When meeting someone new on campus, asking where they are from is pretty basic. For the children of military service members, choosing one place as “home” is difficult.
Alexander White, a sophomore majoring in Chinese, is a military brat. White said he has moved 14 times, so when he is asked, “Where are you from?” it takes a minute to answer.
“Sometimes it’s the place you are living currently, other times it’s the place you were born, sometimes I just claim the U.S.,” White said. “Usually I pick California because that’s where I was born and my grandparents still live there.”
While military children refer to themselves as military brats, the term has been used for so long that few know its roots. The term does not refer to the children actually being “brats” but is an acronym.
The military is notorious for its use of acronyms to shorten lengthy titles. The term “brat” is an acronym that dates back to the when British forces sent soldiers to India and other locations. The soldiers brought their families, officially called British Regiment Attached Travelers, or BRATs, with them overseas. The term stuck and has since been used in various countries to refer to the children of military service members.
For White, life as a brat is a family thing. Both his father and grandfather were soldiers, as well as his great-grandfather. As a cadet in BYU’s Army ROTC, White is continuing the tradition of military service.
“I grew up in over-sized combat boots and Army fatigues that my dad had brought home,” White said. “It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do, as long as I can remember. It’s been one of my life goals — to join the Army.”
The military life can be very difficult, even traumatic, for brats. Constant moving makes it difficult to create long-term friendships.
Kyle Anderson, a senior studying applied physics, is an Air Force cadet. His father’s Air Force career kept them on the move. Anderson says friendships at church helped with the transition.
“Our first night in Louisiana, we showed up and they had a youth night that night,” Anderson said. “We hadn’t even unpacked. We just showed up and twenty minutes later we go to play softball with people and meet new friends. Things like that definitely sped up acclimating to the place. And you kind of have a network already you can talk to or go to.”
Anderson also said that when his friends know about his background it helps.
“It explains to them why we do certain things, why we are conscious about being on time to things or getting things done on a timeline,” Anderson said. “We’re disciplined like that because we do have a military family. We were raised that way. I think it does give them an insight into why we do certain things (and) into our personalities.”
Captain Jeffrey Timmons is an alumnus of BYU’s Army ROTC program and recently returned to the Cougar Battalion as an instructor. Timmons is also an Army brat.
“You’re not talking about a poorly behaved child,” Timmons said. “You’re describing a child that just has had to deal with all the dynamics of being offspring of a military member and all of the stress that comes with that. It’s not just moving around.”
Military brats may have different experiences, some of which may seem exotic or traumatic to others. However, Timmons said they are still regular people who do not ask for special treatment.
“I’m not any different than the next person,” Timmons said. “Yeah, I’ve got some crazy experiences, but everyone has different and unique experiences.”