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Some Memories Never Fade

The picture below is a moment in time capturing what has got to be one of the more crushing moments from my youth. It’s the day my family left Greece on our way to my father’s new assignment in Ramstein, Germany.

If you look behind us, you can see that we’re packed and ready to go, with a large bundle strapped to the top of the car. The smiles on our faces, (in response to the request of our randomly recruited photographer), betray the true nature of the turmoil inside me. Moments later, we would pull away from the curb and my life would change forever. My home, school, friends and a place that I had grown such a close connection to… ripped away once again. Of course it wouldn’t be the first time, nor the last.

As we drove away to catch the ferry to Italy, with the city of Athens fading into the distance behind us, I could no longer contain my emotions. My oldest sister would try to comfort me in the back seat of our car, but I was painfully aware, even at that young age, that a significant chapter of my life was ending. I remember it like it was yesterday. I believe that military brats and 3C kids have a more heightened awareness, or clear delineation of those moments in life than the general public, for no other reason than that they happen so often.

I loved Greece. The sights, sounds, culture, ancient history, food, weather, people… special childhood friends. To a kid it was like living in paradise, and everything about it lives in my memory. All military brats and 3C kids have those special places they’ve lived in that leave an indelible imprint on them over the years. This was mine.

Of course nothing lasts forever, and I would move on and adapt to yet another new country and environment. As there had been before, there would be other special places, times and people and this scenario would continue to play out. Looking back, I never really think of my life as a unified whole, but as a series of unrelated, disparate pieces. Different houses, different schools, new friends, that’s just the way it was… over and over again. The faces and locations might change, the emotional impact on those going through it does not.

I would return to Greece years later in my mid-20s, living and working on the island of Ios and in downtown Athens… trying in part to recapture what I had lost all those years ago. And although I was able to create a new set of memories, new friends and special moments from another chapter in my life, it wasn’t the same. How could it be? What was gone was gone… and so it is.

Over the years I’ve found that, unlike my civilian friends here in the states, I don’t talk about my past in terms of age or what year it was, I always seem to talk about it in reference to where I was living at the time. That’s simply the way I categorize and remember things. And this has had the unfortunate tendency to get me in trouble, leaving some with the impression that I’m some kind of blowhard or braggart. (“He’s talking about living in Europe again… give it a rest already!”) In truth, I’m just reciting tales of my reality just like everyone else, my stories just took place overseas. Unfortunately, like some other brats, this has led to me becoming more guarded as I’ve gotten older, and speaking about my past with very selective audiences or in more generic terms, so that people don’t misinterpret it as bluster.

As time has passed I’ve also searched on occasion for some of those friends I’ve lost over the years, and once in a while I’ve been successful in finding them, (the recent onset of social media has certainly helped). But the reality of reuniting never quite equals the Hollywood fantasy that tends to take hold in your mind. Time passes… people change, move on and handle the realities and complexities of their lives in different ways. Some try to maintain those distant connections through the years, and others find it easier to purge and shut out the past in order to move on, (but I’ll save my stories of the intricacies of brat friendship for another day).

For many of us it’s been difficult coming to terms with all of the changes we’ve been through, but when I think of it now it really doesn’t matter… regardless of what’s taken place in the space between now and then, in my mind I’ll always look back with appreciation and a little smile when remembering myself as that little blonde kid playing on the streets of that Mediterranean paradise.

Greece

Loretta Brown

Wouldn’t know where to start so… will make a long story short “if” possible:

Our 24 year active duty U.S. Army Dad from Anderson, Indiana was a WWII, Korean & Vietnam hero to my family. He met our mom TDY in Athens. Then stationed at bases as follows: My sister and I born in Izmir, brother born in Madrid, Chicago, Ft. Meade, Maryland, Istanbul, Yuma Proving Grounds, Athens (Dad was in Vietnam), Germany, Oakland Army Base, SF Presidio. After he retired he worked another 24+ years civil service for the military, we moved back to Athens for a few years. Oakland Army Base & Alameda Naval Air Station.

Not to gross anyone out but at Oakland Army Base we could smell foulness from the huge warehouses, our Dad waited until we moved off base to tell us those were soldiers from Vietnam, then they were sent to their homes, not enough refrigeration for them all. Sad facts.

Our family bounced around born & raised on bases across the States and Europe. I dated and married Air Force, was in Germany then Edwards AFB in California. My sister also married AF and now lives in Florida.

Although no longer living the military life. It doesn’t just go away, I have so many memories I hold dear to my heart, met friends around the world and kept them.

When stationed overseas, the joy of entering the bases was a fantastic feeling got our hearts pumping to see the water tower, guards at gate, American flag & green grass. I called it mini-America. Stars & Stripes were our hangout for comic books. Although we were never wealthy, we were rich with experience of different languages, cultures and appreciation for people from all over.

Lost our Dad Ken and baby brother Kenny 2 years ago. Although civilians, our Mom, sister and I still feel like we served with our Dad. We come from a family who are very proud US Army Brats and Americans!

Loretta_Brown2

Cindy Sherling

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.

Sonja Neil

I am the child of two Air Force parents. We lived in Hokkaido Japan, San Vito Del Normandi, and Hellenikon Air Force Base. My father retired in 1983 and my mother retired in 1994 from the 3532nd Recruiting Squadron in Nashville, TN.

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