Military Brats, How Different Are We From Those Who Were Local Kids?

As a military brat, I feel I sacrificed as much as my mom and siblings in the Cold War. A non-combatant battle that my father, like hundreds of U.S. fathers throughout the late ’50s to early 1990s, fought around the world. It was that way of life that made me who I am today, and what makes me unique.

My freshman year at Auburn in 1984, I did a sit-down interview with then-president James Martin. When we finished the interview, the first question he asked me was, “You’re a military kid, aren’t you?” Puzzled and amazed that he was right, I confirmed, and then asked, “But how did you know?” He sat back in his chair and smiled for a moment and then said, “I don’t get many freshmen in here asking me about the budget.”

BRAC bases of the 1990s

As I have said in previous posts, I’ve moved a lot in this lifetime. At present, I’m up to move number 32 in 42 years. And one of the hardest parts about growing up, for me at least, is that the places where I grew up all have long been closed by the US Government’s Base Realignment and Closure committees. K.I. Sawyer AFB in Northern Michigan is closed. The B-52 training base, Castle AFB, in Atwater, California, is closed, too.

When we took all seven of the kids to Yosemite last summer, we flew into Oakland via Southwest and then drove through Atwater on our way to The Logger’s Retreat, (The greatest and best place to stay in the Yosemite area.) Many of the buildings on the base are no more. The O’Club, where I spent my summers at the pool, flattened. They plowed it under. Grass grows over what was the building, the pool, and the parking lot. Lots of memories remain from this one particular spot. In the corners of my mind, I remember an Easter Egg Hunt at the Castle O’Club in 1969. We also watched Peter and the Wolf that morning.

But my point is, these areas that were of such importance to my childhood and forming who I am are no more.

A social study of the Military Brat

And on the way to work this morning, I had a thought. It would make an incredible social studies project to go back and do research on a representative sample of then-kids like me. Ones who grew up on these active Cold War bases. We sacrificed much for our country in those days. We played along on Buck Skin Rider Days. A simulation where we gathered all of our toys, lawn chairs, hoses, and bikes into the house. Nothing remained on the lawns. The premise for the exercise was that the base was being invaded by the Soviet Army. How it was important that they didn’t have access to my brother’s Big Wheel, I do not know. But those were the rules.

But in growing up at these bases, we always had access to influential teachers. We all learned a lot. About much. We, I was a part of a touring, speaking program in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at age 10. I’ve been a ham ever since. Such would explain how I could be so confident on TV in the Dallas market as the spokesperson for Dallas ISD for 5.5 years.

I’ve had the training for it all my life. Really. We were always moving. Always meeting new people. We had to learn and learn early how to carry on a conversation, and, as importantly, how to start one. Though I must also confess, our parents taught us really to converse more about work than about social things. When Dad would get together with other pilots, they talked about flying B-52s. Mom and her friends would talk about being Air Force wives. And we were in socially remote places. No kidding. K.I. was not and never will be the center of the universe. It was no doubt a first strike target from the USSR, but it was not a place where you were up on the latest trends.

And so, I’m thinking of how incredible it would be to conduct research on The Cold War Military Brat. There were many of us. And we all handled the situations differently. Some, better than others. But I would dare say, we were all affected in a way area civilian kids were not.

All this said it makes a dinner meeting with an old friend tonight that much more special. We have a lot in common. We didn’t get to grow up with one set of kids we knew from K to 12. Not in the same city, anyway. I was envious of local kids for having that benefit. Like many who had been in my first-grade classes in Atwater, whom I dropped back in on for seventh, eighth, and ninth grades. They did not remember me, but I did them.

So, those are some of my thoughts about that. Much more to write on this topic, but it’s now 10:45 and I’ve got a long day tomorrow.