The hardest question anyone can pose to me is, “where are you from?” or “where is your hometown?” Like many military brats, I don’t have one. Born in Duluth, Minnesota, my brother, mom, and I followed my dad on his new assignments, roughly every 2 years, and every other assignment was overseas. Our foreign posts were Lakenheath Air Base in England, then Naples, Italy, and Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Our domestic assignments were the Pentagon, Plattsburgh AFB, and Charleston AFB.
I would know my friends roughly one year before they moved on to another destination. Although it was a bit lonely, I have to say it was also a wonderful experience. We lived on a gorgeous villa in the suburbs of Napoli, at the base of an extinct volcano, overlooking the sea. We had multiple terraces that my brother and I roller-skated on. The house was made with hundreds of exquisite tiles and stained glass doors. I fondly remember our school bus ride during which we passed the dormant and sulfury-smelling volcano, Sulfatara. I remember President Nixon coming to visit the NATO base and all the school kids lined up to meet him!
Our foreign assignment to Incirlik Air Base is full of fond memories. We lived off-base in Adana, across the street from the old American Consulate. Our landlords were among the few Turkish Jews remaining in the city and I had my Bat Mitzvah there as well. I remember hundreds of cotton workers on strike, with their trucks lined up for weeks by the side of the JFK highway, the workers asleep under their trucks to avoid the heat. I fondly remember the theme song from Soul Train playing just before the air base’s news came on each day.
Other memories: goats being slaughtered at our school bus stop for Eid Al Ada, eating borek pastries, my dad visiting some subordinates in a Turkish prison after they were caught with hashish, and my parents seriously ill with chigella. As I also had braces and there was no American orthodontist on base, the US government paid for our trip to Athens, Greece, every 6 weeks, for my orthodonture appointments. This was during a time of heavy discord between Greece and Turkey regarding Cyprus. We had frequent mandatory blackouts in Adana and on base during this time, even while my mom was preparing for my Bat Mitzvah.
This type of existence is both extremely gratifying as well as very lonely for military kids and also for the spouses of the military personnel. I never felt like I really belonged anywhere and am so glad my own kids can claim New York City as their home.