AAAA Family Forum / Judy Konitzer: The Department of Defense has designated April as the Month of the Military Child, commonly referred to as Military Brats. Recently there has been much discussion about the term “Military Brats” and the controversy surrounding a change in terminology when two civilian children’s authors wrote a book entitled —“The Little C.H.A.M.P.S. – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel.”
They used the acronym “CHAMPS” as a replacement for “BRATS.” I received the book in 2012 at AUSA’s Annual Meeting in DC. At the time it was endorsed by many well respected for profit and not-for-profit organizations that provide services for military families.
As an “Army Brat” I wondered why the term “Brat” was not used in talking about the 5 children referenced in the book, but did not get alarmed or angered by it. The purpose of the book, as I saw it, was to provide military elementary aged children with coping tools to help them face their challenges while at the same time celebrate their services to our country. It also seemed like an attempt to bring awareness to civilian children about the lives of their military connected peers. However, through social media, many in the adult military brat community soundly rejected changing the word BRATS to CHAMPS. Since then, Operation C.H.A.M.P.s., a nonprofit group created to offer free babysitting to military parents in the D.C. area closed their doors.
Origins of the Term “Military Brat”
“Military Brat” and various “brat” derivatives are described in Wikipedia as the millions of members and children of a parent or parents serving full-time in the Armed Forces and having a distinct 200-year-old subculture and lifestyle. While the origin of the term “military brat” is unknown, there is some evidence that it dates back hundreds of years to the British Empire. When a member of the British Army was assigned abroad and could take his family (mostly to India), the family went in an administrative status titled: BRAT (British Regiment Attached Traveler). The term stuck and in many cases was adopted world-wide.
Interpreting “BRAT” Positively and Negatively
“Military Brat” is known in our U.S. military culture as a term of endearment and respect. Research has shown that most current and former military brats actually like the term. Admiral Dennis Blair, former commander in chief of U.S. Pacific Command at a Military Child Annual Conference held in San Diego in July 2000 defined brat as “B stands for Brave, and Broadminded. R stands for Resilient, Reliable, and Responsible. A stands for Amiable, Adaptable, and Audacious. T stands for Tenacious, Tough, and Tolerant.”
Much research has been conducted into long term effects, positive as well as negative, on military brats, who grew up during the Korean, Vietnam and Cold Wars. Current research is ongoing with the latest extended military engagements. There was realization of a distinct correlation between quality of life, retention, and operational effectiveness.
Demographics and living standards that most Cold War brats grew up with changed. Today with a larger proportion of married military families and many living off base, the word “military brat” can sometimes be misunderstood by the civilian community or have a negative connotation.
The Legacy Lives On
Last August my husband conducted a retirement ceremony for our son-in-law who proudly served our country for 28 years. During the ceremony I addressed our grandchildren and read The Army Brat poem which most of us know. I took several liberties with it to include places where the children had lived, and experiences which set them apart from their civilian peers.
I concluded it with “I hope I have passed on a legacy to you and I wish for you a wealth of experiences and knowledge and love, so that your lives will be blessed as mine has been, and I pray that you will always join me in boasting with pride that I am an Army Brat and I am so proud of it!”
When we salute and recognize our military children this month we do so with pride and recognition for their enduring sacrifices, commitment, resilience, and if we call them “Brats” we do so with utmost respect and love.