The point of this was to give advice about being a Brat...And since I discovered I still had a lot to learn and was in no place to hand out advice...I decided to quit. I've quit a lot of things in my life. In fact, I tried to quit the Army. I called my father after two weeks of Basic Training and told him I had made a big mistake and was getting out. He told me he would support me in anything I decided to do but asked that I listen to him for just a moment.
He told me, "You've never finished anything in your life. You've started a helluva lot of things but you never complete them." He recited a list: Skydiving, hang gliding, rock climbing, sailing, rifle team, police cadet, Cub Scouts, Webelos, Boy Scouts, drums, bass guitar, surfing, archery, Judo, wrestling, horse back riding... After the list he sighed, "You know, basic training is nothing compared to Outward Bound." He hit me where it hurt. I'd like to say I was so ashamed that I grabbed something from deep inside and told him, "Forget it. I'm gonna stick this out." But I'd be lying.
The next morning I approached my Drill Sergeant. An American Indian, the man suffered an injury in the cycle prior to mine that made it impossible for him to turn his neck. He was still out on sick leave when the picture of my class was taken. He had to turn his entire body to look in any direction. Or, at you. He was looking away from me when I told him I had thought long and hard about it and had decided I wanted a General Discharge. He slowly turned his entire body to me, looked down and said, "You red faced maggot...In order for me... to give you a General Discharge... I'd have to write up paperwork on your fucking ass and since I don't have the fucking time for something that fucking stupid I suggest you get your fucking ass back in the formation."
A few things: I was called red faced maggot because my face was sunburned. All the time. He used "fuck" like it like poetry. Lastly, he and not my father, kept me in the Army. I am grateful to him and wish he was in my picture. By the way, that's me in the third row, second from the left. The only one looking away from the camera. I remember a car going by just before the picture was taken and all I could think of was how I wanted to be in that car... going anywhere.
These books are interesting. The first one is "Military Brats" by Mary Edwards Wertsch and published in 1991. I have shared this book with numerous brats: The President of the Union League Club of Chicago. An insurance underwriter. A naval officer's daughter I was secretly in love with. My father. It's not a tough read. By that, I mean it's engaging and fast. What was tough about it, for me, was learning why I was the way I was. So much of this book felt like a punch to the gut. And, for the very first time in my life, I felt like I belonged. Not to a place or town or country. But to people just like me. That's the power of this book. Get it. Read it. Make notes. Here are some of mine penned in the back of my copy:
Always second guessing
What's the point? We're gonna move anyway
I've got nothing to lose 'cause I've lost it all before
Always an outsider
Afraid of gut instincts
Doomed to failure
Sense of being watched
Afraid to ask for what I want
Not certain of who I am
Always have options
Desire for father's approval
The next book was written in 1970 by Dr. Victor Gonzalez. I don't think you could find it easily. Not that you'd want to. I've probably read Wertsch's book at least ten times and bounced around it umpteen. I've started "Psychiatry and the Army Brat" I don't know how many times and I just can't get through it. It might be me but I think it's a thunderous bore.
While I spent four years in the Army - -I spent 18 years as an Army Brat. And while I'll always be a soldier, I think my life as a Brat is the more interesting one.