I’m a Navy BRAT and very proud of that badge I wear. I spent the first 21 years of my life “in the Navy” so to speak. I attended 12 schools and moved too many times to count, but the one constant in my life was my dad. For a military man, he was amazingly liberal. He allowed his children to think outside the military box, to explore and experiment with life. I don’t ever remember being traumatized by our moves, unable to adjust or assimilate, even though a lot of the places we lived were in civilian communities. My dad saw to it we always had a smooth transition.
I graduated high school in N Virginia in 1966, a year after my dad retired. Attended a community college and graduated with an AAS degree. I don’t know what influenced me more, my fellow college mates, or the fact that back in those days, the news was allowed to show us the horrors of war. Every night, dinner was accompanied by Walter Cronkite, and video footage of the Vietnam war. And every night I became more drawn to proclaim myself as anti-war. Bless my father for never trying to dissuade me from my crusade. He served in WWII, Korea, and was active duty when Vietnam started to become a full blown war. Maybe what he saw and experienced, influenced his decision to allow me to go against the military upbringing “grain” and hit the streets.
The event that sealed the deal for me was the day my brother was drafted. He opted to join the USMC, and just mere months after completing bootcamp, he was in Vietnam. From that point on I was on the streets in DC, attending every anti-war protest, handing out leaflets, speaking out against the war. My dad never said a word, but I think he was proud of me.
At one of the protests, we carried the name of a fallen military person, mine was Robert Brinkman from Iowa. I’ve never forgotten him, and 20 years later wrote a letter to his family, and 2 years later, we met. When the Vietnam memorial was built, every year I went to place something where his name was engraved. Flowers, a picture, a thank you. And after meeting his family, personal letters from them. What an honor for me to be able to do that for them.
My brother served one tour, came home as many did, a total mess. He “learned” how to do drugs in Nam, and continued to do so till he was honorably discharged, and for a couple of years later. Fortunately he had a turning point, cleaned up, started his own business, and married. But he is still one of the few, the proud, a Marine.
I’ve never stopped being “military” I still adhere to all the ethics I learned while being a military kid. The best part, I can still be a BRAT and I can have my own voice. In recent years I’ve attended every anti-Iraq war protest in DC, and if I live long enough, I’m pretty sure there will be another war that needs speaking out against.
As an aside, my son, joined the USMC right out of high school. He served 6 years. So the BRAT doesn’t fall far from the tree, apparently. Semper Fi, and Semper Fortis!