Why I Attend Brat Reunions and Why You Should, Too

If you attend “Brat” or DODDS reunions, why do you do so?

Again, the Museum of the American Military Familys list of writing prompts for military brats has sent me scuttling to the dusty filing cabinets in my mind to share with you all just what it is about the brat or DODDS reunions that get me going.

Personally, the very first reunion I will attend will take place this Saturday in Albuquerque, NM as part of this group, ABQ Brats. I’ve lived in Albuquerque for 6 years and have been a brat much longer, so what took so long?

My first ABQ fall (Oct 2006) – Clearly, I was not prepared for non-UK weather!

At first, I didn’t think anyone would care. Many military brats feel like they belong on the outside of everyday life and heck, most of us probably don’t know too many other brats in the state anyway. I’ve met a few in college and elsewhere, but most have their own thing going on.

In a nutshell, I felt lonely and sad. I too have a family, a community, a culture, but where was it? Life for brats is so ambiguous, amorphous, and ever-changing that I didn’t even know where to go to get that back in my life.

Think about the most common example of military brat heritage, the question: where are you from? My family and I chuckle about the responses we’ve given to this answer. I tend to say anything from “the world,” “that’s a complicated question,” “I’m a military brat,” or just plain “nowhere, really.”

That color is why the mountains are named after watermelons. And of course, I was so in love with them that I took pictures in every parking lot.

That’s true, but it’s not. Just like every other human being, I had to be in at least one physical location at any point in my life. It just so happens that my body was in quite a few more places than the average American citizen’s. Which of those places stuck with me the most? Which one would I want to adopt as my own hometown, even if that might change one day? We deserve to have a hometown, just like everyone else.

I’ve decided to become an Albuquerque resident. The legal change took place in 2006 when I first moved here from England, but the personal, or even spiritual change took all 6 years since the day I landed. Yes, I always knew I loved the place, but it took me quite some time to find myself with little roots dug into the dry, dusty soil and covered in the mud of the Rio Grande.

Sure, my family lives over 1,000 miles away and in little or big towns around various parts of the Midwest, East Coast, and abroad, but I personally live here and have deep connections with this place. I’ve lived here almost longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, and that was all by choice.

I’m happy to be here and I love the Sandia Mountains like they’re part of my own being, but that doesn’t take away the fact that I’ve lived elsewhere and fallen in love with all of those other locales. One way to bring that sense of the past back to my life and hopefully, to find an even deeper sense of purpose and rootedness, is to start this group.

Rachael at the International Balloon Fiesta in 2006

Just like the teachers said in school, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. If you’re thinking it, so is someone else. If I miss my military community, then someone else will be too. This organization exists for me, but really, I made it with the hope that I could offer at least one person out there a sense of connection is a disconnected, disenchanting world. We can make our own home, and we can surround ourselves with similar people with similar stories, even if we are years apart, were never stationed anywhere near each other, or came from different branches. That doesn’t matter; instead, the commonality of experience and desire to know each other is all that we really need.

So, in a nutshell, no, I have never been to a brat reunion, but I’ve taken the issue into my own hands so I can reverse that fact. As of this Saturday, that no will turn into a yes and hopefully, I can find more and more brats in search of home so we can make our own little world.

With views like this, I’m not sure I’ll ever leave New Mexico! (Inn of the Mountain Gods near Ruidoso)

If you’re in Albuquerque or the greater metro area, join ABQ Brats at an upcoming event or get involved! We can’t wait to meet you!

What sort of experiences have you had with brat or DODDS reunions? Have you ever been? Start a discussion below or write your own post! The Museum of the American Military Family is always looking for bra t stories, pictures, and memorabilia.

Read more by the same author:

Memories of a DOD School: Lakenheath American High School

The Impossibility of the Past

An Inspired Mind


2 responses

  1. Hey there! You’ve opened a whole new idea for me; the fact that us military brat from “everywhere” can gather together and be friends in the world of the intertubes! Yay! I look forward to sharing experiences with my “hometown friends”.

    1. Excellent! You’ve said it perfectly. “Hometown friends” is what we are and what we become. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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