Ups and downs of Army life

Posted November 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm

BABBLING BROOKS column–Express Editor Kim Brooks

My younger sister and I grew up Army Brats. We’ve always heard the term growing up, but just took pride in the phrase.

Both of my parents served in the U.S. Army. My mom enlisted her senior year of high school in the mid-1970s. She spent time in South Korea during peacetime. She has told a story many times of a tree that was growing on the border between South and North Korea. Its roots were in one country and the tree was hanging over the border into the other country. Apparently this caused quite a stir… all because of a tree! That’s how little these two countries got along.

My mom enlisted because my grandparents thought she could have a better future rather than jumping right into the job market. Thanks to the GI Bill, after my mom served her needed time, she went to college.

My dad enlisted later in his adult life. He served for just over 20 years in the Army. Growing up, we moved quite a bit over the years, a stigma of being an Army Brat. From a few states and many cities, my family has only lived on a military base once. It was like a city of its own, really. We had practically all of the amenities we needed on base: a daycare center, a library, a pool, a PX (Post Exchange, much like your big box stores), a Commissary (grocery store) and more.

Each house on base was like a cookie-cut-out. They all looked the same from street to street. Rows upon rows of gingerbread houses. (It’s a wonder we never got lost walking around base.)

Life on the base was pretty good actually. We loved spending Saturday mornings at the library and going swimming after school and on the weekends. I attended school off base at a local public school where other kids on base were also in attendance.

You quickly become friends with other Army Brats. Yes, I had friends whose parents were not in the service, but living on base, you’re just able to spend more time with fellow Brats.

From time to time, my dad would be called away for a couple of weeks and on weekends for drills. This was especially hard during the infamous Flood of 1993. Our base was located across the state border from St. Louis, Mo., in Granite City, Ill. In ’93, the Mississippi in St. Louis flooded. Our base was also flooded. I remember looking out our bay window in the dining room, which looked out into the golf course on base, and seeing the wind blow the floodwaters as if waves from a hurricane. Our base had to fill sandbags to keep the floodwaters away from our homes. All this was being done while my dad unfortunately was called away.

One stigma of being an Army Brat is the idea of moving so much and not being able to make friends. I never really experienced that. I stayed friends with some of the people I met over the years, and thanks to the wonder of Facebook (Where would we be without it?), I’ve been able to reconnect with these long lost friends!

Despite the negative connotations associated with the life of an Army Brat, it seems I have a greater sense of patriotism and pride in service men and women. While my family has had to endure some drawbacks due to the military, I AM proud to associate myself with other Army Brats. This Veterans Day is not just a way for me to honor our local veterans, but also thank my parents for their service to our nation. Thanks, Mom and Dad!