Tuesday, June 16, 2015

No Real Title...Just A Small Simple Thought...

When I started this blog, I envisioned something grand...grand writing...grand story telling...loads of readers and then an eventual movie, playing opposite of Bradley Cooper (who would obviously spend the entire movie shirtless...)

None of that has panned out.  Though I will say I'm only disappointed to not be starring opposite of a shirtless Bradley Cooper!

But in all seriousness...this has been such a release.  I don't know if people read it or not.  I have been able to get out some of my stories of growing up as a BRAT...and use experiences from my fellow BRATs to write other stories...twisting each into one...seems that we all experience the same thing, just in different manners.

I know there are other BRATs out there that are far better blogger/writers.  I'm not one of them.

But...I'm proud of my simple little blog! :)

Friday, June 5, 2015

What Is Home?

Home.  What is HOME?  "Home" has many different meanings to many different people.  But, me?

What does home mean to me?

Here's what "HOME" means to me:

Home was no where and every where.

Home was never in the same place, but it always had three bedrooms, a backyard and a place to park the car.  It always had a kitchen filled with delicious, drool-inducing scents of whatever Mommy was cooking or baking.  Home was home cooked meals around a dining room table that never really fit quite right.  Home was stories and laughter about deployments and Officers, Petty Officers, and Navy jokes.

Home, no matter its size, always had a Christmas tree in the living room and crowded Thanksgiving meals -- sometimes with strange faces who were called family -- either blood or Navy.  Home was always wall to wall love, even if the house was tiny and designed strangely.

Home was a family room full of toys and two kids playing (sometimes, though rarely, quietly) playing.  Home was sitting on a 6' mustard gold couch, snuggling while Mommy read us stories.

Home was decks and ladders; barbecues on steel beaches, under the ever watchful eyes of deck guns and fighter jets.  Home was walking up a gangway to meet Daddy for supper. Home was bringing him dinner on the nights that he was on duty and couldn't make it home.

Home was that sticker on the windshield or bumper of the car.  Home was gated, with sentries standing at the gates, letting only those of us with those stickers in.

Home was the odd coloured yellow laminated piece of paper that you got when you were 10 (OH THE JOY!) and carried with you always...even to the point of not wanting to surrender it...even for a new one! Home was flashing that laminated picture to get into what you always called a "Secret Club".  Home is holding on to that last piece of HOME.

Home was tying yellow ribbons to the trees in your yard and on your heart.  Home was counting the days...the minutes...the seconds...since the last letter or phone call...until the day Daddy came home.  Home was trying to find the perfect homecoming poem, and upon failing, writing it yourself, and sharing with the others on the block whose Daddies were ALSO on the ship coming home.  Home was getting the perfect new outfit and hair cut for that day...and home was endless moments waiting.

Home was the smell of the dock and the sounds of others talking..waiting.  Home was seeing the fore of the ship, white or black uniforms standing at parade rest.  Home was recognizing that in that moment, it would be a too long and too short of a wait to greet Daddy.

Home was hand over heart, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or singing the National Anthem, tears of pride in your eyes...pride and love of America in your heart.

Home was a 1974 Ford Mustang with a trunk packed so tightly that not even an atom could fit, but could be packed or unpacked in ten minutes or less, and a car filled with two kids and two parents, watching the United States pass on the other side of the windows.

Home was the Johnny Cashes...the Cracker Jacks...the Khakis...the Chokers...the uniforms.  Home was where Daddy hung his cover.  Home was where the Navy sent us.

Others may say "Home is where your heart is."  If so, than the world is my home!

But then the realization:  As I watched the Navy send in three ships from her fleet this past couple days, I realized that HOME is no more.  No more can I go back to where I was safe and warm.  No more can I go HOME.  HOME is gone.  I can only look at home from the outside in and I hurt...I cry. 

Homesickness overwhelms my very core and the pain and the hurt of being rejected by home flows out of my eyes as I remember what was and what can never be again.

Others may not understand the tears I shed, but I can not go home again...until I close my eyes and dream of the HOME I grew up in.

And, still, despite the pain of not being allowed back HOME, I would NOT trade it for a home that never shuts me out.  I LOVED the HOME I grew up in and that is all I need to cling to.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Due to the shithole that is my life, this blog will be on hiatus indefinitely.

Thanks for reading and hopefully I'll be up and blogging soon.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The BEST Christmas Gift EVER!

There was a question posed on a BRATs web page that asked us what our favorite Christmas gift of all time was.  Others spoke of bicycles and plane models and dolls.

I could answer that with one word (and I did): Daddy.

Let me explain.  In early 1986, Daddy was nearing his end of duty at Great Lakes RTC.  He was scheduled to go to Orlando for some mandatory training.  My parents had included my brother on the decision on whether or not we as a family joined him.  Why?  Because he was doing so well in school.  My parents taught us that when you make a promise, you keep it, no matter what.  They promised him that if he was doing well in school, come his senior year, Dad would live as a deployed bachelor. (I honestly, at 0749 can not recall what the actual title my mom used!!  If someone knows, feel free to correct me...but he was in Florida and we were in Illinois and the Navy still treated us as though he was still in Illinois...hard to explain, but BRATs sorta get it?!?!?!?!) 

Years later, I got to make the decision with my school, even though I was doing poorly, mine was because Daddy missed all but a year…close to…of my high school.  So totally different reasons!

My brother chose to stay and Dad went off to school.  While Daddy was there for my first day (which, oddly, I DON’T remember), he was in Florida for the rest of it.

There was never a doubt in my mind, come Christmas, that Daddy would be home.  He always found a way.  We were one of the lucky families.  But, I didn’t expect him to be there as soon as he was.

Living in Illinois, just a little under 5 hours from where Daddy grew up in Michigan, we would try to spend as much time there as possible.  We made every effort over the years to spend Christmas or Thanksgiving there.  I loved it.  Snow.  Sledding.  Gramma’s pies.

This year was no exception.  Mom, Brother, and I piled into our car, which was loaded with gifts.  I don’t remember  much about that drive, to be honest.

Even more so, I don’t remember much about that Christmas.  If it wasn’t for photos, I wouldn’t recall even one gift.

That’s because every other gift was eclipsed.

I had retreated to my Gramma’s room and was reading a John Denver song book.  Don’t ask because I don’t know why I had such a fascination with Gramma’s song books.  I just did.  And, they could ONLY be read in the dim light of her room.  (What type of child was I!?)

As I read the words to “Rocky Mountain High”, I heard my nickname.  That voice.  That tone.  I dropped the book as I looked up.  That smile.

I don’t remember a time when I moved so fast!  Even though I was 14, I leaped into Daddy’s arms.  “You’re the best gift ever!”

He hugged me tightly and said “Being here with family is the best gift ever.”

He handed me something…a gift from one of the ladies I knew and loved growing up, but don’t recall.  My mind says earrings, but don’t remember.

Military children know that holidays are rarely spent on the actual holidays. We get used to Mommy or Daddy being gone on those important days.  There are some of us who, despite knowing our parent would be home, were still overjoyed when we saw them.

Like I said: It never crossed my mind that Daddy wouldn’t be there.  I just never expected him to be there as soon as he was.  We were spending the week, up to New Year’s there.  And so was Daddy.

It was literally within the hour of us arriving, Auntie came in, having just picked Daddy up from the airport.

No matter how many Christmas gifts we get that are totally amazing, many of us can agree that having a deployed parent home on that day is the best gift ever.

Though, my Jim McMahon book was a very close second.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Military Child (A Poem by ME!)

I went to bed that night
Fighting back the tears
I knew it would do no good
To let Daddy see the fear

I wasn't sure when I'd see him
Or if he'd even make it home
All I knew was that night
Life as it was was now gone.

There'd be phone calls
And letters from overseas
Checking up on all of us
To see if we are as well as can be.

Every night was filled with darkness
And overwhelming dread
While nightmares were abundant,
Knocking pleasantries from my head.

I couldn't speak to friends at school
Because they wouldn't understand.
Every day they would go home
And hug and kiss their Dad.

So, a silent vigil alone I held
A yellow ribbon tied around my heart
Crying tears of depression
With Daddy and us a world apart

The days seemed to drag on
Turning hours into day
When would Daddy be home
And safe with us again.

I bore my misery alone
While trying to remain strong
For every night I heard the tears
That only came from my Mom.

I had to be there for her
Because no one else could
In a city full of civilians
Who else possibly understood?

So we held our heads up high
As we walk down the streets
Knowing Daddy was fighting
So that everyone could be free

It isn't easy being the child
Of one who has chosen to serve,
But one thing was certainly easy:
Being Daddy's Little Girl!

We talked as often as we could
Long distance on the phone
And in a very silly moment,
We even chose "Our Song"

"Somewhere Out There"
Was the start of that song
Every time I heard it play,
I knew that I was never alone.

So, until Daddy came home
I wished on every single star
Knowing that in he was doing the same
In country distant and far.

The military child sacrifices
More than we will ever tell
We too suffer from separation
And do our time in our own hell.

But there is not another life
That most of us would lead
Because it is a true honor
The child of a warrior to be.

So every military BRAT
Around the world unite
Let help those now
Whose parents for freedom fight.

For we know exactly
What they are going through
And it is OUR job to look after them
And to give them our strength too.

Military child of the present
You will not endure this journey alone
The rest of the military BRATs are behind you
One for all and all for one!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"You're Welcome"

This post isn't long.  It's about a small memory from when I was just about 4 years old.  It's one of my first memories as a BRAT.

There are no specifics that are kept in my mind.  All I know is I was maybe 4 years old and Vietnam had just BARELY ended.  The hatred for our fighting men and women in uniform still clouded the streets. To remember all the circumstances is difficult since it’s been so long and I was so young.

Why Daddy was in uniform, I am unable to recall.  What I do recall is looking up at him and feeling pride.  He looked sure of himself and confident.  While that was who Daddy was, in or out of uniform, there was something in how he walked and carried himself when he was in his uniform.

I can’t even remember what uniform he was wearing.  I always think it was his Cracker Jacks, but that’s because I thought he looked the most handsome in those.  But, honestly?  I don’t know.  I don’t even remember if it was summer, winter, fall, or spring. Those details are fuzzy at best.

We were walking (again, fuzzy on the details) and we passed a long haired FUBAR’d hippie.  I DO remember that because it stuck out to me.  I had never seen a man with long hair before and it made for quite the impression.

As he passed by us, he looked at Daddy and with complete venom in his voice said “Baby Killer!”
I looked at Daddy, who had stopped.  Intensity was in his blue eyes.  I wasn’t sure of what he was going to do.  I hid behind his leg, peeking over at the stranger.  Daddy turned around and simply yelled “You’re welcome!”

As we repositioned ourselves, the young man yelled back “For what?”

Once again, Daddy faced the young man.  And I will never forget his words.  In fact, I have used them myself.  He was staunch still and at attention.  Daddy’s voice, though soft, was tough and strong.  “You’re welcome because I put this uniform on.”  As the young man opened his mouth, Daddy held up a hand to stop him.  “You get to go home every night to your family, safe, because I don’t.  I go to fight a war so you don’t have to.  I put my country first so you can continue to have what you have.  I don’t raise my voice so that you can keep yours.  I go days without sleep so that you may.  I put myself in dangerous situations to keep you from them.  Whatever you may think of what I do or those who serve with me, we do it because of you.  And each one of us would raise our hands to repeat that oath again, even if it was just for you. So on behalf of the United States military, you’re welcome.  Don’t worry about fighting.  We got that.”

I looked up at the strange young man.  His face was softened and he had obviously been proverbially brought to his knees.  He had been schooled and he sensed it.  He just looked at my dad, defeat present in his eyes and walked away.

And we walked away.  At a young age, I understood (no matter how limited at that age) what sacrifices Daddy made for us…the flag…the United States.  That understanding would only grow as I did.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What It's Like Being A BRAT

Military BRATs have a saying: “Unless you live it, you won’t get it.”  And that’s true.

The past several weeks BRATs took on what seemed to be an impossible feat and claimed a small victory.  However, we are finding out that even those who serve don’t seem to get why we are so passionate about our name.

If your parent served long enough for you to move a billion times before you were three (I know…it’s an exaggeration, but it certainly felt that was the amount of moves!) and you got an ID card (Who couldn’t wait until they turned 10!  To military BRATs, that is a birthday that is bigger than Sweet 16 or even 21st!), you are a BRAT.

There are some things that those who haven’t experienced this life won’t understand.  I’ll do my best, but I can only do so much to help you.

Unlike civilian kids, we don’t have a “hometown”.  I would estimate upwards towards 99% of those who are currently serving have a hometown they can return to when they leave the service…either by retirement or by end of enlistment. They can drive down streets and go “WOW!  That’s changed!  That wasn’t there last year!” etc…

They can go to their high school reunions (if they’re not deployed and can get the leave).  They can sleep in their childhood bedrooms (maybe their childhood bed?)

They can go to the park where they played as a child.  They still have the same friends as they did when they were three.  Okay…most of the time.  I’ll concede that point.

Nothing is closed to them.  Not the WalMart they grew up shopping in.  Not the McDonald’s they ate and played at as children.  Chances are they can still go to the same exact mall and Cineplex they did BEFORE they joined.

They can call an old friend and meet up at the coffee shop on “x” street and they’ll know exactly where it is because they’ve been there a billion times.  They probably even know the people working there.

They can drive down the streets they learned to drive on.  They don’t have any grocery store closed to them because they don’t have ID…unless it’s Sam’s Club/COSTCO/BiMart.

They have some place they can always return to.  They don’t have to stop and think about how to best answer “Where ya from?”  They can always answer “I’m from *this town* USA.” 

Chances are they didn't have to worry about threats to their lives because of what their parent did.

BRATs don’t have those luxuries.  When we turn 18 (unless we’re still in high school) or 21 if we attend college, the military ABANDONS us.  I use the  word “abandon” for good reason.  That’s how it feels.  We suddenly find ourselves in places unfamiliar.  We know we can adapt.  After all, we’ve spent our lives doing just that.

But, we’re scared.  We’re not sure what to do without our ID card…which a lot of us come to think of as an “extra limb”.  We find ourselves in a culture that we know NOTHING OF.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some BRATs, like me, who were raised in the “civilian world”.  Made it easier to adjust.

But for those who spent their lives inside the fortress, this is a scary time and a lot of us seriously contemplate joining just so we could maintain our military life. 

Veterans who leave the service have the support on adjusting back to civilian life. They even have the VA to help them with their healthcare.  BRATs don’t have that.  We are simply left…abandoned and alone, the words of our sponsors echoing in our heads: “Suck it up, buttercup.”

So, imagine, if you will, every military supporting company (USAA, USO, even the branch of service) choosing to support civilians who think they know our lives rather than support us.  Someone said it felt like betrayal.  And quite honestly, that is exactly what it was.

BRATs spend our lives, quietly in the shadows.  We don’t question moves or deployments.  That’s just how it is.  But, this?  We couldn’t sit and be quiet while we were being betrayed by those who were supposed to have our backs.

That’s what it’s like to be a BRAT.  Even as adults, we’re abandoned, betrayed by those we served.

And it is also why we are fighting to keep our moniker.