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Bryan Wardwell

I lived in Ankara, Turkey from 1984-1986, and I would not change it for the world. The experiences we gain from being overseas and the things we got to see that 90% of the population will never know or experience in their lifetime.

My first memories are of the initial trip going over to Turkey. We stopped off in New York from Dallas, and then our flight headed to Paris. I never got a chance to leave the airport, but I can say I’ve been to Paris! Our next flight took us to Geneva, Switzerland, and again I never left the airport but from the sky I do not believe there is a more beautiful, colorful country. I remember ascending and seeing this lake by the airport that was a color blue I have yet to see again in y 43 years. All the trees and grass was such a vibrant green. Truly amazing to see first hand and I would love to return one day possibly.

Our last leg of the tour was to Istanbul and then our destination Ankara. So as a twelve year old visiting his first European/Asian assignment that night was a culture shock. I did not sleep at all due to the time differences, but I will never forget the first time I heard prayer that morning. Looking out of the window watching the people and how they look, how they are dressed and even the way they carry themselves was different. I noticed the men would walk with their arms locked behind their backs. I cant say I fell in love with the country right away especially since I was home sick missing my friend and family back home knowing I wouldn’t see them for two years. I can however say I knew I really was gong to enjoy my time here after about 2 months and I got to meet people and went out to eat and shop. My biggest like if you will is the Turkish Lira to one dollar. I believe it was $1 equaled 600 Lira when I first arrived, and with that 600 Lira I could catch a taxi and go to Tunali St and eat and come back via a taxi again! You will never see that bang for your buck anywhere else then or now!

So now that I was getting acquainted with people I began to have more and more friends. I would join sports like cross country, baseball, track, and even had a short stint in wrestling until I got hurt in practice. I made friends in those two years that I till have today, and in fact a friend I met from Incirlik became my wife 28 years later! We stayed friends all these years until 4 years ago when the timing seem to be perfect. So based on those facts I think being a military brat has left a profound effect on my life.

As a brat you have a certain bond that you do not share with everyday friends stateside. People just do not understand how it is when stationed overseas. Some other benefits are you learn about other cultures and those cultures differences. these I call values and with these values you learn to judge to quickly, and you can be friends with anyone from any culture, color, background and religion. I try to instill these very values to my kids and hope they are judgmental and hope they grow to be understanding of other people and how they live, dress, speak and their religions.

Being a military brat has left a lifetime of education, memories, experiences and friendships. As I am writing this at 1:20 in the a.m my friend of 30 years I went to school with in Turkey texts me. How many can say they have that kind of friendships that share these experiences? There very well might be someone somewhere, but I consider military brats our own .5% ers!! Just to wrap this up I can 100% honestly say I would do it all over again, the meeting of friends just to leave two years later. The pain you feel every year of other friends leaving and or you leaving. People who are born and raised in the same town to me are at a disadvantage to not have the opportunity to touch and be touched by so many more people whom could be the one like it was for me! If I had not been who I am and where I was I would not be married to my beautiful wife today. So for me it was a great experience and like I said i would do it again in a heartbeat!!!

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.

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