I grew up in an Air Force family during the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. Prior to my 5th birthday, I’d lived in 5 states. Fortunately for me, I only moved a few times after that. We never lived on base. My dad was enlisted and in that day he wasn’t paid much, so we lived in a trailer. I never thought much of it as we always lived in clean parks and we got to take our house with us where ever we moved. (This helped a lot with the adjustment to a new environment.)
My dad went on several TDY’s which didn’t bother us, but he also spent a longer time in Japan and then 15 months in Vietnam. My mom was a very strong and independent women and our household was not disrupted by my dad’s absences. We missed him and looked forward to deciphering his handwritten letters, but, life went on. I do remember feeling, as a child, and somewhat to this day, that whenever I heard his snoring at night, I knew I was safe.
My sister was lucky as we spent her junior and senior high years in Kansas. She actually went on to live there for college and several years as a teacher. We moved to England at the beginning of my 9th grade year. I’d gone to a base school during my kindergarten and 1st grade years, but all civilian schools after that, so attending a base school again was a new experience for me. I really hadn’t associated with military kids my age, before. So each move I’d made in the past had a few months of adjustment to new kids. I wasn’t extremely shy, but it did take me awhile to become friends with people. The difference I felt with the military kids was that they accepted me more readily as a friend. No need to explain where I’d been before, why I moved a lot, why I couldn’t explain what exactly my dad did, why I didn’t have a home town…. Thanks to Facebook and our high school’s reunions, I have reconnected with a few of those classmates and good friends. I did get to graduate from my school (Upper Hayford, England) which is something I’d worried about. We originally were suppose to relocate back to the States after my junior year, but because my dad was going to retire the next year, they extended our stay.
My love for traveling began with our family road trips to visit all the relatives every summer and expanded when I was able to travel through school trips and Girl Scouts while I was in England. I developed a great appreciation for other cultures and the beauty of
different countries. Instead of moving around as an adult (I’ve lived in Guam for over 30 years) I’ve traveled around the world on extended vacations. This kind of wanderlust is directly attributed to my life as a military brat. When I visit my relatives who’ve grown up in small towns in the midwest, I marvel at the long time friendships they’ve
developed and the closeness they have with their other cousins, but, so many have a small view of the world’s peoples and I’m sad to say, a prejudice.
There are no memories of civilian kids treating me poorly or bullying me, by my move to Kansas in the 3rd grade, many of my classmates had know each other since kindergarten or before. So breaking into the friendship groups took awhile and I only really had one or two good friends. (None of whom I’m currently connected to.) My sister, on the other hand, is best friends with 2 girlfriends she’s known since junior high! Just different timing. The only negativity I felt as a military brat was during High School in the 70’s. With the Vietnam war going on (winding down) there were always bomb threats to our base and school. In fact, during my high school graduation at the Oxford Town Hall, someone phoned in a bomb threat. Except for a few families, we all stood our ground and as we expected, the threat was just that.
I believe that growing up military but living and going to off base schools for most of that time, gave me the ability to adjust well back to the States after 4 years away. Starting my college career helped as did having one of my best friends also move to the town my dad retired to. I also feel I am open to more varieties of personalities and cultures. (Of course living in a dorm and working in a fast food joint also helped develop those skills.)
My only regret really is that I wish we’d been stationed in other parts of the world more. I would have loved to learn other languages where I could use them daily. I did get to know some English people through Girl Scouts, but not on a daily basis. If we’d lived in a neighborhood without other Americans, (we lived off base, but in a housing development for folks from the base.) that would have increased my chance to become friends with English kids and get to understand the culture more.
Today’s military families have more support than we did from the military community. When the children’s moms and dads are deployed it’s more than likely to a war zone and this might happen many times over their life. Definitely scarier times. I’m glad the schools are better equipped than ours was, and that the service men and women are paid better. There’s still the moving around and making new friends, but I think, at least for enlisted families, economics are better.