Giving Military Kids a Voice

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Stephen Morton / AP

U.S. Army Spc. Cory Allen kisses his daughter Lacey Allen during a welcome home ceremony at Fort Stewart, Ga., for soldiers from the Army's 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, Oct. 10, 2012.

November is Military Family Month, so we might as well take a moment to acknowledge the brats that are a key part of such homefront military units.

Brat is an affectionate term — some believe it’s a long-ago acronym for British Regiment Attached Traveler — that is sometimes mistaken as derogatory by civilians. Yet, for military families it’s an admirable term – symbolic of adaptability, worldliness and patriotism. Nearly half of the more than 2 million men and women who have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11 have left children behind.

The brats (no, President Obama didn’t use the word in his proclamation last week) “show courage and resilience as they move from base to base, school to school, home to home,” Obama said in the proclamation the White House issued last week. “When a father deploys to a combat zone, his children are called to serve on the home front. And when the men and women of our military serve far from home, their families feel the strain of their absence.”

(PHOTOS: Military Photos: A Month Inside the Armed Forces, October)

Yet with the exception of remote assignments and deployments to war zones, military kids tend to go wherever the orders send their mom or dad (or both). Each of my brats responded differently to moving — one detested it and the other just went with the flow.

But both became world travelers as young adults and the one who detested moving now lives the farthest away from “home.”

My kids benefited from being given choices in the course of our military moves. From filling a backpack with personal items destined for the car instead of the moving truck, to choosing the next meal stop, it’s important to give children a voice in what’s happening around them.

Older children also benefit from having a part, such as helping to research what the new community has to offer – ahead of the move.

Giving military kids a voice with age-appropriate choices affords them an opportunity to prepare for adult life. While they might not express themselves in the same depth as adults, their insight can be surprising when given the chance to share.

DoD, 2010

The makeup of U.S. military families.

A question was posed to me recently and I deflected it to some of the military kids in my community, to give them a voice.

Here’s that Q&A:

As a military kid, how are you different from your non-military friends?
Katie and Naomi (ages 15 & 11): We’re no different. Except that our dad is gone [to war] and we worry about him.

Ian (13): We have more knowledge of certain places because we move a lot and have an opportunity to make more friends.

Luke (11): Our dad deploys and is gone longer than other people; it’s not just a simple business trip.

Kerrisan (9): Friends who aren’t military can move where they want to [not where the Army says].

Sebastian (10): I get a military ID when I’m 10; I just got one. It kind of makes me feel like an adult. My dad is in the Air Force. He serves our country.

Andy (11): Being in a military family I can appreciate the veterans and their families more. I relate to what they sacrificed because my dad went to war too.

Through the eyes of seven military kids, it’s clear that an appreciation for sacrifice and service is a matter of the heart, not a matter of age.

Giving military kids a voice serves to remind us all of the importance of the big and the small stuff.

While our nation’s brats are known for being adaptable, worldly, and patriotic, they prefer for others to see them as just like any other kid.

Maryann Makekau is a veteran, spouse of a retired Air Force member, and mother of two grown brats. She’s also an author and founder of Hope Matters.


Thank you for recognizing us as Brats. I am a proud Air Force brat. I wouldn't trade my experience for anything.


Brave, Responsible and Trustworthy.  Born, Raised and proud of the Traditions.  Whatever acronym we use to describe our BRAT life, we are strong and proud of our country and our parents. #BRATforlife


Thank you, Time, for respecting our identity and heritage.  We are normal kids who've led extraordinary lives.  We're not heroes-- we're just people.


Thank you, Time!  Good article. Appreciate the BRAT reference. 


Thank you for calling us what we are - Military BRATs.


Another question that wasn't asked above:  How many of those military members are married to individuals (civilian and military) who were raised as military brats?  This is actually a critical issue, when trying to develop programs that are pertinent (and accurate) when it comes to military children.  The DoD needs input from adult brats who joined or married back into the military and those who didn't!  Donna Musil, Executive Director, Brats Without Borders 


@ armybratswar - You're absolutely right.  Very few ask how many military children suffer secondary and primary PTSD from all the stress, mobility, exposure to the results of war, etc., much less how many military "brats" commit suicide.  If you'd like to find out more about growing up military - the benefits, the challenges, and the paradoxes - you might want to take a look at a documentary that was released in 2006 - "BRATS: Our Journey Home," narrated by Kris Kristofferson and featuring adult military brats of all branches of service, including General Norman Schwarzkopf.  It was produced by our nonprofit, Brats Without Borders, who is one of the few (if not only) nonprofit that serves both current and adult military "brats" (based on the acronym "British Regiment Attached Traveler").  BWB has been trying to raise awareness of these issues since 1999 - and arguably has the largest qualitative database on the long-term effects of growing up military known to date.  Donna Musil, Executive Director, Brats Without Borders,


Interesting article as I had been looking for statistics as to the percentage of military personnel who have children.  I think one issue of importance is the secondary and intergenerational effects of PTSD.  There are several studies that support the contention that PTSD is heritable.  An Australian study concluded that the children of their Vietnam Veterans suffered higher rates of suicide than the general population.   


This timely article coming out on election day should remind us all that there are American families who know daily the meaning of making sacrifices, being responsible citizens and who understand that freedom comes at a cost. I commend you in permitting several military kids a voice in your writing.  You have honored them by giving them an opportunity to share. their hearts about their dads and moms which are gone for long periods of time.  As we approach Veteran's Day, I hope and pray that many Americans take the time to give a military family and their children some special attention.  


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