While the term “military brat” may seem derogatory to some, many embrace the term, seeing it as a term of endearment and respect. As a child of a Soldier, the term “Little Traveler” was used in literature dating back to 1811. The modern acronym for today’s military brat is Born, Raised and Trained.
The definition of a military brat refers to children, current and former, of parents that served in the military. These children are set apart from civilians because of the challenges they face within the military community. Their lifestyle includes frequent relocations to new states or countries, constantly losing friendship ties, lacking a true “home town,” and being forced to adapt to these changes.
Non-military families often feel that these challenges are not worth the sacrifice of their children’s youth. However, many positive characteristics are gained that clearly outweigh the bad. There is much to be said about a child that can make a friend where ever they go, or can call a new place home knowing they will move away in a couple years.
In an interview with Col. Dan McFarland, Fort Huachuca garrison commander, he recalled memories of playing in World War II bunkers with his buddies and being able to see the Berlin Wall from where they were. He spoke about travelling around Frankfurt, Germany with his family in a Volkswagen van painted like an American flag. Throughout his nine relocations as a military dependant, McFarland experienced things that many civilian children would never know to dream about.
“When you grow up as a military brat, there are a couple things that you pick up on … you appreciate travel, you appreciate some of the structure that comes with living on a base, and you are exposed to people that, by their very nature, are patriotic and disciplined, with that desire to serve,” he said.
Throughout his military life, both as a dependant and now, McFarland said that he has noticed a common trait. “[Military children] either jump head first into the military lifestyle as they grow or they want nothing to do with it. I have two boys. My youngest has already declared that he is going to go in. He wants to be in military intelligence. The other one, not so much,” he said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Daigle, garrison command sergeant major, also grew up with a significant military presence. At 19, he joined the Army himself, following in his father’s footsteps, who served for a total of 37 years. Daigle has been on active duty for 25 years and said that he plans to retire in the next few years.
Daigle explained that his father had a huge impact on his decision to enlist. “When my dad was National Guard, I enjoyed seeing the Army trucks and stuff like that,” he said. “As I grew older and we moved around, and we were at different installations, it grew on me more that I wanted to be in the Army.”
Over the years, there have been many changes that have bettered the life of a military child: post housing has been modernized and now accommodates larger Families; a large variety of emotional and physical support is readily available for dependants, such as counseling, youth programs and child care services; the medical care for Families has increased in quality and availability and technology advancements now allow children to hear their parent’s voice, providing a sense of security while they are apart.
“There is a huge difference for the kids from my experience growing up as a military dependant. The Army cares a lot more for the children now,” Daigle said. “There were always youth services, sports programs and activities like that, but now the Army does so much more for our [Families].”
The experiences that military brats encounter are immeasurable. They get to live history. They learn to adapt, build resiliency and take chances. Growing up in a military community can be challenging, but over and over, they grow up to be successful, worldly and educated.
Whether they go on to join the military or not, these “brats” certainly carry with them a sense of self that can only be learned within this unique way of life.