For my civilian friends--with love from an Army Brat.
Even though my dad retired when I was 13--I can so relate to this article. I was born and will always be an Army brat--no matter if I live the rest of my days outside of an active duty military household. I grew up in a world where I understood early on that the world was bigger than "here". That won't leave with the passage of time. I am afraid I even get mad sometimes when I think my friends and acquaintances cannot see beyond their noses--or at very most, the borders of their country.
I grew up understanding that our world was geopolitically connected and if we went to war at any time, my Daddy could be leaving for something longer than a couple of weeks of TDY. He might never come back. That is a mixed feeling--shrinking fear and blazing pride. This, my dears, is why I simply cannot listen to Taps without the tears gathering--I think of the men who have gone and did not come back and I am sad and proud--of my boys. I love Taps--it is beautiful, calming, haunting, tear-jerking.
I knew instinctively that nothing lasts forever--the longest we ever were stationed any place was 4 years. It was four of the best years of my life, but they ended, as I knew all along they would...and I moved on...and made new friends and loved life. I STILL love to travel and see new places and meet new friends. I know at least one sister shares the "travel-anciness" that crops up every year or so. (When I first learned that some people only go five miles from home for "vacation", I was so flabbergasted I had no words. That's no trip! Five hours just about the beginning of a trip.)
I have felt lost in this civilian world. I have struggled with understanding people (civilians) who haven't the slightest idea really of what a military family is--and yet think they do. (More than once I've been incensed against people who tried to come across as "knowing" and in doing so made themselves look more foolish than anything. Please, civilian friend--don't pretend to know because you really cannot.) I cannot explain it...but no civilian will ever really understand military community until they themselves have spent time in the military.
The military IS family--regardless of generation or branch. (Any wonder why when I broke my arm and found out my doctor was both military brat *and* veteran that it was like going to see a relative?) I see "Veteran" hats on men of varying ages and sometimes have to resist the desire to go give them a squeeze like a long-lost uncle or brother. Few things cause me to fly into a fury faster than a perceived attack on "my guys". You might as well have slapped one of my sisters across the face or called my dad a murderer. (I actually had a young man once tell me that he thought the military was basically a bunch of guys just waiting for an opportunity to do tyrannical and sinful things. Somehow I refrained from throwing all my weight on him and smashing his head into the brick wall he was standing in front of.)
Where we live now, it is the house my grandma grew up in--and from the kitchen window, I can look across the fields at what once was my great-great-grandfather's home...and I wonder what it's like for people in this tiny town who have actually lived here for six generations. I don't belong here (being a full-blown Southron doesn't help in this neck of the woods either), but it's a passing thing. I will probably eventually move on again (Lord willing at the side of my husband) and home will be wherever my family is. There are only two places in this world that I call home for real--where I live with my family, and the great portion of this country called "The South". I am culturally a southerner since both of my parents were born and raised in the Sunny South. But even there, I have a similar sense of "not belonging" because, once again, I'm the child who is from nowhere in particular. Whose early years where spent going from one base to another (and I happen to know that I have been less places than other military brats!) Who always knew that these friendships of today may not last after my departure--some have, some did not. I have always been the new kid. I have nearly always had to be the one to initiate friendships (that always aggravated me to an extent); probably because, like the author of the article says, if we were to have friends, we had to make them faster--because we weren't going to be around for more than a couple of years. I never had thought of it that way, but maybe that is why I worked at making friends with people content in their own bubbles. I LIKE people and I always did like them to return the, well, affection I quickly have for the people I call my friends.
Perhaps I should put it this way--PEOPLE are home for me in a way places are not. My PEOPLE--the ones I love most and would greatly grieve their loss, no matter who they are or where they are from or where I met them--these are home. This is why I can be "at home" anywhere. People y'all...your people...are more important than stuff--and yet, like the lady in the article--sometimes our stuff, collected over a transient childhood, is home like no structure is. I collected magnets all over the US...and I confess that sometimes flipping through them, I get an ache and tears sting my eyes. And it is then that I miss the old life. Once in a while I may be heard to hum or sing that Iriving Berlin song "I Wish I Were Back in the Army!"...and I may really be meaning it. Because, sometimes I do...there have been times over the past 12 years when I have told the Lord, "Oh God, I wish we were still in the Army!" Why? Does it matter? Don't you miss home and the familiar when you've been gone for awhile? I admit that it wouldn't be as familiar now, but the military will always be with me.
You can take the child out of the military...but you can never take the military out of the child.
From the heart of an Army Brat,