Posted: January 27, 2020 Filed under: Appreciation, Brat Life, The Host Nation
by Circe Olson Woessner
Recently my husband and I went out to dinner, something we infrequently do. The restaurant was new to us—and it was packed.
The waiter led us to a booth near a table where a family with three small children was sitting. I quickly looked around the room for any other empty table—but didn’t see one. Resigned, we sat down.
I was pleasantly surprised. The two oldest kids were busily coloring on coloring mats and the youngest was occupied by something he was nibbling. So far, so good!
Servers bustled around, bringing meals at a fast clip. Soon the family with the three kids left, and another group filled their seats. Our meal was delivered in short order, and while I wouldn’t say we felt rushed, I can’t say we were encouraged to linger.
I grew up in Europe, and my parents wrote travel books, so, dining out, as a child, was very different from my recent experience.
While my parents didn’t subscribe to the “children should be seen and not heard” philosophy, they did expect me to be quiet, well mannered, and patient during the sometimes hours-long meals.
When I was little, I would bring a pencil or pen to dinner, and, after I’d finished eating, I’d draw on the stiff paper tablecloths many restaurants in the 60s and 70s used. Because I loved drawing and had a large surface to work on, I got really detailed with my creations. I often gifted my “artwork” to the waiter or chef, who always accepted my offering with amused politeness.
Years later, my parents, husband and I went back to one of my favorite childhood restaurants, and the chef’s wife told me that she still had one of my tablecloth drawings!
When I was five, my family traveled to Rimini, Italy. We stayed at a grand hotel where elegant dinners were served in the ballroom. There was a live orchestra—and no paper tablecloths.
After I’d finished eating, and my parents were still working their way through a multi-course meal, the empty dance floor beckoned. I asked if I could go watch the orchestra—“yes, but don’t disturb the other diners.”
I edged over to watch the musicians. My toes started tapping and the budding ballerina in me started pirouetting and leaping. Soon, I was on the dance floor, doing all my ballet moves as best as I could. I was so into the music, I didn’t look to see the reactions on my parents’ faces.
When the music stopped, the diners applauded. I assumed they were applauding for me, so I curtsied.
I looked over at my parents, and my dad gave me a slight nod, so I continued dancing (quietly, so not to disturb the diners) until my parents finished their meal.
I don’t know how the other diners felt that night over 50 years ago at the Grand Hotel in Rimini; I hope I didn’t disturb them. At the time, I wanted to perform for them and bring them joy.
Last week, as I sat in the restaurant, those children coloring brought ME joy—they sparked a memory of me at their age, drawing pictures and dancing…
I applaud parents who include their children in family outings, and who set boundaries by providing both structure and creative outlets so that they, the kids—and their fellow diners— can enjoy a much-needed relaxing evening out.
As they say in Rimini, “Grazie.”
Posted: December 30, 2019 Filed under: Appreciation, Brat Life
As 2019, comes to a close, we want to thank all our loyal BRAT ID Seal supporters over the past 5 years. As BRAT ID comes to the close of 2019, we have provided lowest prices on our remaining merchandise at closeout clearance prices here: https://ebay.com/usr/brat_id
We are shuttering our doors as of Dec 31, 2019 and donating the bulk of our remaining inventory of Military Brat ID Patches to “Museum of the American Military Family”. We are including merchandise created the last 5 years for the Museum to display the evolution and creation of the Military Brat Seal as it evolved to reflect all the Brats stories, memories, recollections told and recognize the struggles they endured as they served as first line of support to those Military sponsor serve. The BRAT ID Seal merchandise is created as one of a kind, limited edition pieces. Once sold out they are no longer available unless found on the secondary market. We hope that our legacy will continue to grow as appreciation for the sacrifices of Military families are honored.
We have been a proud supporter of and continue to support and endorse the work done by the Museum preserving our Military Brat and Military Family history. No where in the United States can you read and learn about the struggles and victories that Military Families have faced. No where in America can you read the reality of day to day sacrifices by those who serve and those who provide first line of support to those Veterans who served, than their families, who serve also. We want to ask you to read and recognize, and share the link for “Museum of the American Military Family”. By sharing our history as recorded we are honoring our unique heritage as Military Brats individually, one by one.
As BRAT ID closes in 2019, we will be working towards reorganizing to provide the Military Brat Seal products for the future, proudly Made in USA for American Brats. We have been fully supported by BRATS on facebook, yet there are so many others yet to reach, so we need to reorganize to be able to reach out beyond facebook. We can proudly claim the BRAT ID SEAL coins, pins and patches have been proudly embraced and gifted and adorn BRATS hats, vests, totes, lapels, framed as Graduation and Milestone gifts such as Sponsors retirement gifts to their BRATS. The coins and pins have proudly been used on Military Brats memorials sharing the unique sibling and BRAT unique heritage and lifelong friendships as a shared legacy.
As we close December 31, 2019 to reorganize, we hope that our donation of our BRAT ID remaining inventory will support the fund raising efforts and needs of Museum of the American Military Families goals and efforts and provide recognition rewards for the Military BRAT programs they support.
As of Jan 1, 2020, We will retain a small portion of BRAT ID merchandise available for sale upon request to support closure and reorganization costs. https://ebay.com/usr/brat_id
The remaining available BRAT ID SEAL merchandise will be available through the “Museum of the American Military Family” directly to support their needs.
THANK YOU, GODSPEED & BRAT ON!
Posted: March 23, 2019 Filed under: Appreciation, Memories, Organizations, Service, Wives at Work
Recently, I sat in on a Bernalillo County Commission meeting in Albuquerque. It was fascinating to learn how the county works, and as speakers addressing different topics stepped forward with presentations and requests, it was refreshing to see people communicating civilly. The public comments were well-controlled and timed; yet people got to say exactly what they wanted to say, and the others listened respectfully.
During the meeting, the Bernalillo County Manager called up six people and explained why they had been chosen as employees of the month. She shared some personal things about each recipient, which really drove home that these employees are real people—not just job titles. The details were small and intimate: One employee likes to build Lego sculptures with his son; another loves Disney; another reads voraciously.
That reminded me of a rewards and recognition committee I once chaired at the VA. We honored employees of the month, too, and also gave out a “Shirt off Your Back” and “Supervisor of the Quarter” award.
Whereas the presentation at the County Commission meeting was brief and formal, our VA’s town hall is very lively. One committee member bakes hundreds of cupcakes for every single one of the town halls. It’s her way of giving back to her fellow employees. She does it on her own time and uses her own resources.
I remember when I decided to become a board member for our homeowner’s association. Years ago, at one of the meetings, there were several angry homeowners venting and raging at the board. Suddenly one of them said, “I should join this board because you guys suck!” At that point, although I had not planned to, I stood up and volunteered to be on the board. I figured I could do a better job than that guy. Whether or not it’s true, I’ll never know, but I did get a healthy respect for what it’s like to serve on a board of directors. (Please be kind to your voluntary homeowner’s association board!)
When I was a young army wife, all of us wives in the regiment were invited to the Commander’s town hall meeting. We knew something significant was going to happen because of the wording on the memo.
Once we assembled, the Commander informed us that our husbands were going to be deploying to the Middle East. Everyone sat quietly, processing the news. Some women wept; others talked with their neighbors. The Commander had a difficult job. He wanted to reassure us, but also wanted to stress that whether we liked it or not, he couldn’t prevent the deployment. His wife walked around reassuring us that we could handle this. Her soft-spoken words and quick smile did more for us than any number of “official” assurances did.
My son, when he was a PFC, attended a mandatory town hall meeting at which a suicide prevention training was presented. Like many of the young people in attendance, he viewed the training as merely something to be endured. Yet, a few days later, he was confronted with a distraught fellow soldier who expressed that he wanted to die. Having not unpacked his rucksack from the town hall, my son used the handouts from that training to work through the situation and to determine the next course of action. And, following his own instincts, he ordered them both a pizza to share.
What all these town halls have in common is an element of “service.” County commissioners, federal and local employees serve the public. Citizens choose to serve voluntarily on boards or committees to make their slice of the world a little better. People check in with each other to make sure they’re doing okay.
It’s obvious that the military members serve, but so do their spouses and kids. They share their service member with Uncle Sam; they lend him or her to the mission, and many of them choose, while waiting for their loved one to come back from wherever the military has sent them, to serve by volunteering—in spouse or chapel support groups, in school programs, or any number of voluntary positions on or off base.
When I look around our own East Mountain community, I’m awed by how many people—despite their very busy lives—volunteer. Our food pantries, service organizations, animal shelters, and schools would not function nearly as well if dedicated volunteers didn’t step in to help.
Our museum also depends on volunteers to serve on the board and to act as docents. To many non-profits, large and small, volunteers—or the lack thereof—can make or break an organization. Volunteers are vital.
So, to all of you wonderful volunteers out there—I thank you for your service!
Posted: February 19, 2019 Filed under: Appreciation, Brat Life, Memories, Military Family Museum, Overseas Life, Parents, Schooling with Uncle Sam, Shopping Stories, The Host Nation
Life is a bit funny, and sometimes, in the here and now we wonder how we got here. We’ve been told we should not dwell on the past, but we should not forget it either. Things that take me back into my childhood, are memories of food and playthings—things that are a big part of any child’s life. I don’t remember much about my early years. But, I do remember that while in Okinawa, my brother got caught outside during a typhoon and was hanging on for dear life to the screen door… I remember that I had learned to tie my shoes at around then, and I went to my first sleep over…and I’d left it early. The one thing I remember about TV programs was the opening to the horror shows. What it showed was from the knees down… a Japanese solider from WWII stumbling into the TV station at night, walking around and coming upon a lone station employee– the employee jumped with fright– and that’s where it had cut off. Any other memories from that time period, I need to use pictures and family stories to remind me..
Moving to Berlin on Pan-Am…I do remember the flight being empty, because I got to sleep in the middle aisle; at that age, I don’t know if it was a normal civilian flight or one chartered for the military. When we finally got to Berlin, and our father got us to our apartment, he did have some little gifts for us. I got some comics. My bedroom was bare– I only had a desk, a nightstand, a bed with a bookcase-type headboard.
This was the first time I didn’t have to share a room with my brother and I was a bit happy with that.
The thing about that little headboard: I kept my radio and a few other items there, like these little glo- in the-dark plaques. I would charge those plaques and any other glow-in-the-dark items I had, just before bed time and then set them up to be my little night light. My radio was tuned to the only radio station I could understand—AFN. Around my bed time, they would play songs from the 50’s and 60’s.
The thing about living in certain places as a child, is you don’t realize the history of the place, or the importance it played during history. All I knew is that the East Germans had built a wall and that the Allies had to fight to hold on to the west. To me, it really didn’t make much of an impact. I was still going to school, I was still making friends and playing.
The playground had this circular sandbox; I remember me and my friends would dig as far down as we could, and then we would build these little landscapes for our matchbox cars. Then there were the swing set– it was placed right in front of this huge tree, and as kid do, we’d see who could get the highest, then we would see who could jump out of the swing and go the furthest, and if you were brave enough, you would take the swing right in front of the tree and jump. I guess as a kid we were using physics and did not know it. Because, as we learned, if you jumped at a certain point of the arc of the swing, you could get more height and distance (funny how we learn something early in life through play, but when we get older, we forget that we had used the things we were learning in high school as a child.)
There was an ice cream truck, but the difference it was a German-run truck, so we would have to go ask for Deutsch Marks. My favorite ice cream was kind of a soft serve in a cookie type-shell shaped like a clam. We had a convenience store that was run by the PX. I would be sent there, for things like bread, eggs and milk. Yes, one time my dad sent me there to get some cigarettes, and when I couldn’t get them, I got disappointed. So to try to make it up, I attempted to buy him a six pack.
Sticking with the food theme, at the ball fields, there was a snack stand that served different snacks, and what I remember most was the cooking of the hamburgers and the way they tasted. When I am around snack stands like that, I always wish I could recapture that smell and taste from my childhood, but no such luck. I also remember getting treats that seemed to be uniquely German, such things like Nutella, Capri Sonne juice pouches. When we got back to the states, I was a bit sad that those products had not made it to the states. To this day, I cannot replicate the taste of Nutella spread on a brotchen; having it on white bread just cannot compare.
The one thing that I was introduced to was the volksfest, a carnival, with the rides, games and food. Bratwurst made in America just can’t compare to those in Germany. The one taste that didn’t stick with me was that of frog’s legs. We went to a volksfest in the French section and some of the stuff was the same, but when it came to the food, well it was all new to me. I remember I was asked if I wanted to try frog’s legs and I did. I think I liked it, but it was a onetime thing, so only the memory of eating them stuck with me, along with my first taste of crepes. I had those a couple times and I remember them being sweet.
The mid to late 70’s was kind of a breakout year for certain things, and the big one was soft bubble gum, I think it was either Hubba Bubba or Bubblicious. I remember going to the little PX store that was located within the main PX complex and buying 4 or 5 packs because it always seemed to be sold out. My parents thought I was old enough to ride the bus to and from the PX, and so I would go every so often. I had a radio that I would carry with me. I had this strap, and one thing I did was to collect key chains and attach them to the strap, I even put the pins I got while in the Webelo’s ( and I still have that sling) and sling it over my shoulder and so when I waited for the bus, I would turn the radio on and listen–no I didn’t have headphones, so everyone got to enjoy the music. I remember sitting at the PX bus stop and these soldiers walked and they made positive comments about me carrying the radio.
So, while Berlin was a walled city in the middle of Soviet controlled lands, life just went on as normal. So normal, that I learned impatient drivers are the same, no matter where in the world you went. Once, I was getting off the school bus, and like we had been told, we had to walk in front of the bus. One day I was just didn’t do it and bam, a German lady who just didn’t want to wait, slipped around the bus. That was the first and only time I was hit by a car while walking. (I have been in a few accidents while in a car though.) Nothing was broken in that long-ago accident, but unlike in America, I don’t think we sued the driver or got any kind of compensation for the injury.
Now one of the sad things that kind of happened, my dad got promoted (that part was not sad), and with that promotion came new living quarters– a two-story house with our own back yard. The downside was that I went back to sharing a room with my brother, but at least I got the top bunk. So, we had to move to another part of the American controlled part of the city. I had to leave my friends behind, and yes, I saw them at school, but other than, that I had to make new friends. I don’t think I really made new friends. This new housing area didn’t have a playground, so I had to do other things, mostly I just rode my 3-speed bike around the area. Now the thing about this area, was that it was largely a regular German neighborhood, and so really, we didn’t interact with the kids there.
One of the things the military tried to keep things normal for American kids was to have American sports, and so I played baseball. My dad coached T-ball. I was not an outstanding player, but I kept trying, even when we got back to the States. I played a couple years of soccer, and that I was pretty good at that. I played fullback. My coach said I was pretty aggressive at that spot, but since it was not that much of a sport in the States, I never played it again once we left Berlin.
The problem I had as a student is that I kept getting into trouble at school, so I spent a lot of time in the vice-principal’s office. The reason this was a problem for me was that my father was the community health nurse and he worked with the school nurses. He knew when I got into trouble, but I never learned my lesson and kept getting into trouble.
As for the toys in my life, only a few stood out. One of my hobbies was collecting Smurf figures. As a kid, I did not know that this was at the time a European thing. I remember going to a toy store just to see what new ones they got in. I know I also collected matchbox cars early on, when we moved to the new house, I really didn’t have anyone to play with, so I stopped collecting those.
I remember going shopping with my mom in stores that sold general merchandise. They would keep their doors open, and when we walked in, there was a strong flow of air, in the summer it was cooled and in winter, it was heated. I don’t remember the grocery stores having that feature. I do know that when we went to a German grocery store, it was a special treat, so we would always bug mom to get things we didn’t get at the commissary.
Now being an army brat was both a blessing and a curse. The curse is I didn’t have a hometown there was no place with roots that I could go back to. I never made lifelong friends, and the friends I did make, would change every couple years as their parents were reassigned. When asked where I am from, I tell them I grew up as a brat living around the world. The person asking would say that had to be cool, and it was, but I’d explain that I never had that hometown and lifelong friends they have.
The blessing is that I counted myself a citizen of the world. I could adjust to new environments easily, but making friends– that’s another story.
The thing about being in Berlin, my dad would take three weeks of leave and we would travel to new and different places, some that have faded from memory and others just because of what they stood for stand out in my memory. Today, a few of those places just wouldn’t be safe for an American to visit. As a kid some of those places were cool to say, hey I got to go there, but I really didn’t appreciate the significance of these places and would love to go back and revisit, and now with the internet, I can research some of these places and just realize how special some of these places were.
One thing I learned, when we were getting close to the time for my dad to be reassigned and when he got his new orders, was that new people just didn’t make the effort to get to know you, because you would be leaving shortly. In Berlin, 7thgrade was at Berlin American High school, and that was about the time we were getting ready to leave, so no one outside of a few teachers and the friends I already had, really tried to get to know me, so I kind of went through those few months in school like a ghost.
Leaving one place just as the school year started was a bit hard, but the hardest thing was arriving at school a few months into the school year. Being the new kid was tough, and if your family decided to live off post, it was even harder because friendships had already been formed, so not only were you the new kid, you were an outsider as well. Such is the life of an army brat.
Posted: February 1, 2019 Filed under: Appreciation, Brat Life, Memories, Military Family Museum, Parents | Tags: Brat Life, MAMF, MAMF Writer in Residence
by Lauren Mosher, MAMF 2019 Writer-in-Residence
My mother tells a story where, at six years old, I walked into a room with bare windows, and exclaimed, “I don’t want to move again!” The curtains were in the washing machine.
Although my father retired from the military three years prior to the curtain incident, military moving memories remained. Military memories will always remain. Military memories continued to be made. “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” The mantra applies to us kids, too, doesn’t it?
For, even after the end of formal military life, even after only officially knowing it as a toddler, the military blood was passed from father to daughter. He was in the Corps, and it’s in my core, right?
To me and my brother, a military life meant traveling all over the country with Dad (“Head ‘em up, and move ‘em out!” “Let’s go, Troops!”), visiting places at ages too delicate and naive to comprehend their events’ depth, or their meaning(s) on our history. Places like Pearl Harbor and the Alamo were vacationed by us with a bored, restless, preoccupied air.
It’s only been in my adult life, after becoming infatuated with World War II, by way of “Band of Brothers,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and books like, “Goodbye, Darkness,” that I have come to appreciate my father’s drive to enliven us with military history, and to appreciate his passion for the Corps, and ultimately to respect that I share the blood of Marine.