Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Pluribus Locis Nostrum -- Brat On!

I am proud to be a military brat. If you're not familiar with the term, it means that one of my parents served in the military. As a result, I grew up relocating for new assignments every few years. This mobile lifestyle had its challenges and as we moved from base to base I was forced to make new friends, learn new places, and adapt to new schools every few years. Like most military brats, I credit that style of growing up as beneficial because I learned how to adjust and gained a global view of the world that most people do not have.

Like many military brats, my years as a brat ended when I entered military service myself. In my view, this is no more unusual than the kid who takes over the family business from his parents. It's just that our family business was defending the nation. Those of us in the service who were prior brats walked in familiar with life on a military base. For us, it was just going home.

Now I've reached that place in life where the one downside of being a military brat is found, where are all of those friends I made over the years? For the person who grew up and lived their entire life in a single place, finding a person you went to sixth grade with is easy.  Not so for those of us who did sixth grade in an overseas school on a base that no longer exists. The Internet has made it easier to find people, and I've been able to find and get in touch with a few people I knew growing up. Of course, that doesn't work well for people I knew younger in life whose last name was never part of what I knew about them. Also, getting in touch with the girls I grew up with is more difficult because many of their names have changed due to marriage. 

One incident occurred my senior year of High School that keeps me hopeful that I will eventually run into more of the folks I grew up with as time goes on. My father was stationed at Fort Eustis, the last base he was assigned to before he retired, and I was working as a busboy at the Officer's Club. After we would finish our shift, the busboys would gather together and have and enjoy a few illegal beers while shooting pool. One night we talked about things that happened in our past and bases where we lived over the years. When I mentioned Fort Ord, Tom, one of my fellow busboys, commented that his dad was assigned there during Vietnam like mine.

A few days later, Tom brought in a picture from his second grade class at Fort Ord. As he handed it to me, he told me that he was in the front row. For some reason, the kids and background looked familiar to me, and I started to scan the faces in the picture.  Lo and behold, in the second row, three kids from the right, was me. Tom and I had gone to the second grade together.  Ten years later, in another state at the opposite end of the country, we were together again getting ready to graduate. Only a military brat has that kind of experience. Of course, after graduation, Tom and I went our separate ways, and I've never been able to locate him since.

Now, some mornings I enjoy my coffee while spending a bit of time with ghosts from the past. I wonder what they are up to today, from Mary Ellen Anderson, the first girl I ever kissed, to Tom Arnold, who I attended second grade and graduated high school with.  They are all out there somewhere. I hope they're all happy and doing fine. I also ponder the truth that at least three of the dozen or so bases I grew up on don't exist anymore. Not many non-brats can claim that their hometown vanished because of a BRAC.


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