1947 just after WW II.  I can’t remember thaname of the school.  However, I attended H.S. in Augsburg, Germany.  Just on a lark I keyed in “Augsburg American H. S and came up with a lot of information including a web site just for those of of us in my age group.  Maybe if you do the same with the names of your schools you will find a treasure.

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      • Barbara..looks like we have a little in common! We were stationed at Kuma Station, Chitose, Japan from 68-69. It was right outside Sopporo. Kuma Station was an ASA base with the motto “Forewarned is Forearmed”. We were also stationed in Augsburg from 72-75 (we left on December 15th, 1975) as dad’s report date was 1/1/76, to Ft. Devens, MA and we wanted to take a couple of weeks to visit family for the Christmas Holidays.

        I was in the 5th grade, and have found Augsburg Elementary School, I keep checking in, and more and more people are joining every day! We used to go to the Augsburg High Apache football games, as my dad was part of the chain gang for a couple of years. I never had the privilege of attending AAHS.

        Our last assignment was 9 years (with dad taking a year long hardship to Korea in 80-81.) We were allowed to stay in quarters while he was gone, and when he came back, he was re-stationed at Devens-so I was a lucky one. It took me from 5th grade until marriage at 20, and since dad was still active duty, and I was in college, I was a brat with a place I belonged one day, and I surrendered my ID card to my dad the day I got married. 

        I am in touch with our alumni group. The high school friends I had only a few of them I have found. The problem is-even though I was there for so many years, the other brats weren’t-therefore I have lost track of them. I just recently found one of them. This was Ft. Devens, MA, which closed in the 90’s-and our homes torn down. We attended HS off post at Ayer High School, which was about 1/2 military-and now that “we” aren’t there, they are trying to figure out what to do with it. The post closing has caused a real economic problem for the surrounding towns. Almost every place I knew on Ft. Devens is gone-including our quarters. Sad to see the dirt patch where our home was oon google, and the overgrowth of trees now growing where streets and parking lots used to be. My parents maticulously took care of that yard-dad getting severely sunburned the spring of 76 putting in a white washed fence and winning “Quarters of the month” several times. We grew tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, watermelon, and yes, flowers too.

        My dad started his career at Ft Devens, went to Turkey, and was re-stationed at Devens in 64…I was born while he was stationed there the following year, and my brother 2 years later. We left in late 67, and finally got back there in early 76-85 so it’s the closest thing we had to any “home”. There are many people who PCS’d in and out of our lives-and I would like to find them…but alas, as kids, we take things for granted, and don’t think of the future. My parents taught us as kids never to say “goodbye” to our friends…it was “see ya later”…because in some cases we would run into them again. This happened when friends left Germany. I met them again at Devens. Even other posts we were at while small, I met them again briefly at other posts. That is the hope of the brat…that we WILL see our friends again. All my friends from HS are all over the country, and thanks to the internet, I’ve been able to find a few of them-and at least we can talk to each other, even if we don’t ever physically meet again! Cheers!

         

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    • I was a military brat that lived in Royal Oakes, Madrid Spain .59-61.It is so sad that they have bulldozed the entire community and built new expensive houses there.. Of course, seeing the empy housing on a website is worse. The memories of being a military brat are etched in your soul. There are not enough words to express the times of sheer and utter joy in just the landscape of where we lived. I’ve been back to Madrid twice but never went back to where I lived.. The memories are so much better that what I would have seen.. even when I went back in the 70’s ..

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  6. Greg, it sounds a lot like you went to Karlsruhe!  We were stationed there from 1970 until 1976.  I went back around 2005, and walked right up to the apartment we lived in on Tennessee Street (now Tennesseeallee).  They’ve added another floor to each building, but the truly ironic thing was that all of the support buildings, such as the school and PX still had their US names on them (the school even still has the Knight mascot).  There was an eerie sense of sadness that no American would ever be stationed there again.  And for others of us, it’s even worse.  Many bases that have closed the world over have been completely torn down, erasing any ties we might have been able to hold onto of our past.

    The mention of giving up one’s ID card is something unique unto us.  When we turn a certain age, we hand over our access to the life that is the only one some of us have known.  Civilians just can’t understand that.  So while a base might still physically be standing long after we’ve grown up, most of us (unless we either join the services, marry into it, or work civil service) can’t ever truly go “back” home, even if all of the structures remain.    And then the question becomes, which post/base do you claim as “home?”  The silver lining is that we have options to define our childhood geographically that many others do not.  I can call on three different places to say I’m “from” and have always claimed Mannheim, Germany as my hometown.  But I could have just as easily called Karlsruhe as my home…

    We’re a unique breed, and we owe it to those coming up behind us to help them along the way to prepare for the inevitable transition that’s coming their way.

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    • Jim..just wanted to say hi and to mention to you and Greg that they never changed our street names in Augsburg. We had housing areas there, and only military buildings were on Kasernes, and the housing areas  weren’t. We wer clustered around the Kasernes, and the street that led to our quarters was Hoover Strasse. It remains that way today. I’ve never heard of Allee before! I wonder why they chose to name them “alleys” instead of streets?

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  7. As an AF brat, my only “home” was the town we went to where my aunts, uncles and cousins lived. Although most of them are gone now, that little town is still “home” in my memories. It is still confusing to me at times that I never lived there, yet feel such an attachment to it. I guess it was because it was the only “permanent place” in my life.

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    • There is a book “Brats Without Boarders” and a dvd “Brats Our Journey Home” which I found comforting, I learned that I don’t feel any differently than other brats and why we are different also how being a brat has formed my adult life in ways I never thought of.

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  8.                Memoirs Written by Two ’59 to ’60 Mannheim Students

     

    The following is a communication written by Robert White to Louatha Banks Cheese after they “found” each other on Facebook and he discovered she had been a writing teacher.  He called it “Memory Lane.” Then she responds.  It’s obviously been 50 years.

     

     

    Lou

     

    This is a “pre-script,” written after I had finished the following. I will apologize for the length. But as Abe Lincoln once said, “I’m sorry I didn’t have time to write it shorter.” However, you said you were a teacher of writing, and I still have pretensions in that direction. Let the stream of consciousness begin….

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    Destin [Louatha is there] is one of my favorite places, although I have not been through there since Katrina which I managed to miss by two weeks on one of my drives to Washington. I always used to take the Gulf Coast route because I thought it was more interesting. There was also the fact one of my favorite BBQ places is not far off I-10 near your favorite Florida haunt.

    Now, I pretty much stick to the boring Midwest, but I also know every motel along the way who will accept pets since I travel with three Golden Retrievers and a cat. It’s like a damn traveling circus.

    I became an accidental resident of Florida about 17 years ago after never having lived in one place for more than five years. And that was only once. I started out in television journalism and it was basically an extension of our nomadic lives as Army Brats. If you wanted to get ahead, you had to move about every three years.

    I called myself a “White Collar Migrant.” After my own stint in the Army I went to Denver, San Diego, back to Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, Detroit, back to Denver, Columbus, Ohio, Denver again, and then to Naples, Florida on a consulting job I thought was going to last three or four weeks. I woke up six months later and discovered I apparently lived there.

    I did take a side trip to Tucson for about a year before I “retired.” So, now I am on my second or, perhaps, it is my third career.  I haven’t quite figured that out.

    I made my living as a free-lance writer for two years, so I have great interest in your specialty. I described what I did as “commercial writing.” I would do whatever I got paid for. (Pardon my dangle.)

    I always said my work was to great literature what sign painting was to great art. As I am about to demonstrate, I love to write–I still harbor the illusion I might have a halfway decent book or two in me–but the necessity of always having to hustle up the next job was nerve wracking with two kids in college. So, I ended up back in television for a while.

    I have also done my share of traveling, although I never got back to Mannheim. I did make it to China, Russia, Italy, and to the British Isles several times, including a trip to play golf at St. Andrews. Eventually, I gave up the game. It seemed there was nothing like a “quick round” in Florida and I simply had too much to do. Besides, I was always frustrated by my congenital slice.

     

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    I also planned a trip to Japan with my old classmate Terry Weston. The bond between us which began in Mannheim was both odd and strong. We were both born on February 2nd in the state of Washington. He played Sr. Class President to my Student Body Presidency. I played left tackle to his left end on the football team.  We were registered one number apart in the draft. When we came back to the states from Germany, he went to the University of Washington on a Naval ROTC scholarship while I went to Washington State University in the ROTC program there.

    For a couple of years, we gathered whenever we could, but eventually lost touch. After I got out of the Army, I was working in radio in Denver when I had the chance to do my first TV story. When I returned to the newsroom, there was a call waiting for me. It was Terry’s mother. She explained she and her husband had eventually moved to Denver after his retirement and she thought she recognized me.

    I asked her about Terry. She said, in fact, he would be returning from Liberia the next day. I figured there must be a story there.

    Turns out, Terry had turned down a commission in the Marine Corps after his graduation in Eastern Studies. He had gone on to study Japanese at the Stanford extension in Tokyo and picked up an advanced degree in business from the Thunderbird School of Economics before joining the Peace Corps.

    We had a great reunion and spent the summer getting reacquainted until it was time for him to leave for the University of Washington Law School where he had been accepted.

    I drove him to the airport on a Friday. On Saturday night he called to tell me he was getting married on Sunday to a woman he had met in the registration line. From the always careful and prudent Terry, I thought he had to be joking. Turns out, he wasn’t.

    Our paths diverged again for a number of years and we did not keep in touch. I was busy raising a family and I don’t know what the hell he was doing. But in 1973, I found myself in Seattle attending a convention of Radio and TV News Directors.

    In the midst of the convention, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned which pretty much broke up the gathering. I decided to enjoy a couple of days without much to do. Idly, I picked up the phone book in my hotel room and turned to the W’s. There was only one Terry Lee Weston. His mother had named him after the comic strip, Terry Lee and the Pirates. So, I called and we were reunited.

    I met his wife Elinore, the girl from the registration line, and his two sons. He had never finished law school; instead he had become a teacher of Japanese at a Seattle High School. He was studying calligraphy and had the most beautiful handwriting I had ever seen. She was a college administrator in Bremerton and took a ferry to work. I thought that was pretty cool.

    This time, we stayed in touch with periodic letters. In 1975, Time-Life, the magazine company, sold the television station at which I was News Director to McGraw-Hill, the book company, who decided they wanted their own management team. I was asked to resign.

    I was unemployed for exactly 43 minutes. The CBS station in Seattle called and offered me a job. My next call was to Terry. He and Elinore invited me to come live with them while my wife stayed behind to sell the house in Denver and get the family ready to move.

    I stayed with them for two months until I bought a house on Vashon Island and moved my family. Now, I was able to commute by ferry. It was just as much fun as I thought it would be. And the two families would gather about once a month since their kids loved to come and play with ours on the beach.

    The bliss lasted for two years when ABC called. They wanted me in Los Angeles to work at their station in Hollywood. I couldn’t say no. So, I packed my bag and left my family behind while my wife finished graduate school. I was stunned a few months later when I received a letter from Terry telling me that he and Elinore were divorcing. And then he just disappeared.

    Eventually, ABC would transfer me to a station the network owned in Detroit. In 1981 I received a letter on that tissue thin “Par Avon” paper addressed in Terry’s very distinctive hand. It was from Japan. He was teaching English in a Japanese girl’s school. There wasn’t much more detail. But then Terry always knew how to pique my reporter’s curiosity.

    I poured myself a glass of wine and sat down to reply and pump him for details. I accidentally knocked over the wine glass and all that beautiful calligraphy, including his return address, became an inky blur. I waited for him to write again, but it didn’t happen.

    Life went on and periodically I would wonder what had happened to my old friend. I wrote to the University of Washington Alumni office, but they couldn’t tell me. And then, in 2005, while living in Florida, I discovered Google. Just for the hell of it, I plugged in his name plus the word “Japan.” In less than ten seconds, I had a “hit.”

    It was a course outline for the study of Japanese and Chinese at a community college in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue. A few more keystrokes brought me the faculty roster. The faculty roster gave me his home phone number. (What privacy policy?) It also told me his ex-wife was a professor there.

    A few minutes later, I called. Terry’s mother answered. She was as surprised to hear my voice as I was hers. She said Terry wasn’t home from work yet, but she would have him call me. Within a couple of hours, we were speaking again for the first time in nearly 30 years. He had quite a story to tell.

    He had lived in Japan for more than 25 years. There he taught English to Japanese girls until his proficiency increased and he became a teacher of both Japanese and Chinese. For a while, he tried his hand as a stock broker there.

    He traveled extensively throughout Asia and had several small business ventures. He was still working on an import business from Thailand.

     

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    He also had remarried. They had a son. When it came time for his college education, Terry’s wife wanted him schooled in the traditional Japanese way. Terry thought his son should learn to be “a citizen of the world,” as he put it, and should go to college in the United States. The son ended up at Tufts studying economics. But the schism destroyed the marriage.

    Terry decided it was time to return to the US. His father had died and he needed to take care of his mother. One of his sons by his first marriage, a promising baseball player at the University of Maryland, also had died under circumstances which made people wonder whether it might have been by his own hand. The fact his ex-wife taught at the same college was pure coincidence.

    In fact, there was much bitterness between them over what she perceived as his abandonment. Terry accepted her position and didn’t try to make excuses. Life was what it was. Eventually, I would come to understand his thinking was much more Japanese than Western.

    He had become a somewhat melancholy man, but still very much engaged in life with a fascinating and sophisticated world view. However, on the surface, he hadn’t changed much since high school. Like all of us, a few more pounds, but he still dressed in his trademark khaki chinos and madras plaid shirts, neat as the proverbial pin.

    I had just purchased my house in Washington and was spending more time here. We would always get together either here or in Seattle. He still traveled back to Asia once or twice a year. He was surprised I had never been to Japan. He said he would love to show it to me, but I would have to take at least a month off if we were to do it right.

    I couldn’t imagine a better way to become acquainted with a country, particularly if I could make the trip in the company of my dear friend. And as long as I have access to a computer, phone, FedEx, and fax machine, I can pretty much do my job anywhere.

    It was September. We agreed to go the next summer. We planned to work out the details in December when I returned to Washington for the holidays.

    Unfortunately, in December I couldn’t return to the Northwest; however, we made lots of arrangements on the phone. I told him we would do the rest when I got back out in March.

    In April, I called him to make arrangements to visit. His mother answered the phone. I asked for Terry. “Oh, Bob,” she said, “Terry is gone.” From her tone, I could tell it wasn’t a quick trip to the 7-Eleven.

    The last time I had spoken with him, Terry complained of being tired. He said he had undergone a battery of tests, but they could find nothing wrong with him. In January, they apparently finally diagnosed some arcane malady, peculiar to the Far East. He was suffering from “complications.” Within three weeks he was dead.

    I was stunned.

    I have always felt most military brats held themselves a bit apart from their friends. It was a protective mechanism. Regardless of how close you might become, in the back of your mind you always knew either they would be leaving shortly or you would. And it would hurt. As it turned out, there is really no way to protect yourself from life’s bruises or forget those with whom you committed puberty.

    Because we went to a DOD high school, I also have always felt a reunion was one of those little indignities in life I would be spared. I was wrong about that, as well. I have now been to two. I once traveled 2,500 miles only to learn that John Bradley and I live less than 70 miles from each other. And that John Cushing, before his death, and I once lived in the same Michigan town.

    That summer with Terry in Denver, we briefly reunited with Al Ford. Who would have guessed the class clown and master of Wood Shop would become Dr. Al Ford, a nuclear physicist?

    Or that Mary Ann Noble would have become an Episcopalian Priest? Ironically, she ended up, many years later, marrying the soldier to whom she was once scandalously engaged in Mannheim after ending a somewhat turbulent marriage to a pilot of Air Force One.

    Or, for that matter, that Jan Ramage would become a great grandmother before turning 60 and now devotes her life as a Public Health Service nurse combating teen pregnancy.

    Rick Pride is a political science professor at Vanderbilt. Pete Faust works for the city in Des Moines. Elaine Forrest is in Corpus Christi, as I recall.

    I think Mike Deems is some sort of “spook,” although he will only admit to being a “consultant” for the military and is very adept at avoiding the answer to direct questions.

    Linda Light, the class valedictorian, became a postal carrier in Tucson where I once lived. She is now married to an airline pilot and lives in Georgia at last report. I also saw her brother Rick, but for the life of me can’t remember what he does, but I think he does it in Ohio.

    Lonnie Brown became a Merchant Marine, and later sold marine equipment in New England. At last report, he moved to the same Atlanta suburb as Linda Light.

    Christa Simms, Terry’s high school paramour, is happily married at last report and lives in New Jersey.

    When I was in college, I used to spend time with Anne Spence and her family at Ft. Lewis, Washington. In fact, I was her escort when she presided as Queen of the Military Ball at the end of ROTC summer camp. Tragically, when she went back to school in Connecticut for her senior year, she was killed in an auto accident.

    I think you know the disposition of many of the rest from Facebook.

    My point, if, indeed, there was one, is the bonds began in Mannheim are truly amazing, despite the fact we were all scattered to the four winds all those years ago. Frankly, I never expected to see or hear from many of my classmates again. It was not a conscious thing on my part, just the nature of the Army Brat beast. Yet, that turned out not to be the case.

    For me, it started with an article in the Army Times which was spotted by my much younger sister, a 1971 graduate of Heidelberg High School, and recently retired Army Colonel, about the first Mannheim HS reunion which was held in either St. Louis or Milwaukee, I can’t quite remember.

    From there, the quest to find as many as possible spread, at first through newspaper ads some of us were asked to place, many, many phone calls to college alumni offices, etc. And then technology took over. It is truly amazing that so many of the “lost” have been found.

    I’m not sure whether I am up for another reunion. I also have been contacted by a group of alums from Livorno High School, at Camp Darby, Italy where I spent my freshman and part of my sophomore year. (I believe they closed the school this year.) Although I must admit I always enjoy the camaraderie when I eventually succumb.

    Okay, this walk down memory lane probably has lasted long enough. I suspect I have bored you to tears at least three times by now, presuming you’re still awake.

    At any rate, it was great to hear from you and get caught up. Maybe this fall when I’m wandering through the southwest corner of Kentucky, I’ll find time for a small side trip.

    Bob

     

     

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    Bob

    I was totally fascinated. I love your writing. It was when I taught college writing that I truly learned to teach writing, not in my career as a high school teacher. High school teachers learn only literature. Your style is definitely journalistic. Mine is also…just the facts, please.

    There is certainly a story, book, whatever with Terry. Somehow, the fact that Terry took an Eastern bent did not surprise me. Perhaps actually writing a more detailed account, even if it is just for you, will give you more closure.  The tale lingers with me in a very poignant way.  Your knowledge of your classmates is very interesting to me also, especially since you had only your senior year at Mannheim. 

    I did not expect to end up with all these credentials in English and writing. My strength was math. I began college with that in mind, but the first two classes were 5 hours and extremely boring. “You must use these 20 steps even if you can get the correct answer in four.” I pursued the English because of journalism and an interest in linguistics. At one time, I planned to attend grad school in cultural linguistics. Alas, I was tired of being poor. My first plan was the Peace Corps, but my mother quickly lopped that off with, “I didn’t send you to college to make 20 cents an hour.”  All my graduate hours of English are in linguistics and ESL. Oh, well, if my life changed dramatically, I’d still like to do the Peace Corps. You know, I like to feel as if I’m making a difference in the world. I think I have in many ways, but I like to continue feeling that way, not like a hedonist.

    Amazing, the announcement of the Reston Reunion just came on my email.

    I’ve been gone all day and my dog is pouncing on me for attention. I’d better get her off. Send me more of Memory Lane as you produce it. There must be a place to keep the stories.

    PS: MAHS has a web page. I will tell you how it’s changed another time.

    Lou Cheese

     

                                                    *****

     

     

    LOSS

    I have given much thought as to how the military nomad existence has impacted my personal development. Twice I attended four different schools in one year. Here are some of my thoughts:

    I think there is a lingering sense of loss. I always had to part with things I found dear such as an earless stuffed lamb found in the trash in Baltimore. Another that made me cry was a Chianti bottle, nestled in a basket, that I had dripped wax and crayon on so carefully. Silly things, but separation became a part of life.

    Then there were actually the people. You are correct. We didn’t dare become intimate because we knew eventually we would let our best friends go. Perhaps we never learned how to totally trust in lasting relationships. There was never enough time for them…on with the next move. However, we were left with haunting memories of what might have been, what could be, what other people’s lives probably were that we could never have.

    And yet those people live on in my heart as dear as anyone else as if time and distance had never separated us. Even death. That’s strange, isn’t it? I remember biking to the river where the barges moved ever so slowly. Karen, David, and I—he had a crush on her and I had a crush on him. I was 14 and all over the place off base. What could my mother have been thinking? Ha. That was certainly a different world. Ever rosy-cheeked Karen Underwood remains one of the best friends I ever had.

     Well, that’s enough of the morbidity of the life. Yes, it left me shy and insecure. However, I learned to survive. Eventually, I even learned that I had to reach out. It was when my father suddenly left the military when life became decidedly negative for me. Before, everyone had been the same. Suddenly, I was in the military-connected class of people in a small, old South, old family names town.  Somehow my military ties had a negative connotation. I learned that I was poor (no maid anymore) and didn’t live in as nice a house as others. When I met my guidance counselor, he was new and tested me right away. He was elated because the Stanford-Benet told him I was some kind of genius. Right. That didn’t make me feel more accepted one whit more nor make me take more than three classes my senior year.  That summer I was selected to take physics in a National Science Foundation program at WKU.  The college offered me a scholarship to skip my senior year, but I had already begun school at age 5. Heck, I was 16 and not even driving. I did not need to be in college. Besides, my brother was going and we couldn’t afford two. The test score didn’t make my chest grow or any other difference. I didn’t even know some people were smarter than others. I thought some of my friends just didn’t try as hard as I did.

    Anyhow, in college I didn’t rate for the only sorority (they took 4) I wanted and no thanks to the others. I became a beatnik and my crowd was the drama group. I did very much enjoy frat parties though. Again, the grades were easy but the money was not. Halfway through my first year my brother was dismissed. We had a psychology class together and he never came. How’s that for working hard. The sorority thing would never have worked anyway, for I’ve never been able to abide being told what to do. Well, all these things I think have definitely formulated who I am. I’m pretty outspoken and confident (now, at last). I always look for the good in people and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. My husband says I am very kind, but I was a hard taskmaster as a teacher.  However, I frequently hear from former students who tell me how much they appreciate that fact now.  So, indeed, I have been blessed with a successful marriage, devoted children, and a very fulfilling career.

    The last year or so I have waxed nostalgic about all of my past. Perhaps that is because time is passing so much quicker now. I have made efforts to retouch distant relatives, friends and places. That’s what the trip I made to Germany in 2005 was about. I have outlived both my parents. Perhaps I have traveled nowhere really and am just trying to recapture or understand some of my earlier moments and how they defined me. 

     

     I will close by telling you that you are right to gather your memories and write about them.  It helps to remember both the good and the bad that have brought us full circle to where we are in life.  We are finally at a time and place where we have “time” to reflect on ourselves.  Keep writing.  The skill and the story are both there; all it will take is for you to pen it, both for yourself and the world.  No one else knows our real histories until we write them.

    Lou

     

    Submitted by Louatha Banks Cheese, 6335 Grabruck St., Danville, KY 40422, (859) 583-0906

     

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  9. I was raised in the army from day one, that’s when I was born 1972!!  My mother was a Jahovah’s witness though! And you realy can’t have a stable FAMILY  Life  when you have SATAN on one hand your dads career, and you have God on the other hand!!

    You WILL be totally f….. up! I think alot of my mental PROBLEMS are from ALL that!!! I can’t sit still! and I am on my 3rd. divorce and I am a Grandma twice! . . . and I am 38!

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  10. Believe me I am soooo glad to know that I am not alone now!! I went back and fourth to Fort Wood Missouri so many times that is my home but I was born in St, Charles New york! I have been living here since 1997 and still don’t know my way around only because I call Fort Wood HOME!!!!  and I can’t LET IT GO!!!

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  11. I was a military brat from 1954-1971 and born into it. My parents home was Starkville, Mississippi but I never felt like it was home to me. When people asked me where home was I would just say all over and back again. It just seemed to be the best discription of home. I ended up going to 16 different schools between kindergarden and graduating from high school. Amazing how much we actually moved. The strange thing is that I don’t remember the moving men coming in and moving us. My mom said that I was there every time but I just don’t remember any of those times at all. Does anyone else have this problem?

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  12.  

    I was and still am in ways, for that matter I was, I am, and always will be a brat. from day 1 till 1975 then went into the army till 1982, I look back on my years all the time, I like what I see, if it had not been for me being a brat, I would not be the person I am today, I and we all got the euncation that 90% of people dream of. the real life, ( been there done that!) you get the drift, right ? Yes we had to make new friends all the time,that sucked. and it is hard to look up the ones that were good friends too, it’s not like there are right there, right?

    Thanks to Facebook (lol), it has made it a little bit easyier, BUT REALLY, it was a great life, and only we were able to have it. Thank you uncle sam, and thank you brat friends.

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  13. The answer to where am I from,”I was born in Vermont went to 13 schools in 13 years of school..I figured the government owed me any state I wanted and I choose Tennessee!”

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  14. I lived in Madrid in the early 60’s and went to Madrid/Torrejon HS.  Have you been to http://www.mhsths.org?  It is a very active site along with its sister site http://www.mhs.org.  There are lots of gatherings and also a pretty fair amount of postings.  Try it…you’ll like it!

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  15. Dear Dawn, I came across this page as I was looking for info on a missing soldier from Fort Devens. I started reading, and it was so well written, it captivated me to read the whole story. I will not be able to express my written words in the same calibre as most of the comments, however, I hope that doesn’t sway you from reading. I am in no way an expert in English, which has obviously already been noticed, however, I would like to share my thoughts. I would like to first say, I in no way intend this comment to be insulting, or disrespectful to you or anyone else who has lived as an army brat. After reading your story, I immediatly felt empathy for you, but as I was reading the comments and again went back and again read your story, I started to feel a bit upset and envious.

    You feel you were cheated of a childhood and a past, well, I know that you have actually had a pretty good one compared to some. My own experience, Born in Scotland, my mother died when I was 10, she had kidney disease. Three weeks later, my father died, (suicide). I won’t get into all the details, as this is just a post. So, then I was shipped to Canada to be brought up by my grandparents, (I didn’t even know my grandmother), My grandfather lived in Scotland, and would commute twice a year to my grandmother. So, after been told, that no one else in my family (in Scotland) wanted me, I have ruined their lives by being there, and I was to blame for my Mother dying, because I didn’t help her do laundry and stuff when she was sick, I already had lost my childhood.

    I grew up with so much emotinal and mental abuse at the hands of a wicked woman, and my Grandfather couldn’t or wouldn’t stand up for me, as he was a quiet gentleman who just wanted to keep the peace. You may not have a town, or a corner store to go visit to bring back your happy or somewhat lost childhood memories, but I do, and I wish I didn’t. I would love to say, that I don’t have an actual home town, but I do have a loving and nurturing family, and that is where I come from, their names are mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, cousin, aunt…etc. Thank you for listening, and again no disrepect to anyone, but your childhood is wonderful compared to some of us. Take care and I wish you happiness.

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  16. I can really identify with this article! My father was in the Air Force and I grew up in the U.S. and Germany, whereever he was assigned. After I graduated from H.S. in K-Town, Germany, I worked there for many years in a civilian capacity (I mean, WHERE was I to go in the U.S.? I’d hardly lived there….!), I left and moved to Trier, Germany, where my mother’s family lived.

    Today, years later, I am devastated that Hahn AB nolonger exists (I could show you the building we lived in in Housing), where we spent our longest assignment. Sometimes my mother and I drive to Ramstein AB to buy books or just “go Home” (Vogelweh, were we actually lived and I attended H.S., completely fenced in, couldn’t show you the house we lived in there,’cause I don’t have an Id.-card) and it hurts to have to be signed onto Base, because I don’t have an Id. Card anymore. No civilian can understand what it feels like to not be able to visit your “hometown” (and every Air Base we were assigned to feel like my “hometown”). I mean, how many towns in the US are as secure as a military base??

     

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  17. I always felt like an outsider, even when I was moving to a DOD school where there were other “brats”. They may have started the school year together whereas I was coming in mid year so friendships had been formed etc and I always struggled until I found one person to sit at lunch with etc and felt comfortable. Usually about the time that I was loving life on our new base my dad would get orders and it was time to start the process all over again. I’d spent the first 8 years of my life in the same spot and then we moved to Goeppengin Germany (when it was still West Germany) in 74 and my view of the world changed dramatically from Ft Campbell, where we did not live on or near the base. 

    Thank you for sharing your story and for a lot of us “our” story as well.

     

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  18. I relate completely. My dad is a retired Marine who was active from 1975-1995. I spent 6 years (2 different tours) in Okinawa at four different schools. I have great memories of the shopette down the road form our house on Kadena AFB where we would pick up watermelon bubblegum. And the house in Nakagusuku-Wauke what had these amazing popsicles. Or the park across the street that had an ancestor shrine and my brother was reprimanded for taking hte offerings.

    Then there are the 3 different high schools I went to. THe last in my senior year in Hawai’i. They have a hard enough time getting reunions together, btu even if we did have one, there’s only one person I really remember. 

    I love being a brat. But, there are times I wish I was able to hop in the car and take my kids to see the places I grew up.

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