The U.S. Military is sometimes described as the “total force”, which includes active duty personnel, reserve forces and the national guard. This also includes their spouses and children. In order to honor the children of military personnel, then Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger established April as the “Month of the Military Child” in 1985.
In honoring military children, The Department of Defense wrote in 2005, “Our children are an inspiration and source of pride. It is fitting that we reflect and recognize the contributions and personal sacrifices our children make to our Armed Forces. Frequent moves and extended family separation make military life especially challenging.”
On April 18, 2015, Karen S. Guice, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs announced, “This month we are celebrating our smallest team members.”
Actually, there are 1,177,972 active-duty military and 716,879 reserve-component children from 0 to 22 years of age presently “serving” in our military.
Most of these children have challenges that civilians do not: multiple moves resulting in adjusting to new surroundings, attending new schools and meeting a new group of schoolmates. Indeed, military children have related the number of schools they attended ranged from three (elementary school, middle school and high school) to 18 from Kindergarten through high school. Some schools were civilian and some were military. These children learned quickly how to adjust to their new environment and were eventually successful in lives thereafter.
The many challenges of every military child, or brat is mentioned by Kris Kristofferson, himself a brat, in his narration of “Brats: Our Journey Home”, produced by Donna Musil. The movie shares intimate memories about the unique childhoods they experience: “growing up on military bases around the world, then struggling to fit into an American lifestyle with which they have little in common.” The film includes interviews with the late General Norman Schwarzkopf and author Mary Edwards Wertsch both of whom were brats. Ms. Wertsch wrote “Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress.”
One veteran related the following story: “I went to sixteen schools through high school. At our recent 50th high school class reunion, I learned that many of us joined the military like our fathers and some of our children did also. A few of us served in Vietnam and one died there.
“We all spoke of our experiences since graduation.” But we all agreed on one thing:
we would never had traded our lives for anything in this world. We were all proud to be military brats!”