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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.”

Scot Steenson

I really don’t know where to start, but I’ll try to keep it short. All I can say is that my life has been one hell of a journey. One fucking adventure after another. Initially groomed as an Air Force brat, I transitioned to a contractors kid after my father retired from the Air Force. From my birth in Japan until I graduated high school in Turkey, I have traveled to many incredible parts of the world and met many fascinating human beings. Seen shit and did shit. An absolutely fascinating lifestyle.

Now I sit here at the tender age of forty… Two wonderful children, a failed marriage and on my third career. I constantly feel caught between two different worlds. The contrasts have been reason for my success and reason for my failure. Growing up with a unique lifestyle. Growing old in a more commonplace manner.

Traveling to over twenty five countries, living in three countries, traveling to forty seven states, living in six states… How does one claim identity? Maybe not having an identity is my identity. Can one be lost and found at the same time? I think so. It can be frustrating at times. When people seek conversation or friendship, it’s usually based on common grounds. But, I have almost nothing in common with the common American. Most of my fellow Americans, in my experience, aren’t concerned about the world beyond our walls. American football? Fixing up old cars? Watching reruns of the Jeffersons? Sorry, I didn’t grow up with any of that. How about we talk about Ottoman culture and it’s impact on the world? What’s Ottoman culture? Oh, well, nevermind. Lets just talk about the weather… I struggle to fit in, I struggle to be different.

Friendship is odd for me when I do find people I can relate with on some plane. Don’t get too close Scot, you never now when they will leave. Don’t get too close Scot, you never know when you will leave them. Ultimately, I find it rather sad. I don’t allow myself to get close to anyone and I don’t allow anyone to get too close to me. What’s to share when you can’t share souls?

Turkey was by far the most amazing time in my life it was intoxicating. The Turks were beautiful. The land was beautiful. Turkey was beautiful. During my time in Turkey I sought out as many experiences as I could. I learned the language fairly well and tried to meet locals. Maybe I’m wrong, but I felt my fellow classmates didn’t want to meet the locals. Our parties and trips never involved local Turks. This was strange for me to a degree. I had one life with my international friends, then I had my other life with my local Turkish friends. Many people lost out on meeting people from a fascinating culture.

One great gift I’ve received from my upbringing is the ability to ask “why.” I’m not religious because of the questions brought up while living overseas. I’m extremely patriotic because of the questions I asked myself while living overseas. It’s difficult to form solid opinions at times because I can see things from so many angles thanks to my upbringing.

RJ Schlachter

I also dont know where to start. I was born in Fort Meade, Maryland to a Navy dad. Funny, because Fort Meade is an Army base and my Dad was Navy. My Dad actually gave us choices on where to go if I remember, or they talked about it for so long that we actually had no choice. My father had a few options, one being Hawaii and the other Turkey.

George C.Marshall High School!!! There’s a story there, but not one I would like to relive. On the positive side, I have a lot of great friends and people I call family. I have seen a lot of great places. My Dad, being a history geek, took me on a lot of trips around Turkey. Like seeing a horse grave. It’s sad that most people are afraid of what’s across the huge oceans, but there’s nothing to be afraid of. Some people don’t believe me when I say I’ve been to a lot of places, because in their heads they’re dangerous and to me they’re places I called home. I loved the food and the culture. Bryan Wardwell is a brat and a family member. The only images I have left are the ones in my head.

I can say this, being a brat is an amazing feeling. I have traveled a good half of the U.S. and I don’t plan on stopping. Even though Ive been in Oklahoma the longest, it isn’t the place where I’ll pass. Growing up a brat gave me a sense of adventure. I saw some amazing things and stuff that no other kid stateside will ever see.

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

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!!!

Carolyn Scarbro

As a military brat I feel very lucky to have gotten to live the military life. I got to live all over the world from Travis AFB to Incirlik, Turkey. The majority of people I’ve met are still my friends now and we have a connection I’ve never seen in civilian raised children, we are with each other from elementary school through our children’s triumphs.

My best friend Nikki and I have made it over twenty eight years now. We have been left with an easy ability to make friends and adapt. Our best times were at Incirlik where her and I got to ride from Canada to Turkey together and two days after arriving finding one of my friends from Travis had passed away. She made me see life would go on and helped me through every second of it until this day. From there we experienced puberty and everything after. Really I’m grateful the military brat life made her and I and the rest of us the great people we are.

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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