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“Home”

Home. What is it about this place that so many people seem to find so fascinating and dear to their hearts. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros wrote a brilliant song by this title. In Kevin Smith’s iconic religious lambast of a film Dogma, the characters Bartleby and Loki are casted out angels who are so excited to have found a loophole back to heaven, their “home.” More recently, in the hit Netflix series “Narcos,” Pablo Escobar stares out the window of his plane recently departed from Panama, now looking over the hillside of Colombia, while he stares in awe of his “home,” in which he swears he will never leave once again. Home. It is so important to so many people.

But then there are some of us who don’t quite grasp the reality of “home.” The select group who were destined to realize that the idea of home is nothing more than where you lay your head on that very day, and at a moment’s notice, everything you have known and grown used to will soon be diminished and cast away in the name of a cause you may not quite understand. I’m obviously speaking towards the idea of being a military child, as the reasons for submitting these words in this forum so obviously demand. The military child is a unique one to say the least. In fact, to simply use the term “unique” is probably unfair and misleading. And such is the idea of “home” to so many military children who will watch a television show or movie, or better yet speak to a local native of wherever they are currently stationed about what it is like in one certain place, their home, and have completely no idea what the hell they are talking about. What is home?

I could probably provide thousands of examples of how the idea of “home” is so obscure and tyrannical to the military child. But, really, I need to look no further than this very project. When asked to provide information about myself, there are asterisks that denote required fields. Two required fields are a city and state. While these asterisks are completely justified to suit the cause of this project as a whole, it actually proves very relevant to the idea that even those involved with and seem to care about the plight of the military child, can miss small nuances of what it means to be a “military brat.” At this current time in my life, now 30 years old and raising three beautiful military brats of my own, I reside at Naval Station Rota, Spain. There was no option for me to put this location, as a “state” was required. Even to this day, as a military brat turned military member, my identity is to say the very least, confusing. I did manage to come up with the city and state of Kelso, Washington. A place that I actually call my “home,” but mostly for technical reasons.

So with this lengthy introduction, I guess I can begin to tell the real story that I hope will somehow bring me back to the idea of “What is Home, really?”

I was born in Longview, Washington (across the river from Kelso, just to get that out of the way) to a couple of teenagers who had a bit too much fun in the 80’s around prom season and ended up with a lifelong commitment in the form of a child. It happens. My father knew pretty quickly that a life in the Air Force could provide the stability that his young son and high school age bride would need in order provide a healthy life. So he enlisted. At the age of 9 months old, I was taken from my “home” of Kelso, Washington, and I would not return for another 10 years and change to live in the lumber economy filled city of which I came, under dire circumstances.

As I have learned with my own children who are military brats, you become hardened pretty early on in your life to the idea of moving on. You make friends, they move on. Friends come to you, you move on from them. In this day and age of social media, you may actually be able to hold onto these friends, and maybe meet up again from time to time. But for me, living the life from the mid 80’s to the late 90’s, it wasn’t entirely possible unless you (or your parents) really wanted to try. But, as most military brats know, we developed a bit of apathy very early on when we began to accept that we may never see these people ever again. it was just a part of our lives.

Out of all fairness, I feel like I should explain that I do believe that I have a “home.” In 1996, I was forced to move back to Kelso, Washington with my mother as my father was set to complete a short tour at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. Unfortunately, this would prove the demise of my parent’s marriage, and I would continue to reside in a town that was once known as Little Chicago until I was legally able to get out. So, in retrospect, I am not sure if I completely translate into a real “military brat.” But, I feel as though I do. I went to more elementary schools than there are actual grades to be in, experienced the drama of several PCS moves, and still wonder what happened to the friends I once had and held so dear at one point in my life. But, I do sort of have a home. In my 30 years on earth, I have actually spent 13 of them in the state of Washington (Kelso, Tacoma, Kelso again, and Spokane, respectively in time). I met my wife in Kelso. I always seem to return there, and I always seem to return there for leave and holiday excursions. So this must be my home. And in this respect, maybe I am more lucky that most people who will submit to this wonderful project. Yet, I still can’t quite grasp the sense of “home,” that I can’t help but come back to throughout this explanation.

As I mentioned previously, I jumped at the idea of leaving my life at “home” as soon as I could. I graduated from Kelso High School, married my high school sweetheart, and was at the Air Force Basic Military Training in San Antonio, Texas within 3 weeks. And I have not looked back since. This may say a bit about the trauma of being a military brat. Maybe we are always looking for a way out of wherever the hell we are, and we need it fast. Or maybe I just saw the military as a brilliant way to get a life started, all the while having all sorts of people telling me what to do and why I should move on from where I came. And I know that the military brat turned military member is not entirely original. I have met dozens since I joined a dozen years ago.

And with this, I know that my story is not entirely unique. I could mention more about my time in the country of Turkey when my mother and I had to evacuate due to terrorist threats, or that even more interesting time that Boyz II Men came to shoot a music video in the White Sands of New Mexico when we were station at Holloman AFB. But, I think the idea that those of us who were military children will always lack an idea of “home,” even if some end up in my state of being where we have some sort of place that we can call home, because maybe we were born there. We still don’t quite understand this idea of “home,” but we can have something to call our own if we want to.

My real trials and tribulations come when I think about my own children. Two of my children were born in Rapid City, South Dakota. I constantly have to tell them that this is not of any real importance, the idea of where you are born. I go with the “you are who you are” or “home is where the heart is” or something equally as corny and disconcerting. I’m not sure if they buy it. I know I wouldn’t. But, it’s the best I can do. My third child was born in Spokane, Washington, so it makes it a bit easier to describe “home.”

I don’t really understand what it means to be a military brat, or even what it means to raise a military brat. It is a complex and disconcerting way of life, but I do believe it builds a certain character that is unlike most children. I certainly believe the psychological effects have to be astonishing to most scholars. It can make us stronger and weaker all at the same time. I truly believe that most military children are ready for anything, at a moments notice. Just as their parents are sure to understand.

So, as a man who grew up as a military child, and is raising 3 military children, but also sort of “grew up” in the civilian sector, I can definitely understand the complexities of this way of life. And with that, I feel as though the idea of “home” is by the far one of the greatest concerns affecting the lives of our military children. But, hey, no one can deny that they are some of the toughest people on the planet. They didn’t sign up for this, but the endure it with a sense of pride and “we can do it” attitude that this courageous and admirable. There are no children like military children. No contest. They make their own “home.”

Army Brat Wanderlust

My dad served 21 years in the Army beginning at the age of 17. I was born in Germany in 1955. We later lived in Tacoma, WA where my brother was born in 1958 while dad was stationed at Ft. Lewis. In 1961, mom & dad bought a house in El Paso, TX, but dad was never stationed at Ft. Bliss… he was stationed at Ft. Hood in Killeen, TX. He was then stationed at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio where we lived for a while before he was sent to Germany.

We moved to Germany when I was about 7 years old and lived there until I was almost 10 while dad was stationed at Spangdahlem Air Force Base. We lived off-base in a small town called Speicher and we went to school on the base. We traveled a lot, as my parents had friends all over Germany and outside of Germany. It seemed like we were always going someplace to visit friends… Paris, Luxembourg, Holland and all over Germany.

I remember one of the first Christmases we spent in Germany was in a small apartment where my brother and I slept in our parent’s room, (mom said we lived in Bitburg at the time). Mom heated the kitchen by turning on the gas burners. I know it was such a small apartment and I was worried that Santa wouldn’t find my brother and I… but Dad assured us that he would. Christmas morning… there on the kitchen table (there was no room for a Christmas tree) were the presents Santa had left us. He brought me a Barbie doll and a Ken doll, (my very first). And… the milk and cookies for Santa had been eaten, (and the carrots for his reindeer). Santa left us a note saying,”Thank you Dolly & Sammy for the milk & cookies. My reindeer will enjoy the carrots. I will always know where you are at Christmas. Love, Santa.” My brother and I treasured that note. Later on our dad told us he had written it to assure us that “Santa” would always know where we were.

I have the fondest memories of my time in Germany and of all of our military friends. My parents still kept in touch with them years after Dad retired. So many more stories. For a military brat, one either becomes a homebody or loves to travel. I love to travel still. And I’m proud of being a brat.

Dolly_Cruise3

Dolly_Cruise2

Michelle Clark

In my 48 years on the planet, I have only spent the past 8 away from Army life. I was born in October of 1967 and my father was activated for the Vietnam war in 1968. I used to joke that I have lived everywhere twice, which is true.

I was born in Hays, Kansas and when Dad was activated we moved to Ft. Hood Tx. From Ft. Hood we moved to the DC area, where my brother was born. My father had to complete his degree in order to remain an officer in the Army, so we moved to Tucson, Az. Then off to Pennsylvania, then Vilseck, Germany. While in Germany I learned so much about life, and how different it could be. I lived in a military community, but was out on the economy. I learned that being an officer’s kid wasn’t cool to the enlisted kids, had to learn how to fist fight boys and girls, in order to just make it home from the bus stop. I learned to speak German and made many German friends, which would help me in later years.

My Dad was then stationed at the Pentagon and I relearned American society at the age of 11. I came back wearing Toughskins and whatever could be ordered from the Sears catalog, which was not popular in the US. Living in the DC area has been and always will be the core of who I am. I learned that being true to who you are and intelligence was a priority in my life. I also envied people who grew up in the same place their whole lives. I always had the 3 year plan to change my friends and surroundings. I did not learn the skills for long term relationships until a much later age, and sometimes still revert to the feeling that everything is temporary.

For college I went back to Hays, Ks, moved to Tucson for college as well, moved back in with my parents at Ft. Knox, Ky and then married a man in the Army. We then moved back to Vilseck, Germany, Ft. Hood, Tx and then back to Ft. Knox. Everywhere twice.

I think the positives from being an army brat were the adaptive abilities that I learned; making friends easily, making a home wherever I land, I have seen the world and realize how fortunate we are as Americans and understaing that nothing is permanent.  The negatives are; there is no location that I call home, everything is temporary (so I always expect some end), I can see the bigger picture and have a hard time with people who are extremely narrow minded, I do not feel connected to any one community.

Patrick Odell Kornegay

I was born in Weisbaden, Germany on July 7, 1949. We left Germany when I was three months old. We were flown back, because I had a bronchial infection. My parents were told that I would not live if we went by ship. My early years we moved many times. By the time I was seven we had been stationed in, California, Texas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Alaska. I learned how to make friends and how to adjust to moving.This part of my life taught me how to meet people start relationships and make friends all at the same time.

I remember we traveled from Pennsylvania to Texas in our 1954 Desoto. On this trip I brought a baby chicken that traveled in the car with us. What a trip that was. I remember mother making sandwiches and wrapping them in foil and putting them under the hood of the Desoto to keep them warm. Dad was the kind of man that didn’t believe in stopping except for gas. Then you did your business, unless you were a boy. Then you got the coke bottle and filled it up and threw it out the window. As a kid I slept in the back window, with windows down because there was no air conditioning at that time.

I remember watching the Sputnick in the sky while we were stationed in Fairbanks. Breaking my arm and no one could fix it. So we had to drive to Ladd Army Base and let Dr. Right fix me up. He did a great job considering it was broken at the elbow. While we were stationed in Alaska, It became a state… a lot of celebrating going on then. We then ended up in White Sands, New Mexico. After that we ended up back in San Angelo, Texas. There Dad retired.

But life as I knew it was just beginning. Dad took a job with a company contracted by the gov’t. We ended up in Ankara, Turkey. That was in my teenage years. It was the best years of my life. I met so many brats and made so many friends that I still have today. It also allowed me to live in another country and learn their customs and language. I spoke the language fluently and my father asked me to translate what he wanted his Turkish workers to do. I formed so many relationships with my Turkish friends, and had so many wonderful times. I used to travel all over Ankara by myself at the age of 15. I never had any problems and was treated with respect. I believe this was due to my Turkish. There are so many stories to tell, experiences, and friendships that I created I don’t know if there is enough room or if you would want to hear. I will tell you this, the Turkish people as a whole were some of the best people that I ever met. I met them on their ground, learned their language, respected their customs. I never wanted to leave to come back to the States.

By the time I had graduated from George C. Marshall Regional High School in Ankara, I had lived most of my life going from post to post. Ankara, Turkey was where I had lived the longest, 5 years! Add the 5 years in Ankara and the 2 years in Alaska before it became a state. That’s seven years of my 18 of overseas. As I said my formidable years were in Turkey. I made so many friends in high school and to this day we have a connection that no one can take away, that no one understands, except brats…….I will always be a brat. The one thing our family learned was on his deathbed, Dad confessed he had been working for the CIA. We were all stunned… he never let on. My sister found a little black book with crypto in it. It was such an important part of the world at that time with the Cold War and such. But I was so naive and unassuming. I have so much more and so many more stories. But this is have enjoyed. Thanks so much.

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!!!

John Thames

Man, Where do I begin?

I think I am the typical military brat. My father was in Vietnam when I was born and my mother had moved to Mississippi to be close to my father’s parents while pregnant with me and having my older sister.

After I was born we bounced back and forth from Virginia to Ft. Sheridan, Illinois then back to Mississippi where I stayed for kindergarten. From there it was Ft. Meade, Maryland, then to Ft. Bliss, Texas. After Texas things got interesting. We moved to Cairo, Egypt and were there from ’80 to early ’83, where I had the unfortunate experience of sitting 10 rows behind Anwar Sadat when he was assassinated.

I was 12 and had asked my mom if I could go with a buddy of mine whose dad was an Army helicopter instructor pilot. My mom said ask your dad when he calls, (he was on TDY in Germany). He called, I asked, and he said, “no absolutely not.” I told my mom he said, “yes,” and I went. The rest is literally history. Myself and Jaime saw everything right down to the fact that the only people shooting back were Prince Charles’ bodyguards. We obviously made it out of there only to be interrogated by the State Dept. once we finally made it back to the embassy.  They kept us at the embassy for a couple of weeks and my father wasn’t allowed back in the country for a little bit, but the smoke blew over and we left after school got out in ’83.

From there Germany, I lived and graduated high school in Stuttgart from ’83 to ’88. I traveled extensively throughout Europe skiing and Eurorailing…  I would never give up who, how, or where I grew up. The kids I grew up with I consider family. As a matter of fact, we just had a Patch High School reunion in Atlanta a few weeks ago. Representatives from ’83 through ’93 were there and we got together like we never left.

Michael Rueter

This is to honor My Son’s sacrifices to our country.

As a US Merchant Marine returning home from a Marine Corps pre positioning ship. I asked my son’s teacher if she might mention April as Military Brat month. I had hoped she might point out the sacrifice these young soles make for us all. I thought she might, in some way, point out my son’s part in the defense of our country. She was not receptive, pointing out the fact that I am not active military, and she would be right.

I stand watch on military support vessels, be it the Marine Corps, Navy, or Army. I am not active duty. My son Gabriel, sees me 1/3 of the time. 2/3rd, I am away from home, on watch. Gabriel is dual citizenship American and Philippine. He has attended school in Saipan, Philippines, and Texas. He has no base housing or support groups to convey any sense of community. None of his classmates know what it’s like to say goodbye to their fathers so often for so long, 2, 4, and sometimes 6 months at a time. And sadly, to no fault of his own, he is denied the badge of honor that is “Military Brat.”

I once knew life as a Military Brat for a brief time in high school. Mother served in the Army. I am proud to have this honor. Thank you for allowing me my voice.

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