Why the BratPin?

With the pins about to show up this week, I think it time to reflect, ‘Why the BratPin’ at all?  Having been working the project now for almost 4 years, I think I have a great appreciation for ‘Why the BratPin?’  Let me share some of my thoughts on it here this (early) morning.

First of all, like many of you, ‘I lived the life.’  That’s paramount because you touch my soul when you share your stories of your Brat life.  I know of what you speak.  Never thought much about my childhood until I began reading “Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress,” by Mary Edwards Wertsch sometime in the mid-to-late 1990′s.  It took me the better part of 5-6-7 years to get though it as your stories cut right through to my heart.

It was about that time that I also began taking notice of the kids at so many military deployments; Active Duty, Reserve and Guard deployments.  Didn’t matter, the kids faces were all the same in reflecting fear, uncertainty, the anguish of having to say ‘goodby’ to Mommy or Daddy.  And I also noted the joy upon the return of Mommy and Daddy.  Then those damned funerals, and the kids sitting there, sometimes holding the flag… We older Brats, more than anyone else, know what these younger Brats experience.

In his Introduction to Wertsch’s book, Pat Conroy comes right out and says it; “…military brats, my lost tribe, spent the entire youth in the service to this country and no one knew we were there.”  And I thought, “Well, it’s about time!”

And so, specifically, “Why the BratPin?”

First of all, as a small token of great appreciation.  How many of us ‘senior Brats’ ever had Mom or Dear Ole Dad sit down with the expressed purpose of thanking us for what we went through, as Brats?  The constant moving, ever changing ‘homes?’  Continually losing friends?  (And yes, making new ones.)  Always the “new kid” at school?  Opportunity may have been lost on many of us (senior Brats) but it’s now here for the parents of today’s Brats!

How many service members today have thanked their kids – for their service today?  Acknowledging that they are aware of the many hardships being placed upon their kids?

Last year, here in Ohio, we had 5 soldiers killed in combat in one week.  What do you think a BratPin would mean today to those kids today; had a soldier taken his kids aside, and given each of them a pin?  A friend once remarked, “Bob, I can just envision a soldier heading overseas and telling a kid to keep the pin close to his or her heart, as they would always be in their hearts.”  You get the idea…

My kids, my Brats, are 38 and 40.  I don’t think it’s ever too late to recognize them for their sacrifices for me to have the career I had.  I essentially “took it for granted” as they were growing up.  After all, I was a Brat; “shut up, and row!”  (However, I don’t think I was ever that callous.)  But you know, this BratPin – a simple token of great appreciation… Never too late.

Then yes, there is our class; The Senior Class.  LOL!  Everything I’ve mentioned here, we all know.  We all served, without complaint.  We moved, changed friends, houses and schools – often without complaint.  I read recently where someone once observed that military brats spend their entire youth in ‘grief.’  Grieving the loss of one thing or another.  Many of us never “processed” that grief.  If you’re anything like me, you just buried it.  But it was always there, and I knew it was there!  And it wasn’t going to go away until I dealt with it!

Reading Wertsch’s book was the catalyst for me to break through my grief.  And once I did I began to feel ‘pride’ in being a Brat!  A ‘quiet’ pride, but pride nonetheless… (I will admit though, in building this pin with the contributions and suggestions from many of you, my ‘pride’ in being a Brat has swollen quite a bit!)

Finally, this summer I had the privilege of handing out challenge coins we made up for the kids of Vietnam Vets.  The event was the Toledo, OH Vietnam Vet Appreciation Event.  I suppose it was kind of a “test run” to see the reaction…

VVCI was “blown away” with how these were received!  One Vet came up and just stuck out his hand, saying nothing – just looking at me in with his eyes beginning to tear up.  Later in the day he returned and told me that he wasn’t able to speak because he thought that the coin might serve as a “bridge” between him and his estranged daughter.

A Brat told he that he had nothing of his dad’s – that an ex-wife of his father’s had taken everything.  (This kid was in his mid-thirties I suppose.)  He just stood there, holding my hand, looking at me, not wanting to let go…

Then there was the Army Brat from Puerto Rico.  She was a little younger than me; perhaps late 50′s.  We bonded immediately when I told her I was an AF Brat, and had lived at Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico for 3 years in the late 50′s.  We shared a couple-3 stories of growing up, then all of a sudden we looked at each other, and again the tears came as we each touched on buried aspects of our youth.  Then we just stood there and hugged – as if we had ‘found’ each other.  Ten minutes before, perfect strangers!

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And so, I do have a great appreciation for what a pin like this will do – and for what it can do!  And this is “Why the BratPin…”