Growing Up As A Military Brat
Growing up in a military family had many ups and downs. For starters, my parents had five boys and a girl to contend with, not to mention our miniature poodle. Children of military personnel are called “military brats”.
Sound like a typical all American family? Not quite. Military families have to move frequently and ours was no exception. We rarely spent over a year in any one location. Because of this we were never able to put down roots anywhere. We had no hometown like other children and changed schools like a pair of socks. Sometimes it happened in the middle of a school year. But the hardest part was making friends, moving and having to make new friends all over again every year or so.
But, life as a “military brat” wasn’t all bad. We had advantages over other kids, like traveling the world, which was an education in itself. We lived in foreign countries like Japan, Germany, Holland and others and also saw the greater part of the United States. However, traveling across the states with six children and a dog presented a unique set of problems.
Dad, being an enlisted man in the United States Air Force, limited us to a modest lifestyle. But we never lacked for the essentials. Therefore, our family car for over 12 years was a white, 1962 Valiant compact station wagon. It served us well in our travels during the early 1960’s and 70’s and was the focus of many fond and humorous memories.
Picture, if you will, this small station wagon loaded down with two adults, six kids, a dog, clothes, blankets, pillows and enough food and supplies that rivaled the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It was not an easy task cramming all of us into that station wagon, but due to sheer repetition we became expert packers and could have signed on with any moving company.
Furthermore, you can probably imagine the problems presented with six bored to death juveniles packed in a sardine can on a coast to coast trip. The constant bickering and fighting about drove mom and dad insane. But eventually, we got tired and the comforting road hum and vibrations of our moving car would rock us gently off to sleep.
However, after driving hundreds of miles Dad would need to pull over at a rest stop, remove the tooth picks keeping his eye lids open, and try to get 40 winks. Then, about the time he dozed off, we would sense the car was no longer in motion, wake up, and the commotion would begin again. It was amazing Dad ever got any rest since we could rarely afford a motel. I remember nights Dad stopped to sleep in a parking lot and local police officers would tap on the window and check us out.
Dining on the road was another story. Sometimes we had hamburgers or other fast foods and occasionally ate at a restaurant. But generally we would chow down on the move. We had our meal preparations down pat. Our ice chest, stored in the rear was passed up front to Mom who would hand out drinks, make a sandwich, pass it back and repeat the process until our hungry horde had had their fill.
Although we always seemed pushed for time Dad made sure we didn’t miss any educational sites such as Hoover Dam, Arizona’s Painted Desert or Meteor Crate, and of course, Disneyland.
Late one night we arrived in Las Vegas because Dad thought that was a “must see” attraction for us. I remember Dad pulling into a gas station in our loaded down Valiant with arms and legs poking out of every window and our dog barking loudly at the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Strip. The station attendant stepped out of his office and headed towards us. He stopped in mid stride, stared at us for a moment and began laughing. It was understandable though…we were out of our element and definitely a sight.
There were many other such occasions and it would take a book to recount them all. They are all cherished memories.
Yes, growing up as a military brat may not have been all peaches and cream but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.