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Military Brats – This One’s For YOU!

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Robert Brescia
April 17, 2023

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2023 as the Month of the Military Child. I call upon the people of the United States to honor the children of our service members and veterans with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I also encourage Americans everywhere to find ways to support military-connected children, including by wearing purple during the month of April in honor of their service.”

Americans celebrate the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make every day in the defense of the nation. However, we don’t often think of their families—the children who are with them constantly and often face the same challenges of being stationed around the world, living in different world cultures. These children are historically referred to as “brats”. No, it’s not that they are bratty. The term originates with the pre-revolutionary British acronym, “British Regiment Attached Traveler (BRAT)”, assigned to families who were able to travel abroad with a soldier. Modern-day brats, however, will tell you that it stands for “Born Resilient And Tough!”

Every year, the Department of Defense—along with national, state and local government, schools, military serving organizations, companies and private citizens—celebrates military children and the sacrifices they make. April 30, 2023 has been designated as National Military Brats Day.

What are some of the challenges faced by military brats? The first and perhaps the most obvious one is that they move frequently. Military members pick up their stuff and move to new assignments every two to three years on average, so a brat might typically move 10 times during his or her childhood. According to the School Superintendents Association, that’s three times more often than civilian kids. Uprooting a brat for these moves almost always means severing ties with friends and school systems they have been accustomed to.

Education is an ever-present challenge because of the differences among school systems around the world. The district they are moving to may not have the same curriculum in the same order as the one they left. Brats might lose credit because of these differences. To counter these eventualities, the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) was formed at Killeen, Texas with a mission to support all military-connected children by educating, advocating and collaborating to resolve education challenges associated with the military lifestyle. MCEC’s goals include awareness (Military-connected children’s academic, social and emotional needs are recognized, supported and appropriate responses provided) and action (Parents, and other supporting adults, are empowered with the knowledge to ensure military-connected children are college, workforce and life-ready). Schools throughout the nation may strive for and achieve “Purple Star” status by implementing programs that accommodate the needs of military brats.

Building financial foundations is yet another area of concern for brats as well as their parents. Because of their frequent displacement, they are typically denied the connecting thread of moving up the ladder in the private sector within a given community. Instead, they mostly take jobs on bases where their parents are stationed and do not enjoy the same rate of upward mobility that their civilian counterparts enjoy.

Among the blessings of being a brat is a heightened appreciation for the world and its many different cultures. Brats are often very good at language acquisition, as they are exposed to the performing and visual arts located in foreign countries. Brats stationed in Germany know full well the cultural differences between the northern areas and Bavaria in the south—and they may have attended a castle illumination in Heidelberg. My wife is a military brat and by the time she was 11 years old, she had already lived in 4 separate countries. She has nothing but fond memories of her entire childhood life as a brat. Brats are pleasantly surprised now and then to discover social media groups with other brats who lived in the same places they did.

Military brats are mostly raised in a culture that stresses leadership and civic responsibilities. Studies show that brats often assume the values and perspectives of their parents more than civilian children— and those values accentuate duty and honor—doing the right thing. Military brats often develop strong coping skills. Characteristics of military brats include being resilient, adaptive and worldly. When brats meet new kids for example, participating or selecting sports teams, it is second nature for military brats to seek out the new kid and bring them into the fold. There are many well-known military brats, including Julianne Moore, Shaquille O’Neal, Christine Aguilera, Bruce Willis, Reese Witherspoon and Martin Lawrence just to name a few. But all brats are celebrities in my opinion, and we should celebrate them whenever we can. The military brat motto is “Children of the world, blown to all corners of the world, we bloom anywhere!” And that’s why the official flower of the military child is the dandelion. Like this hearty flower, military kids can put down roots and bloom anywhere. Happy brat’s day!


Author: Dr. Robert Brescia respects the wisdom of generations, promotes the love of learning, teaches ethics to university students, government & politics to AP seniors, and leadership to organizations. He is a candidate with the National Board for Certification of Teachers (NBCT) at Stanford University. The Governor of Texas re-appointed him to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) for a six-year term. Bob has a doctoral degree with distinction in Executive Leadership from The George Washington University. Contact him at [email protected].

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