Friday, November 11, 2011

I was a brat

It's Veterans Day. While I am grateful to all service men and women who have made sacrifices for us and our great country, the person I think of the most is my own father.
My Handsome Dad

You see, my dad was a career Army man, so I grew up immersed in the world of soldiers and all things military.  Base housing, military schools,  the PX (Post Exchange), the Commissary (grocery store), MPs (Military Police), military IDs, moving every 1-3 years, making friends and leaving them, standing and listening to the Star Spangled Banner at the theater before the feature movie, epic 4th of July celebrations, security checkpoints to get on base, and seeing my dad in uniform almost every day of the week.

Growing up military was a mixed blessing. But overall it was pretty awesome.

My brother and I both agree on that. We didn't know any other way of life. As military "brats" we got to do and see a lot of things that most children never get to. We lived in many different parts of the country and even in Europe. I was born in Frankfurt, Germany and we lived there for several years, so I actually have some memories of it. I remember our apartment building and I remember my Oma,  a lovely German grandmother who would babysit us and help my mom when she needed it. We also lived in Italy and I remember going to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Venice. In the states we were stationed in California, Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, Kansas, and Washington.

My favorite place we ever lived was Ft. Meade, Maryland. Although when we first stepped off the plane and felt the extreme humidity in the air, I wasn't so sure I would like it! We were coming from California and I had never felt that feeling before.  Humid summers aside, it was a great place to live with so much to see and do. Historical towns, battlefields, museums, and of course Washington D.C. was right next door. We'd go there almost every weekend in the summer and there was always something new to see.

Friendships are made easily and quickly in the military. Everyone is in the same boat--new place, new people. Most folks were friendly and eager to make the new place their home. However, that was also one of the draw-backs. We made good friends, but then everyone moved away. We got used to leaving people behind, but it was still difficult.  I so wanted to stay with my friends forever and grow up with them. But instead, we had to pack up and move to a new home and go to a new school.

My least favorite place was Ft. Lewis, WA because they had no schools on base, so my brother and I had to go to a civilian school.  That was difficult because the civilian kids had grown up together and weren't eager to let new people into their groups.  All us military kids kind of stuck together. It took a long time to make new friends and feel like we belonged.

Our base housing at Ft. Lewis.

That was the last place we were stationed.  My dad retired and my parents bought a house and remained in Tacoma for awhile.  Now they are happily settled in Oregon. After high school, I left for college in California and am still here. My brother  joined the Marines and then the Army (just like Dad), but left the military after the first Iraq war. Thankfully, he did not have to fight in that war.  He also lives in California, not far from me. 

Though mom and dad are settled, they still have a strong love for travel and are lucky enough to do so often.   Me, not so much. I guess I  had my fill, and now I prefer to stay in one place. 

The military life shaped and formed us all in many ways. There was a camaraderie amongst us that I have not experienced since.  Military friends are always your friends. My parents have stayed in touch with many of their old friends, and they have had several reunions. Since Facebook came on the scene, I have found a couple of my childhood buddies and it has been really fun to catch up with them.

I feel lucky to have grown up the way I did. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving us a unique and wonderful childhood.

Thank you to all those who are serving our country.  Your way of life allows us to have our way of life. You are much appreciated.

This song is for all those old friends....


  1. My brother chose to make the Air Force his career (now retired). I have no idea what it's like to be a military child, but I bet my nephew could tell me. My brother now lives in Alaska, and I haven't seen him for years. The nice thing about having him in the service, I got to travel to visit him. And my oldest daughter at the age of 10 spent an entire summer in Germany. How many 10 year old's get to do that? I had a good time while he was in the service. I visited places I've never seen before, and ate lots of good food....
    My favorite trip out of all of them was my trip to Alaska. I will for sure go back there. When they call it God's country, they are absolutely right.

  2. Your dad hubba hubba! As usual your posts are so damn good. I enjoy reading them they make me very calm....and serene. Man you did quite a bit of jumping around. Wow..but hey you got to experience some awesome adventures!

  3. Angie, sounds like you also benefited from your brother being in the military! Mommy Bags, I'm sure my dad will appreciate that comment! Thank you for the compliment about my writing, that really touched me.

  4. What a fantastic post Michael Ann! My cousin's husband is in the Air Force and I have watched her have many of the connections you discussed in your post. A perfect remembrance for today!

  5. What a sweet post, MA. A big thank you to your dad and brother for their very hard work!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing with us about your dad and brother, and military lifestyle today. I can't imagine what it was like to have moved so often, but obviously you were secure in your family life because you turned out so well! A great Veterans Day post. P.S. Your dad really is handsome!

  7. Thx to your Dad and all service people, but also thanks to the families of those that serve. Their sacrifices are greater than I think even you realize, especially the families of members who serve in a war zone.

    Cranky Old Man

  8. Beautiful story!That was such a great opportunity for you to see so much of the world.

    I was married to a military guy and we were stationed in Hanau, Germany from 1976-1979, it was awesome. He was in the Army and when we got there he didn't have enough rank to get on base housing, so we had to rent an apartment right out there with the German people, it was so much fun.

    I worked at at the PX selling cameras and stereos. It was a time of my life I will never forget and yes, the people really do hang together. Thanks for the memories!

  9. Joe, that is so true. My dad served in Vietnam and even though I was only 5, I remember that year vividly. It was extremely hard on my mom. She is an incredibly strong woman.

  10. MA- this is such a heartfelt memory/story. I grew up in the same house, lived on the same block and didn't move around until after college, which is different. These are wonderful memories to draw on. As you said each time was different and you made friends (now far away, good song choice). Now see what you found when you thought your mind was empty.

  11. What a great post of great memories with your family.

  12. What a sacrifice our servicemen and women make. I'm so glad that you appreciate the experiences and the positives that came out of that mixed blessing of being a "brat".

  13. I had never considered what a difference existed between civilian childhoods and military childhoods, but I can only imagine it's great. What a great thing to have been able to see different parts of the world at such a young age. My father was a military baby for about six seconds. He was born and lived on a military base in Texas for the first year or two of his life, and then my grandmother moved back to Michigan with him. My mother's father was also a serviceman, but that was done with before she was born. Aside from a couple of my cousins, the military tradition ended with my grandfathers. I am thankful for their service and for the service of all military men and women, past and present.

  14. I go to Ft. Meade all the time for USO stuff - how cool you were stationed there!

  15. I know very little of what it means to live a military life, except that I see women in this town I live who are military wives and I see how strong and adaptable they are and how important their connections between each other are, like family almost.

    As I read your post, which I read directly after reading the one about crying in the movie and your sensitivity, I thought that can't have been easy for a sensitive child and felt part of me imagining the roots that you must have wanted to plant as an adult. The next sentence I read, you say almost exactly that.

    I recently read a very interesting collection of essays by the novelist Pat Conroy called 'My Reading Life', I read one essay every night and they are wonderful. He reserves one whole essay for 'On Being a Military Brat' and it really stayed with me, the qualities that living this kind of life gives a person that only those brought up in that way can really appreciate, from the inside at least.

  16. I am glad you shared these memories and this tribute. When I read your posts it feels like we are having a conversation and I'm the one who happens to be listening. Very real.

  17. I am glad you shared these memories and this tribute. When I read your posts it feels like we are having a conversation and I'm the one who happens to be listening. Very real.

  18. Nice post, Michele Ann. My sister is married to a retired Navy pilot. Her kids lived the same kind of life and ended up on a naval base in Coronado, CA. They also lived in Germany for five years in Stuttgart, where they learned to ski. I've been to Frankfort. Sorry, but I thought it was a pretty uneventful place. Yes, your dad is very handsome.

  19. I'm reading this kind of late, but I loved it. Thanks for the memories. As a once Navy gal myself, I found the PX and Commissary references quite refreshing. I definitely miss my military friends and I often wonder how and where they are. Unfotunately for me, Facebook hasn't been all that helpful in finding and reconnecting with them. Maybe someday soon:-) Thanks for the lovely memories.

  20. Michael Ann!! My grandfather was in the military and we have a lot of old pictures like the ones you posted. Gosh I love the antique feel of those - so interesting to read about your life.

    Sorry I'm just commenting now...I just went through and read your last few blogs. :)


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