by Maggie Phillips, Guest Contributor
I have always thought it was fitting that the Month of the Military Child and Military Spouse Appreciation Month occurred in April and May respectively. Friends and family are familiar with my yearly entreaties on Facebook to nominate me for Military Spouse of the Year and Military Child of the Year. For people like me, MSOY and MCOY wins would be the military family member equivalent of the EGOT.
You see, I am a military brat-turned-bride, a child of a service member now married to a service member.
This Month of the Military Child, I invite you, my fellow military spouses, some who are brats-turned-brides, some who are brats-turned-grooms and those who are parents of military brats, to peruse this list of experiences unique to the service member son or daughter who marries back into the fold.
14 Things Only Brats-Turned-Military Spouses Will Understand
1. There Is a STRONG Chance You Are Married to Another Brat. We are often married to fellow brats. This is hardly surprising, since according to the Military Child Education Coalition, children of military service members are twice as likely as their civilian peers to join the military. It only makes sense. Military brats are a subculture enough on their own. Seriously, Google, “Military Brat” and the Wikipedia entry actually reads:
Military Brat (U.S. Subculture)
For us, marrying someone who understands your unique upbringing is really no different than marrying someone from your hometown.
2. We Know What It’s like to Be New. We are the ones introducing ourselves to the new person in the coffee group, who aren’t shy to speak up when it’s our turn to be new. This is a skill honed during a childhood of starting over again socially at a new school every few years.
3. We Are Pretty Easy to Spot. A brat-turned-military spouse may seem like a little bit of a Know It All when military life seems most confusing. We will also likely be comfortable stepping up to volunteer at the FRG or PTA meeting. If you’re wondering who the preternaturally self-possessed new spouse is in your unit, chances are, he or she is a brat.
4. Your Wedding Looked like “My Big Fat Military Wedding.” So. Many. Uniforms.
5. You Literally Can’t Even When Someone Asks You if Their Kids Will Be OK Because “You Seem like You Turned out OK.” No, I married a guy in the military and chose to have kids with him out of some kind of Stockholm Syndrome. Don’t look to me or my husband to try to figure out how your children will grow up. Maybe they will choose a life of service, perhaps in the military, perhaps married to it or perhaps in other government work. Maybe they won’t. Maybe they will love the roller coaster of military life, maybe they will need help adjusting. Every military child is unique.
6. When People Ask Where You’re From.
7. You Can Sometimes Feel like “an Old Military Spouse Trapped in a Young Military Spouse’s Body.” Stole that from the mom of a fellow brat-turned-bride. Holler if you remember Yellow Ribbon rooms where you could use a computer to send an e-mail(!) to Bosnia. Or if there are childhood photos of you on the East German border. #ThrowbackThursday military brat style.
8. We Can Feel like Outsiders Too. Even though it’s a culture we were raised in, we are watching other people navigate their way around it and there is no one with whom we will “grow up in the military.” Other new spouses form bonds as they learn to adapt, while the people with whom a brat grew up in the military are now spread out all over the world.
9. We Want You to Feel like You Belong. I’ve gotten remarks from friends about military life prefaced with, “Well, you and your husband are military, so it’s probably different for you,” as if their military experience is somehow less than ours, because they weren’t born into it. It’s important that these friends know that they are every bit as “military” as me and my husband.
10. We Need Mentors. Sending a parent to war is different than sending a spouse to war. We need guidance from seasoned military spouses as much as anyone.
11. We’ve Been Known to Cut the Line for Cookies at Month of the Military Child Celebrations Because We’ve Done More Time. This one might just be me.
12. You Routinely Run into High School Classmates. Either because they joined the military or married someone in the military.
13. At Some Point, You Definitely Said, “I Am Never Going to Date/Marry Someone in the Military.”
14. But You Did. And You Couldn’t Be Prouder of the Service of Your Parents, Your Spouse and the Military Life You Chose Again.
E. Margaret Phillips who goes by Maggie has worked for the Army in different capacities for over 3 years, for both U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and for U.S. Army Public Health Command. She has been published in the United States Foreign Service Association’s Foreign Service Journal, and in the U.S. Army professional publication, Military Review. She is a mother of 1 year and counting, an Army spouse of 5 years and counting, and an Army brat of 27 years and counting.