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Military childhood vs. civilian childhood

Mark C.

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Hi all!

A question for the community.... I was a navy brat and as a child was all over the world and attended over 15 schools. As I was extremely shy back then and "husky", plus the final insult of usually being the smartest in the class, making friends was hard for me and leaving so many was tough too. My cousins were born and raised in West Seattle and know people they went with in first grade. Even with the hardships of moving around, the mind broadening cultural experiences and meeting new people were fantastic. My question is: if you were a military brat or your opinion if not, were you sorry for the military one and wanted the civilian one or happy for the experiences of the military one?


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Great topic ;) ,

I was an Army Brat and also  joined the army. I am sure I missed out on some things but the adventures I had as a kid on military bases and interacting with the soldiers. Its a life I would never ever want to give up. Those experiences helped shaped who I am today and taught me to look at things in a very unique way. I still remember being a very young man 7-8 and riding my bike and getting caught in a major rainstorm I was hiding under a railhead canopy when a green suburban pulled up.  I thought I was in deep trouble, thinking I was somewhere i wasn't suppose to be. An older soldier stepped out of the back of the suburban and came over to me. Long story short it was the post commander of Fort Dix NJ and he gave me a ride home personally putting my bike in the back of the truck. Just one of the memories that I would never give up.  At the time I didnt realize how important this guy was. Today I realize he was the senior most person on the base. 

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Hi Mark,


Civilians move too, depending upon careers.  My father was an engineer and we followed the contracts.  My older sister was born in New Mexico, myself in Northern California, my younger brother back in New Mexico a year later, and my youngest sister in Southern California, where we settled down for a bit.  Then we moved to Oregon, back to Northern California for my last two years of high school.  


That is when I joined the Air Force.  Excluding training bases, in my twenty-four year career, I was assigned to ten bases around the world.  My son joined my travels in my sixth year and lived in Europe twice, the states three times.  When he graduated, he joined the Army.  He was assigned to two bases in the states, before he got out after his second enlistment, disappointed he had not had a chance to go back overseas. 


Both of us became stronger people because of our experiences moving as kids.  It stretched us to learn and appreciate a different way of living and cultures.  And that was true of me as a young adult in Germany as a 19 year old.  


My biggest regret as a parent, was the DODDs School System was not available in the states and my son had a poorer education experience here, than the rich one overseas.  Seriously, how many schools can take you to Westminster Cathedral or the Tower of London when discussing English History!


Thank you for bringing this topic up.

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I too was a Navy BRaT (Born Raised and Trapped).  When we got back stateside after my Dad was stationed at Roosevelt Rhodes in Puerto Rico, my folks decided to live off base.  Which sucked a lot.  Bad part of town, the house had flooding issues, which in Florida is a major problem any time it rains.  Our school wasn't bad, but it was nothing like the DODD's Antillies School System.  I felt like I'd taken a grade step backwards.


Living on bases was the best.  All the benefits of a small town, none of the problems of a small town.  If you were a kid on a military base and had a bike, you had the freedom that any teenager with a car had, and more.  Most everyone looked out for kids on bases, even guys who didn't have kids.  It was like having hundreds of aunts and uncles.


Living at Rosey Rhodes, we were taught some Spanish in school.  We got to go to the nearby rain forest mountain, got to go into Old San Juan.  We went to squadron parties and watched the Blue Angels, and got tours of foreign naval vessels (I remember being on HMS Hermes),  We got to visit aircraft carriers and go on tug boat rides (if you have the chance, i recommend it, and ask if you can use the high pressure water cannon!) and being in Scouts on base just opened up more doors.  We did a survival school weekend.  We got to do at sea rescue drills. 


It was fantastic.  My Dad was a parachute rigger, which means every piece of aircraft survival equipment was his responsibility.  Radios, helmets, chutes, ejector seats, survival vests, flares, even those cool aviator glasses, he could repair, alter, and adjust.  Even things you might not think of as air survival gear, like inflatable boats.  I remember one day my Dad had a bunch of us in the paraloft, showing how a machine he used made SNOW.  In Puerto Rico!   And it was like real snow, not just ice.  And then they made enough snow to bring out to a squadron party for shaved ice!  Gallons of it!


Living off base, i felt like the world got dumber.  Sorry to say so, but it is what I felt.  It's like there was less motivation to do cool stuff.  And less cool stuff to do.  I honestly think that if the civilian world knew how much interesting and motivating stuff was available on bases for military brats, they'd be motivated to provide the same for their students.  Perhaps it is something we should look into.  As a former teacher, I can say this: the more interesting things you can expose kids to, show them and let them experience, the better they will do in school.  And at this point, we could all do with kids doing better in school. 

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Thanks for your response. I agree with you both about living on base and having it like an extended family and the I would ride my bike and be gone for hours back then and we were safe. Plus like both you and Mary, I think the schools were better at times on base. Lots of things to do and see. While living on the Yokuska Navy base, in Japan, we would go into the town and go shopping on the Ginza. It was fantastic. But also learned about international finance. I would take $5 and exchange it for 5,000 yen. I was rich! Then when I saw the price of a candy bar at 800 yen, grin... We lived in Hawaii, Spain, Japan, Norfolk, Maine, San Diego, Arlington, VA. When I found out my West Seattle cousins had not left the state until they were out of college, had to look back and think that they had missed out so much. But again, they had life long friends and roots and I did not. I was also a former teacher (biology, chemistry and physics) and agree that the more interesting you can make learning, the better.

Again, thank you for your reply....

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  • 3 weeks later...

Oh I would not do well with being raised in a military family...noooo not good at all. For one thing I am a very free spirit so being exposed to the strict discipline of a military life would be almost catastrophic for my relationship with my parents...assuming I had a father which I don't btw. For another thing moving around all the time? What are we being serious? No thanks I would at a very early life be having epic fights with my parents about it probably ending up with me running away to grandparents and pretty much declaring it as such:


"I'm staying here with them and you can go wherever you want, I'm not leaving. Drag me away and I will make your life a living hell from this day to the day I become an adult and leave you both permanently, you can ground me as much as you like, take all of my electronics, deny me my friends I will not yield. You don't have a choice, quit the army or lose your son." Yeah...I'm stubborn as hell, rebellious to a fault and independent to the max so no I really don't think the military life would have been a good thing lol. Civ life for me but that's me won't judge anyone for liking/preferring the army life and from the above posts i can understand why someone would like it, just not me :)

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