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William Clarke

USAF Brat! Yes I Am!

I was born into the United States Air Force in November of 1961. The base was Hamilton AFB. The location was across the bay of San Fransico. My memories that I were to recall was a few years later in the mid 1960’s. Being a little beyond 50 some of this memories are fading a little and that maybe expected.

Being a “military brat” from my perspective looking back as I recall is that I never really had “friends” like “civilian” kids did. We like all military families would move around the country and parts of the world. Here’s the Clarke family in order. I was born at Hamilton AFB. Then were moved somewhere my dad got his collage degree at the University of Omaha. Then we went to Lackland AFB where dad went OCS where he was a “Mustang”.

From Lakeland AFB we went to Blytheville AFB. My brother was born there in 1963. Then onto Kessler AFB. We were there for a year or two then dad got orders the Clark AFB , Republic of the Philippines. During this time I entered first grade I think. This is when I was with my fellow brats like this and not know we had things in common. Don’t forget the country was going through civil rights time yet as I recall my “friends” were different colors and I did not care. We were all the same as kids.

After leaving Clark dad had orders back to Keesler AFB. My memories as I recall were a few things. I recall the segregated south off base. Once again I had many “friends” of all shades. Living in the South as I recall was an interesting time. We were there when Mississippi was burning. I recall mom being really nervous during the time of the civil rights advocates being murdered. My mom was nervous this time
and now I know why.

Then in the late 60’s we moved to Altus AFB. We were there until 1972 I think. I was the longest place we stayed at till then. I remember going to school and having many “friends” in school. I remember all the tornado drills at school since we lived in tornado country. That was fun time looking back.

Then the Clarke family would go to the final duty station(s) in Washington D.C kind of. Dad would be stationed all over the Virginia, D.C area. I don’t think he had a office in Maryland with the exception of Bolling AFB. The Clarke family would live in Northern Virgina better known as Chantilly. We lived in two new housing developments called Greenbriar and Brookfield just outside of Washington DC.

Being in “military schools” where things were normal and coming into the public school system was looking back a great challenge. Everyone was caucasian. At the time I did not make much of it until years later. When I was going to Greenbriar West and Brookfield Elementary schools. I once more just had people that I would consider
just “friends” but not “real” friends like civilian kids.

Then after Brookfield Elementary I went to Chantilly Intermediate and spent the 7th to 12 grade there. Those were the formative years for me, I guess. I would be considered a loner not having friends but just “acquaintances” from those years at Chantilly.

Those years though looking back were fun though I felt being a military brat may have had it’s drawbacks even to this day. Not having people my life I can relate to on anything on what was and is going on. Having a true home other then the life of going to place to place and seeing many people. Being a military brat had it great pluses. Making “friends” for a short times then when going to other places making new “friends” right away knowing the “friends” that you meet are in the same boat your in.

To this days I don’t really have “friends” bust just “acquaintances”. My ex-wife would complain all the time why I did not have “friends” because of where I worked. I had to explain to her my upbringing as a military brat that is was really not in my way of life because of my younger days as a military brat.

I think being a military brat we may look things differently because of the environments we lived in. I did not have much even though things as a military brat we were “rich” in seeing new places as an adventure in seeing new place and people. Looking back it was great with all it small problems but that made me stronger today.

Patricia Self

We were really lucky as a family, because we went to Japan in 1953 and Germany in 1960. My dad was sent to Korea in 1952 and we moved to Riverside, CA to be close to March AFB. When hostilities ended, he was assigned to FEAF in Tokyo and we boarded the E.D. Patrick to cross the Pacific and join him. My mom, sister, brother, and I went to Fort Mason while we waited for the process to begin. We’d all had our shots (so many) and immunizations. My mom came down with the ‘flu and there I was, age 9, with siblings 3 and 1. Off we went to find a meal, three times a day. Finally, it was time to board the ship. My mom was a little better, but that soon changed as we went under the Golden Gate Bridge and out into the ocean. Seasick? Oh, yes, all of us! My mom had been an Army RN in WWII and sailed both Atlantic and Pacific, but I think having had the flu weakened her system. Still, the day the ship docked in Yokohama was one of great happiness for all of us.

Off-base housing was “private rental,” and we lived in a large home owned by a Tokyo banker and his family. One wing was ours, with a private garden. Tatami mats in every room, a kitchen that I loved but was a nightmare for my mom and Sumiko, our maid. Water was obtained from huge bottles of purified origin. School (at Washington Heights) was reached via bus, which arrived each day at the bottom of a long hill beside our house. One day while waiting at the bus stop, I heard a scream that echoed in the air around us. When I returned from school that day, I discovered that Sumiko had caught her hand in the wringer of our quartermaster washing machine.

After Japan, it was Northern Virginia while my dad was at the Pentagon. And then, off to Wiesbaden where he was at USAFE. It was my junior year in high school, 1960, and HH Arnold High School (now Wiesbaden High School) was located in the Hainerberg housing area. The BX was also there, as well as the Taunus theater (where our graduation was held). We were there four years, and I went to the U of MD at Munich, where I lived in a dorm. Back to Wiesbaden, where I married after a year or so.

My then-husband couldn’t wait to be ex-Air Force, although I’d envisioned life as an Air Force wife, traveling forever. That didn’t happen, but all my ex-husbands were prior service, and I guess that counts for something! Instead, I travel by auto, whenever I can. My last airplane ride was to and from Hawai’i, and all the fun has gone out of traveling in the air. Awful seats, nothing in the way of “service,” and has anybody ever had to change flights and found the necessary boarding gates to be close together? My personal worst is DFW, where it is possible to transit and still be in time for boarding the next flight, but the last time I had to do it I was so happy that I was healthy and nimble!

Jennifer Trippeer

This reflection is spurred by a memory of another military brat.

Moving, again, was always an adventure and the excitement accompanying each move was down right palpable. My Dad had returned from Vietnam, (praise God!), and we were leaving the civilian world in Northern Virginia as my Dad was now ordered to Fort Dix. Second school of my junior year in high school meant some difficult goodbyes, but, hey, what would we learn in New Jersey?!

First day of the new school I was blessed with a very nice girl who attended Pemberton Twp. High for two years. She was a member of the school’s choir and they had a program that day. As wonderful as it was to have a ‘pal’ for the day, I was very nervous, being on the shy side. At lunch we sat down at a table in the very loud cafeteria. Hamburgers and fries were the menu for the day. While my pal was telling me the ins and outs of life at this school, my hands were busy fidgeting with a ketchup packet. My hands were used for eating, writing, carbon, etc, and also as communication devices. I talked with my hands all the time. So as my pal is brightly talking, I bent the packet back and forth, rolling it between my hands, squeezing it from one end to another, listening avidly to my buddy. Suddenly her white shirt is stained with red goo, her glasses dripping a similar goop, and her hair now had a red tint.. Agh, who did this?, wasn’t me, oh my gosh, it was me. That day I vowed to be a high school drop out!

My parents had other thoughts on the idea, and the next morning I boarded the bus like so many others in the varying neighborhoods that comprised Dix.

It doesn’t take long to get to know others finding commonalties in many ways, even the fascination with the Galloping Gourmet. He always drank wine while cooking! So the bus, the school, our father’s units, places we’d lived, and before you know it, we had many friends. (Not the choir girl, tho’, I seemed to turned her off!)

Another venue for friendships was the Post Chapel. Those days, civilian family might be Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, or Jew. But on a Military base you were Army Protestant, Army Catholic, or Army Jew. The denomination didn’t matter, our friends did. Many of our school buddies attended the PYOC (Protestant Youth of the Chapel). We would hang out there after school, attended weekly meetings, and our friendships deepened. No matter your faith, that’s where we gathered.

We could talk about anything that was on our minds, expressed joys, interests, hopes and fears. What a great gathering. We were not many faiths, ethnicities, heritages, and variouly ranked fathers. The latter was of no concern, as well as the rest. We were David, Chris, Donna, Helen, etc. That’s what counted, the person.

One meeting in the Spring of 1970, we had a guest come speak to us. He was a missionary working in the US, and he came to share of his travels and experiences. Something new was appreciated by all of us. He went to the lecture and as welcomed with loud applause.

He stood silently for a moment, looking at each one of us, and then he spoke. ‘You have no idea how special you are, how unique to see you gathered here as a group. I was in the hall while you gathered here and witnessed your conversations, your greetings of one another, the closeness you all shared. You are unique and special. Do you know why?’ We looked at each other, probably with goofiness, as we asked of one another, What makes us special?

He spoke again, answering our thoughts. ‘You are unugue and special, because you have what this nation is trying so hard to obtain. You don’t see your differences, you accept one another for who they are. Just look at the skin colors you share in.’ We were Black, Hispanic, Oriental, White. He didn’t know of our religious histories, or the variety of our parents rank. That was a moment of awakening for many.

Every group isn’t like this? We had no idea that we were different than many groups in our country. We had lived across this vast nation. We had lived in foreign countries around the world. Our families varied in their heritage, but we were one. How blessed was I, how blessed my friends were to see we were special, we were different, but that didn’t matter. We were friends!