11 Things Every Military Kid Knows

by Lauren Stevens
Originally Published: 
A military kid walking and holding her father's hand and the father is wearing a camo print uniform

Being a military kid is both a badge of honor and a way of life. With parents making great sacrifices serving the United States, it’s impossible for military protocol not to seep into family life. We’re strong, resilient, adaptable, often worldly and cultured. Here are 11 things every military kid knows:

1. Being called a brat is not an insult.

In fact, the majority of military children wear the nickname brat with a sense of pride and honor. The term has proved so endearing to our subculture that brats from all over were in an uproar about a possible name change in recent years.

2. ‘Where are you from?’ is a complicated question.

Saying that you’re not from anywhere is a lot easier than responding Georgia-Germany-New York-England-Maryland-Pennsylvania. Odds are that they probably don’t really care anyway.

3. We treat friendships the way our parents treat going to war.

“Get in quickly, get out smoothly” is our friendship motto. There’s a silent understanding among brats about the terms of friendship, but it can be difficult to navigate once your parent retires and you’re thrust into civilian life.

4. Trips to the dentist are also school field trips.

When you attend school on base, there’s nothing like boarding a bus with your classmates to head to the military dentist. Even better is having your teeth cleaned and examined, and being told that you need braces in front of four of your classmates. Good times!

5. Acronyms are a way of life.

If your grandmother doesn’t send clothes to your APO ASAP then you’ll be forced to shop at the BX with help from the AAFES staff. And OMG, that would be terrible!

Seriously, navigating your way around a large military base can be troublesome if you’re not used to all of the acronyms or don’t have some type of map key with you.

5a. When your AF parent is TDY, they usually bring back cool presents.

Belgian chocolate, gold, perfume oils and pistachio nuts from Saudi Arabia—a parent TDY typically means that you get rewarded for their absence with exotic presents.

6. We learn discipline from an early age.

Not every military parent is strict, but if you get into trouble, your active duty mom or dad gets into trouble, too. If you live on a military base, your actions are representative of your military parent. If you mess up (vandalize something, steal, cause mischief, etc.) and get caught, your parent’s commanding officer is notified and your parent is reprimanded. If you’re stationed overseas, you could get shipped home … without your parents. Truth.

7. We pack light.

Faced with the possibility of not seeing our most prized possessions for months, we learn to pack favorite items in a backpack and small box. The upside is that when your household goods finally do arrive, it’s like Christmas all over again.

8. We’re used to having a parent a) leave unexpectedly, b) leave for extended periods of time, or c) all of the above.

Unlike most of the civilian world, active duty military personnel are effectively on call 24-7. During times of elevated threat, it’s not uncommon for military brats to wake up in the morning and find out that their parent has been called away to an unspecified place for an unspecified period of time.

9. The word ‘family’ is broadly defined (as is the term ‘home’).

Military brats who have endured a long deployment of a parent or are stationed overseas often draw support from each other and the base community. Home is where your family is, and family is those people who “get” you and support you when you need it.

10. We measure our lives in 2- to 4-year increments.

Each time we move, we’ve already begun the countdown to our next move. Will it be two years or will it be four? Either way, we’ll get bored with our surroundings around the one-year mark. Making it five years in the same place is medal-worthy!

11. Fourth of July fireworks shows are nonviolent demonstrations of our military power.

If there’s one thing everyone in the military can agree on, it’s that the DOD knows how to put on an epic fireworks show. Fourth of July fireworks shows on-base are like a colorful (and nonviolent) way of showing off our military power and prowess.

When you grow up in the military world, full of protocol and procedure, your childhood experience is vastly different from your civilian counterparts’. While frequent moves and parent deployments are challenging, there’s nothing quite like having your own ID card in elementary school, living in the same neighborhood as all of your friends, and having the freedom to ride your bike anywhere on base. Brat life rocks!

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