Social Media a Game Changer for Modern Brats

By Lauren B. Stevens

Somewhere among my boxes of childhood mementos is an old, paper pencil box. Affixed to the inside of the pencil box is my classroom schedule from fourth grade, and neatly stacked within that box are all of the letters from my pen pals; in the 1980s, P.O. Boxes were exchanged, rather than Twitter handles or email addresses, so that we brats could stay in touch.

The first year after moving, letters would fly back and forth; friends remaining behind at a station sharing details of how life was carrying on after you’d left, while you described your new home by comparing it to your old. I remember receiving photos from friends in middle school, feeling a pang of jealousy, a heaviness in my gut, seeing my former friends dressed for a dance, while I was miserable and hiding out in my bedroom back in the States.

I missed the freedom of living on a base, and I especially missed having all of my friends within walking distance. Not only was I experiencing culture shock, having spent the previous eight years in Europe, I was having a difficult time dealing with the transition from enclosed base-living to off-base civilian life.

Moving after the start of the school year is always challenging, but I’m unsure how much easier the transition would have been, having been placed in a civilian school with kids who had known each other since their diaper days. I struggled to make friends, and was teased relentlessly for being different — at ten years old, I was a tomboy who loved to play for hours outdoors, while my new classmates were more interested in hair and makeup. I missed the slow, tranquil life of the English countryside, where we were allowed to remain kids for much longer than our Stateside counterparts.

I still hadn’t made a place for myself, or a solid group of friends, before we moved two years later. I again faced the challenges of moving and starting school after the beginning of the school year. My father was transitioning out of military life, so we were all challenged with this particular move. Seeing those pictures of my friends from England was definitely bittersweet, and my letter box became more worn as I read through my friends’ letters for comfort.

In high school, I’d finally made a place for myself, having shaken-off the awkwardness of those middle school years. By my senior year, I was only in contact with one of my elementary school friends, and I remember us sharing our phone numbers in a letter exchange. I no longer remember who initiated the phone call, or why it had taken so many years to talk on the phone, but we we were likely driven to chat because we knew that our lives would be taking many turns once we left high school.

Almost ten years after playing together in England, I got to speak with my old friend, and I remember being struck by her southern accent, something that never stood out to me as a child. Perhaps the accent didn’t exist at that time, or maybe it went unnoticed, as so many seemingly insignificant details did, in our lives stationed abroad.

There was talk about our high school days, and plenty of discussion about our plans for the future, with a few awkward pauses sprinkled throughout. I remember having a warm feeling in my belly, a contented feeling of having connected with a friend from a past I revered.

The Internet began to pick up momentum while I was in college, and it seemed almost everyone was a member of some type of chat group of message board; this was about the time I discovered online Brat registries, linking long-lost friends across time and continents. When I found the registry for my base in England, I was excited to see some of my old friends registered, eagerly reading every post to get a feel for the place I still consider home.

The old message boards were clunky, and not especially conducive to lengthy conversations and connectedness. However, names I’d not thought of in years were now on my radar, which came in handy once Facebook began opening up to the masses, years later.

For many, Facebook is a lifeline for connection, and for a Brat, it has helped many stay connected, despite our transient lives. As someone who freelances for a living, I spend a great deal of time in Facebook groups, networking with other writers and editors, and landing jobs along the way — it’s integral to my career.

Years ago I stumbled upon a Facebook group dedicated to the small base where I lived in England. In this group, I was able to reconnect with so many friends from my past, and I am extremely grateful that social media has allowed us to connect. I know what’s going on in my old friend’s lives, watching their careers and families grow; it’s interesting to see where we are spread across both the States and in Europe, as well as to watch how and where many of us move (and move often).

The handful of brats who still live in the area often post pictures, as the old RAF base continues its new life as a small village. Year after year, hangars and buildings come down, making way for more development or areas of green. We even have some locals in our Facebook group, more than happy to answer questions, snap photos of our old homes, and even avail themselves as guides when we make it over to visit. The base holds such a rich history, and it’s uplifting to see the locals understand just how much their village means to so many, and how accommodating they are when we visit — some have even allowed us to come into their homes!

Seeing other brats share their experiences revisiting their childhood home has made it much easier for me to plan a trip back over. Knowing that the locals are welcoming eases my mind, as I plan to take a literal trip down memory lane with my family next year. All of this…connection…is possible because of social media, and I’m incredibly grateful for it!

A Story About My Dad: A WWII Glider Pilot

In 1960 my father was an Air Force master sergeant stationed at Tachikawa Air Base, Japan. His job was editor of the base newspaper and sometimes he would take me with him when he went out for a story or to take photos. I was 9 years old and on this day a big general was arriving on base and I went with him to the base terminal to watch his plane land and see my dad get his story. When we arrived he took me outside by the fence to stand and wait for him. The plane landed and the general came out and talked on a speaker to the people greeting him. After a while they walked away and got into cars and left.

My father was standing near the plane writing into his notepad when one of the plane’s pilots got out and walked by him. After a few steps the captain stopped and backed up talking to my father. They talked for about 10-15 minutes, then they shook hands and the pilot took a step back and gave a hard salute to my father who returned his salute and then the captain walked away.

My father walked over and got me and we got into our car. I ask my father, “Daddy, that man was an officer and you’re not an officer, why did he salute you?” My dad smiled and said, “See the wings I have on my uniform?” I said “yes,” and then he said, “well, my wings have a ‘G’ in the middle and that means I was a ‘Glider Pilot’ during World War II and he knew that was ‘special’ and he wanted to thank me for my service.” That was the first time my dad ever told me he had been a glider pilot during the war.

David Delaunay

Hanau, Germany 1974. We transferred there from Ft. Hood, Texas.  What a change!  We lived in Worms and Pirmasens, Germany on our first tour in 1967, but as a teenager it was another story. First we lived in the “temps” or temporary quarters. This was the attic floor of the building and we had 6 bedrooms and a back door I could sneak out of.  This meant going to the AYA dances at Sportsfied or the club at Pioneer Kaserne, which of course we should never have been at.

Those were the 2 pre-disco era years and the music was Soul….Stylistics, Isley Brothers and Earth Wind & Fire to name a few. The base was its own world.  Socially we all got along. Black, White, Hispanic… whatever. We weren’t segregated and we came to play sports and hear great music. Everybody it seems loved to dress up for school.  I don’t know how because we never had much spending money, but somehow we made it to the Kaufhoff in the German towns to get the latest jeans and cool stuff.

In 1975 Hanau High School opened and was a great success. It really formed a closer knit community that still gets together like in the “good old days.” I can honestly say that although we never had a true home, as brats our home was everywhere. We learned to make new friends as the old ones went “back to the world.” Little did we know that was where we were. It was a temporary world that taught us how to get along, all of us. We learned things fast. We made friends that would stand the test of time because we shared a special experience. We were pretty lucky brats after all and I for one wouldn’t change a thing except that it lasted a little longer. 😉

People Are the Only Home the Army Issues

My name is Ashlee Cowles, and I am an Army brat and author. My father was in the military for the first 18 years of my life, and this experience has shaped who I am more than any other. I spent most of my high school years in Wurzburg, Germany, which gave me an international perspective and love for Europe as a second home. As an adult, I went back to Germany to work at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, and I’ve also lived in Spain, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, all thanks to the military brat travel bug! My closest friends to this day are other brats from my time in Germany, and even though we now live on opposite sides of the U.S., we stay in touch and “pick up where we left off” whenever we get to see each other.

As a high school teacher at an online school that works with military brats, and as an author of Young Adult literature, one of the things I am most passionate about is highlighting the strengths of a military kids and other TCKs, as well as the privileges that come with this wonderful upbringing. Yes, it can be a hard life at times, but I’m so grateful for the resilience, grit, and other character strengths this lifestyle instilled in me from any early age. Instead of people feeling bad for military kids because we have to move so much, I want the civilian world to recognize the unique characteristics and gifts people from our diverse military community possess, as I strongly believe they are characteristics our increasingly fractured and amoral world is in great need of today.

This is one of the main reasons I wrote BENEATH WANDERING STARS (Merit Press, August 2016), a novel about a military brat named Gabi who is called to take part in a grand adventure while she’s living overseas in Germany. Through this work of fiction, I wanted to tell the real story of life as a military brat, with all its ups and downs. There hasn’t really been a mainstream novel about military brats since Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini, so I wanted to focus on the more recent experiences of post-9/11 brats. My hope is that this story will not only resonate with current military teens, but also expose the broader culture to the experiences and sacrifices of military families.

One of my favorite lines from the book is “People are the only home the Army issues…but they’re the only home that matters”–as I’ve found this to be very true in my own life. I’m sure I will always be a wanderer who never feels “at home” in one particular place, but military life has given me a home in all the wonderful people I’ve been fortunate to know!




Canadian Military Brat

by Brandi U.

Being a base brat had many hard times, but many benefits as well. I moved 9 times in my childhood and went to 9 different schools. My education was all over the board which only really showed up for me when I went to college.

My parents had multiple affairs that led to their separation when I was nine. I went to live with my Dad which had its own issues. The military was not set up for single parent families. The men would go on courses away for months sometimes. I was the oldest which meant that I had to take care of a lot of household stuff like making food, laundry, cleaning and watching my younger sister and brother. When Dad was on a course my elderly grandmother would watch us, which was not a lot of supervision. I would run a bit wild in those days.

The other big issue the military presented was an environment that bred alcoholism. As a recruit you were required to drink at mess dinners and all celebrations were alcohol related. My father became an alcoholic when I was really young. He was functional but it did end in me becoming a codependent as I got older. I had to attend groups to understand and undo some of the issues that come from being a child of an alcoholic and dysfunctional parent.

I also had to do work on the abandonment of my mother. My dad left for six months, (before the internet and Skype), on a course called the “marriage breaker,” which proved to be the final straw that broke my parent’s marriage. They both engaged in other relationships and my mother left my father when he came home from it.

Some of the good things about being a base brat is I learned very quickly how to meet people. I also knew at least one person everywhere we went. It changed how kids related to people. We learned how to make strong connections quickly. Another huge benefit was the trips we got to take. I got to travel through Europe when I was seven because we were posted to Germany. I also got to travel through most of the States and Canada because when we got posted the military gave us the option of how to travel. My Dad would always pick car so we could have a really long vacation. We slept in some great hotels and saw many U.S. landmarks. It was a great experience. His DND card made things easier. He got a lot of military discounts and we were able to go to the base hospitals for free.

I wouldn’t change my childhood but I also wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I am glad some of the policies have changed to help the military kids find some more stability. It was not easy for kids only ever having half a family when the men, ( or in some cases women), were sent away. But I am glad I got to be part of a beautiful community of people that always had your back.

Growing Up In Japan

My memories of Japan start on May 1, 1958 when our passenger ship, a converted World War II attack transport ship , the USS Frederick Funston (APA-89), pulled into the port of Yokohama and seeing all these red flags waving and signs that said “Go home Yankees.” I asked my dad about it and he told me that some of the Japanese didn’t like Americans and I didn’t need to worry about it, but as a seven-year-old that made me wonder if we should go back to Kansas the next day on another ship.

The place we would call home was Tachikawa Air Base which was about 18 miles from Tokyo and we made the trip that first day in a very small taxi which took over 2 hours. I remember my mother was very worried that we would all be killed on the way because of all the traffic and so many people on bicycles on the road, but we made it.

My father’s Air Force tour of duty would be as the managing editor of the Tachikawa Air Base newspaper.

What a place “Tachi” as it was called was to grow up. The base was divided into 2 parts with the airplane hangars and runway dividing it, the west side which included the main housing area and east side that had the largest military hospital in Japan.

For a family you had anything and everything you could want located on the base, kindergarten and grade school thru jr. high, with the high school located at Yamato Air Station a few miles away.  The base had 2 theaters, 2 base exchanges, 2 gyms, a teen club, 3 clubs for the military and 1 club for the civilian personnel, a commissary, 3 swimming pools, 2 football fields, hobby shop, 8 baseball fields, twelve tennis courts, two churches, an event service center where you could take all kinds of classes or weekend trips. The base buses ran every 15 minutes going in opposite directions around the base.

I would finish up the first grade upon my arrival and complete the 5th grade before we would leave to go back to the states in June 1962 heading for Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts. Little did I imagine then that I would be going back to Tachikawa, Japan again, but in May 1967 my father accepted a Civil Service position as the 6100th Support Wing Historian at “Tachi.”

My family arrived at Tachikawa Air Base, Japan for the second time in May 1967 and I would attend my junior and senior years at Yamato High School, Home of the Warriors, where I would graduate from on June 6, 1969.

Growing up at Tachikawa Air Base was a wonderful time in my life and my memories and adventures of being there are still fresh in my mind, like the time I attended the summer base open house and met two Japanese college students who asked if they could write me to practice writing in English, which I said was fine. About 2 weeks later my Dad got a call from the base post office that I had received some mail. Stopping by the post office I went in and asked for my mail and the airman said, “Come over to the side door, I have two bags for you.” I wondered who had sent me something, maybe an early birthday gift, but it turned out to be over 500 letters! Its seems the Japanese college students I met at the base open house had posted my name and address on the college school bulletin board and I got letters from most of the students that were taking the English writing course.

But as they say, if I could do it all over again… I would in a heartbeat.


In the Eye of the Storm

I am a brat—and I say that with great pride. My sisters and I went traipsing all over the world with my father and mother; he, a United States Army colonel; she, the general in charge of our family.

Because we were brats, we grew up in the eye of the storm . . .

We lived in Yokohama, Japan, just a few years after Japan surrendered and World War II ended. We were in the crowd the day the Emperor of Japan came out in public for the first time ever to show himself to the Japanese people. Before that, the Japanese had thought of their emperor as a god, not a mere human. Those were the days when raising brats was often a shared responsibility between parents and a local nanny. So I answered to General Mom and my Japanese nanny, Kosikosan. To my family, I spoke English; to my nanny, I spoke Japanese. Our first brat adventures, that I remember, took place in post-war Japan.


I wasn’t alive when my father went off to World War II, but I felt it when he went off to the Korean War. That was the first time he left us for a year.  In that war he was a liaison officer with a Korean Infantry unit, during which he was awarded the Bronze Star.

When things heated up between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War in the late 1950s, we were stationed with the 4th Armored Division at Cooke Barracks in Göppingen, Germany.  There we had many grand adventures playing in Nazi bunkers, pillboxes, and bombed-out buildings.


My sisters and I while stationed in Germany

For the second time, my sisters and I had a nanny. This time the language was German. But it wasn’t all just fun and games; we also had to come to terms with the constant threat of Soviet tanks up on the Iron Curtain, and our father disappearing again and again when 4th Armored was confronted with Red Alerts. Our own nanny had escaped from East Germany over the Iron Curtain.

In the early 1960’s Cuban Americans, assuming they would receive US military support, tried to invade and overthrow the Communist government in Cuba. That is known as the Bay of Pigs.

When it happened, we were stationed with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and because of that invasion my father was gone for a time. The same had happened the year before when an American U2 spy plane got shot down while on a secret mission over Russia.

Then, when the Berlin Wall went up and he was called upon to help resupply Berlin, the colonel left us once again for a whole year. No sooner were we all back together as a family when my father left again; the Cuban Missile Crisis had erupted, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. Of course, being brats, that didn’t stop our grand adventures. In fact, when the colonel was gone, we managed some of our best.

We were stationed in Orleans, France, with SHAPE (Strategic Allied Headquarters European Command) when France was confronted with the war in Algeria and at least three attempts on President Charles de Gaulle’s life. For three years I attended a French all-boys Catholic school, joined the French Boy Scouts, and became a French kid.

It’s not surprising that I studied political science, military science, and business in college and graduate school, at Utah State University and Boston University. Years later, while teaching at UCLA, I applied what I had learned studying military science to develop a course called The Nine Principles of War. Many of those principles for successfully fighting wars have found their way into my books.

I was commissioned a second lieutenant in June of 1973, and then I spent four years on active duty. Three of those years were with V Corp in Frankfurt, Germany. Afterward, I was in the reserves for a few years, finally leaving the Army with the rank of captain.


1LT Michael Joseph Lyons up on the Iron Curtain with V Corp in 1975

All totaled, I spent twelve years in Europe and two years in Japan, most of them as a brat.

For me the Army was great at developing my management skills and also gave me excellent computer science training. I have spent many years since leaving the military as an entrepreneur in the software industry.

Today I live in the Chicago area with my amazingly smart, never predictable, but always fun wife and our two dogs. One of the dogs is a marshmallow of a golden retriever, and the other is a wily, in charge mutt the kids rescued from a shelter. And speaking of the kids, our seven grown children continue to be the highlight of our lives. Wherever they now roam throughout the world, the one constant is that sooner or later they all come home, not so much to a place, but to the family.

Today my focus is on writing novels about the life of military brats. The stories are not about my life but fictional characters representing the lives of all military brats and third-culture kids. I want my stories to celebrate the fascinating, rich, and rewarding life of a brat, while helping other children and young adults glimpse what life is like for kids living in the eye of the storm.

My passion is meeting brats anywhere in the world and talking with them about how to get the most out of the unique way they are raised. Many will be tomorrow’s great globals.

Sarah C.

Out of 3 daughters my father had, I was the only daughter who started out in civilian life and aged out before my dad retired from the Air force after 22 years of service. Dad went to boot camp the Monday after I was baptized at two weeks old. After that, all I knew was the military. We lived in 3 states and I attended schools in 2 different countries – Germany and the Netherlands. He started out life married to one woman and then divorced my mother for infidelity while he was away on duty at another base in Alaska while we lived in Nebraska. After those year, he became a different man : angry, distant and often depressed.

My sisters are blown away of how I remember the man my father used to be – warm, loving and affectionate. He was pretty happy when I was born – as he was when all of us were born. The sad thing is, he drifted away while he was still at home. I am still the daughter that is closest to him, who gets more of his honesty and his affection. I suppose it’s because he knows that I know the person he was.

I loved so many of the things that the military life gave us- security, new surroundings every few years, meeting people from all sorts of backgrounds and life experiences. My father made sure we were exposed to different people and that we did not grow up racist like some of my extended family.  I actually used the German I learned in school. I ate and drank what was not available in the country of my birth. I got to see some of the things that are in the travel shows – London, Paris, Germany. I breathed the air and remember the scents of baking bread, the pine forests and the terrible bathing habits of people who visit the palace of Versailles. I can piece together a working framework of how to listen to language and get the gist. I see the nuance of different cultures. I learned to love where I lived instead of feeling homesick.

I still grew up lonely. I didn’t have many friends. I still do not. I am distant from my own family. I suppose it was from the fact I didn’t get the care and security from a loving family when I was in another country. They all lived somewhere else and my own mother lived with someone else. It felt like abandonment. It felt awkward and I didn’t know how to be anyone else. I grew up wild – even though I never did drugs or run away, I was angry.. I was cruel to my middle sister and other kids, I had sex before I was truly ready. I parroted the things that my father said that were sometimes rude.

When he married my stepmother I was 10, she was cruel to the point that I lost any sense of esteem I had. Before she came into the picture I was curious, finding my own identity, and okay with my feelings. When she arrived, she beat it out of me with her actions and words. I still weep a little for that child I was. I grew distant from my own extended family because of the shame I felt. She was worst when dad was on TDY. It was days even weeks of abuse that she told my dad that I caused. I thought it was my fault and I was broken – it was only half true,, I was broken because of her but it was not my fault.

I ended up losing my virginity, I suppose it was because the boy I did it with was the first guy to really pay attention to me.

I tried to tell him but he yelled at me, allowed for her cruel behavior to continue. He became stricter and colder. When she finally was found to have mental illness, he realized that most of what she said and did was not me but her. I was 15 when he saw her for what she was but he still is married to her this day out of duty. I sometimes feel like he’s waiting for her to die.

I spent the next 3 years away from her, first with an aunt and uncle while he was assigned back overseas and then with dad for my last 2 years of high school in the Netherlands. It was a time I could decompress but I was still unable to process what happened. I suppose it was because I felt I could not talk to dad. After all, he had grown distant. There was no other family I could turn to, I had few friends  I could talk to and I was not able to feel close to them.

I am now scratching the backside of 40 and have finally found peace and self esteem this year. I am more secure in myself than I have been for years. I can trust myself more and the identity I had is now returning along with the happiness I felt as a child when I was exploring.

I am now in my second marriage which is also going to end in divorce, but you know what? I’m okay with that. The affection that I feel for myself, my body, and my mind far outweighs the need I once had to remain in deadbedrooms and distant men. I never wanted to be the person who got walked on but I ended up being that way to have the love I hoped I’d get. There are no more skeletons in my closet and I reach out to my family more. I have made a few more friends this year and have truer happiness than ever before.

I am also better at making peace with the things I couldn’t control. The Air Force life was good, when things were good. It was bad, when it was bad. I am gaining control over the things that I once was helpless against. I am learning to love myself truly and I am learning to take true pride who I am – a military brat, a woman, and a fighter. I don’t ever give up and that is what military life gave me – a fighting spirit, a willingness to go places I never been, and bravery in the face of adversity.

You Can’t Go Home Again

“You can’t go home again.”

That quote is largely figurative to those in the civilian world, but for military brats it can be quite literal. Many civilian kids leave their hometowns to make their ways in the world, but they can always return to visit their old houses, schools and neighborhoods and see how things have changed. They can also get together with family and friends that still live in the area and reminisce.

For many military brats though, that’s just not the case. Sure, some can go back a year or two after they leave and do many of the things described above, (if they still have an I.D. card or sponsor and can actually get on the base). But let years go by and the inhabitants of that base will have, in all likelihood, changed entirely. You would now be a complete stranger in a place you used to call home.

And worse still, many of those bases, like those pictured in this post, may no longer exist. These were our homes, our schools, our communities, our friends and neighbors… completely gone. This is something that can generate a profound sense of loss or hollowness in those who have lived it, above and beyond already having to reconcile the difficult experience of being repeatedly uprooted and relocated growing up. It can be something people struggle with for the rest of their lives… some never really finding closure.