Life Apart: An Adult Military Brat Reflects

So, all military brats are familiar with separation. Our parent(s) deploys, goes out on trips, or leaves for any of a number of reasons.

It’s hard, but we manage. Heck, we’re military brats; we always manage!

Well, when you grow up as a military brat to a career sailor/soldier/whomever, that feeling of transience and distance never gets to go away.

In my family, neither parent stays one place very long. My Dad is a career sailor with 28+ years under his belt, and he still moves every 2-4 years. My Mom works for the DOD, and just moved overseas again after several years of life just south of Atlanta, Georgia.

And where do I love? Oh, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I moved here in 2006 to live close to my Dad after graduating from Lakenheath American High School, and all went well until the Navy sent him elsewhere.

Sure, I see my family often (every few months), but I still have no sense of home.

You see, I figured that once my parents each settled down somewhere, I’d have one room or at least half of a room somewhere that I could count on.

It’s been 6 years now (the longest I’ve lived anywhere), and I still can’t use pen in my address book. My Dad could move to any of a number of places, and my Mom plans on living the life until she retires. Hey, that means I still get to go overseas, though!

My life never has been, and never will be, “normal.” I didn’t really know what normal was when I used that phrase as a child, but as an adult, it means rooted, stable, and secure.

The funny thing is that my family is one of the sturdiest I know. Sure, we move all the time, and I can never imagine myself spending the rest of my life in one place, but we’re incredibly strong.

We never just drop people off at the airport. We always park, go inside, and linger, even if the flight’s about to leave. There’s an appreciation of us that other family’s can’t touch.

All this distance means nothing.

My Dad and I had a conversation the other day after I had a big argument with my long-term boyfriend about my unsettled way of living. I whined (whinged as my Brits say), complained, and moped; why can’t my boyfriend be as intense, mature, and world-weary as I am?

He laughed, and had to tell me about the 30th high school reunion he’d just attended the weekend before. He said that there were two types of kids from that low-achieving high school: ones who flung themselves to their own ideas of success, and ones who let that small town hold them down.

My father was surprised to see that he wasn’t the only student with such a negative scholastic experience, and felt rooted for the first time a long time.

Basically, everyone reacts to the world around them in their own ways. Some people use the negative as launching points for their future, whereas others use the negatives as hindrances to their own success.

Not everyone, in fact almost no one, grows up in the intense way I did. Most people don’t save for retirement in their early 20s; they don’t believe in civic engagement as a pillar of their own philosophy of ethics; they let life do its thing before jumping in with guns blazing.

I guess I’m different, just like you are too. There’s nothing wrong with it, but we do have to remember that not everyone else out there can even begin to compare to the intergalactic levels of maturity and preparation we expect.

It doesn’t matter that my parents keep moving. It doesn’t matter that the only home I know only exists in my mind and heart. My family, my memories, and my history make me who I am, and I live in my own weird version of reality.

I’ll always be a military brat, no matter what happens, and I’m done fighting it. My identity is an intrinsically mixed with the military life as it is with the English language. Sure, I can understand other languages, but they’ll never be my native tongue.


14 responses

  1. Reblogged this on Brats of the Southwest and commented:

    My latest reflections as posted on the ABQ Brats page

  2. I finally found the place I love in Washington state (Rochester) For the first time in my life, I can walk in a store and people know who I am. It doesn’t mean my itchy feet have stopped itching. I just take a trip but I’m home. It only took 30 years after my dad retired. LOL

    1. Wow! You give me hope that I can find that sense of home someday. I loved this: “It doesn’t mean my itchy feet have stopped itching!” Thanks for sharing a piece of your story, Bonnie. 🙂

  3. still to this day whenever some one says: where do you come from…I reply no-where really ! lol and like Rachael, been where I am now for over 36 years with 6 kiddies and 1 g’baby, and think my kids are lucky to have the same friends they’ve grown up with, whereas i’ve only had contact with a couple of my high school buds,(found through face book many moons later!) but wouldnt change that life i had for nothing !

    1. I definitely understand. There’s something nice about having the stability of a life lived in one particular place, but for us, we’re blessed in our own ways. 🙂

    2. I just say all over and back again

  4. That’s way better than my standard response to “Where are you from?”: “Nowhere!” grumble grumble

  5. My dad once said that we were lucky. We’ve been places and seen things that most people never will. I’ve seen the Berlin Wall, been to castles and have seen desert tribesmen riding camels across the desert. We have had an education that most people would love to have. Think of the stories that we can tell our children and grandchildren. Maybe for many our lives were what they considered to be unstable but maybe we had the best of both worlds.

    1. That’s a wise perspective. My Dad says the same stuff. What could be so bad when you’re snorkeling in the Tyrhennian Sea? We’re lived years beyond our natural ages, and are ambassadors.

  6. Hey! I am blogging about my childhood including events at Biggs AFB and El Paso, TX. read up at I will be writing about Columbus AFB, Missawa AFB in Japan, Fort Bliss in Texas, Fort Sam Houston, in Texas and NAS Pensacola in Florida in days to come. And whatever else I can pull from my memory before it goes. LOL

  7. I do genealogy and those stories are important. They tell who we are and how are lives were lived.Most people have no idea about military brats and how we managed to make it to adulthood.
    Personally I’ve found that I don’t get close to people but I think that just from pulling up roots so often

  8. Well done. Enjoyed it and, of course, you know I relate to it. Am planning to post about all the schools I attended. It’s quite a list!

    1. I can’t wait to read it, devontexas! I love your posts, and would love to know more about your background.

  9. […] Life Apart: An Adult Military Brat Reflects. Share this:MoreEmail Pin ItShare on TumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

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