The average brat moves 6 to 9 times before they graduate from high school - some have moved as many as 36 times. They have no "hometowns" to go back to and rarely know their extended families. When they turn 18 or graduate from college, their ID cards are taken away, so they can't go on base anymore, without a military escort. "Even if they did," author Mary Edwards Wertsch points out, "there's no one there who knows them anymore."
One of the positive effects of this lifestyle is brats learn how to get along with anybody, from anywhere. They can move and take risks. They're not afraid of change. At the same time, some brats become "change junkies" and can't settle down. Others have difficulties with intimacy, and lack a consistent sense of self.
Military parents from more rooted backgrounds think they understand, and they do to an extent. But constant mobility affects a child's still-developing brain much differently than it does an adult's brain. Children are still learning how to bond, trust, and express themselves.
Belonging is the key. According to American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, "belonging" is the third most important human need behind food/safety. The only "belonging" a military brat has is with their immediate family and other brats. It's like a tree with shallow roots. The tree is fine, as long as no wind comes along. But there's a lot of wind in a military brat's life.
Here are a few excerpts about moving from BRATS: Our Journey Home:
"That was normal. What would be odd would be to live in the same small town for eighteen years before you go to college. That would be strange." - Olga Ramos
"Any chance I can get to leave the U.S. and go someplace else and bask in another culture or different culture, I'm gone. And just give me a plane ticket, you know, and I'm out of here" - George Junne
"I counted up all the little doggie names one time that I could remember and there were twenty-one. We did not move with our dogs" - Cindy Greenwood
"Trust is a really big issue in my life. I don't issue it out to people very easily. And when I do, I think there's always this thing in the back of my head that tells me they're going to break it." - Heather Wilson
"I had two disastrous marriages. Not because maybe that, but I've not ever learned commitment. I've not learned the skills that it takes to keep a relationship going." - Catherine Howard Reed