We Thought We Were Normal

It isn’t until much later when your ID card is taken from you and you are pushed from the citadel that you find out that you are not “normal” by most standards . . .

The children of the base, Military Brats as they are called, I think are the most fascinating people.  There is one common denominator amongst all of these brats; that is – They all know how it feels.

We have all been in that situation and knew exactly what the other was going through.  It’s the same thing all over the world.  Every couple of years there are new friends to be made, and new schools to attend.  Remarkable though, most kids that you come across hold that empathy in their hearts and just welcome you in without any reservations.

There is a quick name exchange, a brief history and the next thing you know you are playing what ever game they have already started.  There is no “she’s an outsider” or “she’s not a cousin” mentality that I would encounter later in my civilian life…we were all just family that hadn’t met before.

A child on an Air Force Base is absolutely complaisant to the fact that they grow up under different conditions then civilian kids.  When you are told to clean your room, you are threatened with the “white glove” inspection.  You have no idea that it is possible to make a bed without hospital corners, or that you can leave a bed unmade at all.

There are always boxes that never quite get unpacked. That was the stuff you apparently didn’t need to survive, so why unpack.  You have C- Rations stashed in the cupboards that you sometimes played with.  You knew that a square meal didn’t mean that it had all of the required food groups…but instead that it was more of, let’s call it a “style” of eating.  We would never dream of moving, let alone speaking during the National Anthem.  Our families had a WWIII plan.

And every single outdoors event was donned with those beautiful green, military issue, wool blankets.  Everyone had them and you sat on them in the grass, curled up in them when you were camping, lined the bed of the truck with them when moving…they were used for everything and every car had at least one in it’s trunk.

Another distinction, that I was not aware of until later in life, is that a Brat’s family vacations are usually more of a history lesson.  I, at the time, assumed these vacations were to the places that every other child was headed.  Apparently that is not the case.

For sons and daughters of the military, “vacations” are usually trips to a wide selection of historic places, where you would be privileged to watch a civil war reenactment or take a tour through places like Mt Vernon (George Washington’s home for you civilians).  There were no great battles fought at Disney World, so there was never any reason to go there.

All of these things we took for granted as being completely normal.  Why wouldn’t we, everyone we knew was living the exact same life.  It isn’t until much later when your ID card is taken from you and you are pushed from the citadel that you find out that “normal” people have not heard of most of these things.  That most people live in the same town for their entire lives!  That we were not in fact normal children by most standards.

What we are however, is wonderful, patriotic, loyal, respectful people that offer an entire different outlook on life to people that know nothing of the gated, protected world we grew up inside.

We are awesome.

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  1. I’ve been dismayed at several post visits (especially where I work now, where the majority of the workforce is civilian) that the base doesn’t come to a complete halt at 1700 for the lowering of the flag.  I recently was heartened though when I went to Fort Carson for a working week, and heard the familiar strains of the bugle and cannon fire at 1700.  All activity came to a stop, and each of us turned to face where the music was coming from.  Those in uniform rendered a crisp salute, those of us in civvies placed our hand firmly over our heart.  We Brats tend to take our patriotism seriously, for we’ve seen all too clearly the sacrifices that have been made in the name of our nation’s freedom (sometimes all too closely).

    And personally, I absolutely LOVED the John Wayne chocolate discs that came in the C-rats!

  2. I understand what you mean about feeling normal.  I thought everybody lived like we did.  When I was about 7 years old, I was visiting my cousin in Iowa.  I remember being surprised when I found out that my uncle was not in the military and that my cousin lived in that same house since he was born.

    I experienced another bit of culture shock at age 16 when I went to a civilian movie theater for the first time.  They didn’t play the National Anthem before the movie started!  I started to stand when the lights were turned down.  Instead of the National Anthem, the movie started.  My cousin asked me why I got out of my chair.  It didn’t feel quite right to see a movie without hearing the anthem.

  3. While I know all of you will give me a raz for this statement, I’ve always considered myself a “Military Brat – Son of a Coast Guard Vet – WW-II N. Atlantic” though I had a fortunate life. After the war my parents worked for Hughes Aircrat Culver City and Fullerton, and our home – same one for 18 years (plfffffffff) – was the number one Poker and Bridge house for Long Beach Navy, El Toro and Camp Pendelton Marines, Edwards Air Force Base and we’d even get Navy Seals dropping by – twice a week – 4 to 8 tables going – breakfast at 3am – 4am right before everyone would scramble to be back on base by 6am. Navy Seals – they were like my Uncles – used to rig blasting caps in my bushes outside my window, so when I snuck out my window at night during the poker my mom would hear it – I learned at a young age to deal with all kinds of things “military” as a civie kid (if that’s what you wish call me) – including wiping up the spills – grabbing the first aid kits when there was a little blood in the house or a BBQ burn and by age 6 – being part of a crew to make breakfast for several dozen drunk sailors, flyboys and grunts, though most in attendence were officers, often in charge of evaluating gear from Hughes – like AWACS. I got to go on the Enterprise and Long Beach, go on base frequently, got front row seats for the Blue Angels and had it pretty darn good I suppose.


    Later when I was a landlord I never forgot that for the most part, military men and women and their kids – had always been a big part of my life – twice a week – and when I had rentals, especially in San Clemente near Pendelton, I always rented to military families first, and if a spouse was overseas, or a check was late, you didn’t worry about it – it would come, and if not when expected, no big deal. You take care of the families when pops is on duty – that’s just the way it was, is and always will be in my home – and the home of my kids, grand kids and everyone I call family.


    It is with that same home-spun concept of hospitality I decided to post this here and ask all of you “brats” to turn to the Vets coming back, listen to the words of the Generals and know our Vets aren’t getting a fair shake – these are YOUR aunts and uncles too…and I want everyone of you to sorta “adopt a Vet” or find someone who’s spouse is in the service or a family who served, and see if they’re broke, clear a space in a garage for them to live, if they need work, hire them, if they need a ride or just a day in a park with “civies” be there for them. I am starting a wind farm company and we intend to vacuum them up – some of the best darn employees you can hire served and while the rest of the nation is an upside down mess, that doesn’t mean all Vets have to endure that Bush/Obama/Trauma/Drama too.

    I heard a General say “Clinton was an exceptional Commander in Chief.” and he did retire as one of the most popular Presidents ever, despite his taste for cigars. It is my hope we get a President who is equally capable in the near future, but until that day, its up to us to help and hire military brats, vets and their families whenever possible.

    I live on a sailboat and a lot of fishermen and sailors resent a visit by the Coasties – but we have a standard policy here: “We only shoot Coasties who bring marked decks or loaded dice. All the rest are welcome to crash on the couch, raid the ice box and slaughter the beer and steaks.” That’s how it is in my “home” – hope its the same where you are too.


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