In 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order integrating the military and mandating "equality of treatment and opportunity." Shortly thereafter, military children began growing up in closely confined and integrated schools and neighborhoods, where it was actually against military law to make a racist remark or not intervene when someone else makes one... twenty years before the Civil Rights Movement.
What is this like? Does it make children proud of their individual heritage, but appreciative of diversity, or does it create problems of ethnic identification? What happens when they leave the military environment and venture out into a more racially divided world? If this "Grand Experiment" has been successful, can it be replicated in other contentious arenas?
Here are a few excerpts about integration and diversity from BRATS: Our Journey Home:
"You were blue or you were green or you were khaki, and you were American."- Valerie Anderson
"A lot of people ask me, 'you're Japanese American, why don't you embrace that culture and stuff like that?' I grew up with so many different culture, my friends being of so many different backgrounds, I've never felt an affinity to embrace one particular culture or not. With the exception of the military culture. I felt an affinity towards that." - Dan Rockholt
"I've absolutely been accused of acting white by different individuals that are part of different Hispanic communities. And I consider that an enormous insult to my character simply because you shouldn't have to act any way just because of your culture or your ethnicity or your race or any of that. You should just be exactly who it is that you are." - Olga Ramos
"I'm not trying to avoid race. I'm a black male. And so I'm not trying to say that's not important, because there's a lot of history and culture that's very important... at least for me and my family. But that's not the primary thing of who George Junne is. It's who am I? Am I a good person? Do I treat people well?" - George Junne
"I'm sure on an individual basis there is prejudice, but on the whole there isn't. And I feel like when people from different backgrounds and races have to live and work together on a daily basis to where they really get to know each other, they really understand that one group is not any less capable than another group and some of those prejudices start to, start to disappear." - Peter Grammer