Being a military brat can be rewarding

  • Published
  • By Stephanie Ramer , military child
  • Special Contributor
My hometown is nowhere and my friends are everywhere. Welcome to my life as a military brat.

While growing up the one thing I had to learn was that you must always put your country before yourself. "The military is more than a lifestyle, it's a culture with its own norms and values," as Mary Wertsch once said. However, people have stereotyped us brats as typically being snobby, rich, and fully patriotic.

I have been a military brat my entire life until last summer when my dad retired. I have never been told I was snobby and I was definitely never rich, I was just a normal kid moving around because my dad was needed elsewhere.

While his enlisted life was very different and everything was unexpected, I just had to adjust; there was never any other option. I believe the hardest thing to overcome while being a brat was definitely my first "goodbye." Moving was a big part of my life and it is for a majority of military brats worldwide.

It is difficult and hard for others who are not military to understand the hardship when it does occur. Luckily, I never had to experience my dad leaving me. Whenever we moved, we stayed together as a family. Many people have to sit back and watch their own parent walk away onto an airplane that was going to lift off on its way overseas to war. Then they have to deal with the fear of not knowing what is going to happen to their loved one. Some even have to deal with that dreadful voice telling them a family member they cared about so dearly will be coming home, but in a casket instead of walking off a plane. I am thankful I still have my Daddy today. The only people you can depend on are yourself and your family, especially being part of a military family. Friends will always come and go, but the memories with them are everlasting. My dad was not always there when I was growing up, even more when my brother was born. Being on active duty and working night shift most of the time was hard because he missed out on a lot of my life experiences as I got older, but if it were not for him, I would not have what I have now, so I am very thankful.

Military families have to move a lot and sometimes not being able to have a stable home can mess up the bond and lots of parents give up and just get divorced. Although my parents fought sometimes, they always remembered that we were all in for the same reason, to support my dad, and we couldn't give up because he was a part of us. My father fought for this country and my role as being part of his family is that I must live up to him and become the military brat.

Moving at the age of three I don't remember much about Washington except for building a big snowman with Ti-ta in the winter and sitting on my dad's shoulders while we explored the nature trails and zoos. The only things to remind me of my yournger years are out boxes of photographs and the stories.

However, as I got older things change. My Dad got orders to Hurlburt AFB in Florida and we moved all the way across the United States in our little blue minivan to "live in paradise."

I have been too many places, more than some adults even, thanks to my Dad's career. Traveling was always fun and it is definitely one of the pros of being a military family. Although I was Daddy's little princess, he was my everything. I didn't really understand military life until we moved and I was forced to live on the military base at Sheppard AFB, Texas. We did absolutely everything on base and I was always surrounded by military personnel.

I lived on base, went to the youth center with my friends on base, and even went to the school on base. All my friends were military brats too so we had a lot in common, and our lifestyle was just the norm.

The stereotype that all military brats are cocky and think that the world revolves around them because their parents fought in the war or deal with government is not true at all. I actually can't recall ever meeting anyone that was even remotely similar to those characteristics.

Being taught on a military base had its differences, but for the most part it seemed similar to regular schools. My classmates all seemed the same, just average kids going to school to learn, however there is something that each of them hold, a story, because they, like me, were military brats. The main thing that was different in school was that disrespect was not tolerated and honor was a possession everyone must hold. We weren't treated better or worse, we were just taught how to deal with problems and our life as we knew it would be forever changing.

Growing up military taught me a lot of great life skills as well. My dad taught me that respect is key to being successful in life. "If you do not have respect you will not be respected," a common phrased used today. Another thing I have developed from being around my family is determination. My dad was successful and well liked because he believed in himself and he was always striving to do better. There is always something that can be done or improved in his eyes, and that's a great way to be.

Also, my mother always stood strong throughout my dad's enlistment. She was always understanding and kept our family stable even when times were not at their best. So my dad being part of the military put a toll on everyone in our family.

The day of my dad's retirement was an eye-opening event. Everyone was cheerful and my dad looked fancy dressed up in his blues. As his commander stood up on stage and spoke I started to realize that this was finally the end, I was really getting my daddy back.

When he started to speak about how having a family and the hardships that everyone had to face, I started to feel my eyes watering up. It made me think about how life changing it would have been if my dad had not been a part of the military. I was relieved, but more so thankful for everything. I was so proud of him, standing up there, my own dad, who fought for everyone, including me, to have everything we have today, and I love him for it. When he placed my medal on me it was so heart-touching I just started to cry, and my dad came over to me and hugged me. That's when I knew that being a military brat was a lot more than just your parent's job, it is a lifestyle, and an adventurous one at that. I wouldn't change it for the world.