17 years characterized by the aroma of cardboard boxes, 14-hour car rides, and living with the label “new kid”. 6,205 days as military brats defined my brothers and I. There was never a moment of self-pity, only excitement for the future and pride for our dads’ occupation. The opportunity to see a Virginia sunrise and a California sunset all in one day, never ceased to amaze me.
As a military brat, you’re expected to hit the ground running in your own war zone (your new school). Culturally adapting at an unimaginable rate, we pick up different dialects or languages with ease. You could always spot a fellow brat walking through campus. Radiating with an approachable warmth to everyone was a quick giveaway.
School status hierarchies were copied and pasted at every new school. Reading people came naturally and as did making friends. Oddly, keeping friends is the hard part. Social media can offer all the gateways to communication possible, but you cannot fabricate effort. You have to accept that your ‘friends’ will forget about you. Your best friend in fourth grade? Probably won’t accept your Instagram follow request because, well, who the hell are you? I never took this to heart, who could blame them? Despite knowing I would eventually lose my friends, it never stopped me from making them.
Being a military brat changes you as a person, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. In 2006, a study done by Dr. Gregory Gorman, a military-based commander and assistant professor of pediatrics, revealed that of 650,000 children ages three to eight, had an 11 percent higher rate of counseling visits compared to non-deployed parents due to behavioral issues in school. Many brats struggle, understandably. They can’t handle the change or being forgotten. They tend to retaliate, “show-out” to prove they are worth remembering long after they’re gone. They self-destruct, and it’s sad, but again we can’t blame them. Deep down, none of us brats can judge. We all want to do the same, to act out. To be memorable.
The moving is typically painless (probably because we’re too focused on meeting people before the new schools’ lunch bell rings to look back over our shoulders). In the end, I was a lucky one. I escaped unscathed, even coming out a better person for all I went through. I thank my family, for their strength, and the friends who stuck around (rare). Lastly, I thank my fellow military brats. They provide a foundation to stand on, and shoulders to lean on. For them, I am forever grateful.