What is it to be an ARMY BRAT? To be born into a family untethered to a specific locale, relatives, and friends? Where are one’s allegiances to be secured, the way one ties a boat to a dock firmly with a rope?
ARMY BRATS drift like seagulls touching down here and there, never staying long, bobbing up and down on the oceans rise and fall or feeding momentarily on the shore where the sea foam bubbles at its edges.
So in 1972, when I was fourteen years old, I landed on the base of Ft. Benning, Georgia, one of the largest military reservations in the world. The United States involvement in the Vietnam War was to conclude in the summer of 1973, but in the meantime, I was living with the “hawks” and not the “doves.” There was a clear division in societies of those who supported the war and those who didn’t. I felt foggy and unclear about the matter. How could any kind of war be good?
But I was living in the community of those who fought the battles the United States engaged in. I was not allowed to sew a peace sign on jeans in 1972 even though I was “bussed” of the military base to go to school with civilian teenagers. The ARMY BRAT was not an ordinary teenager, or at least I wasn’t.
We maintained our lives in a shielded patriotic world that was not without its awareness of differing opinions concerning the war. My father had been wounded in Vietnam in 1968, done a stint at the Pentagon and military jobs in the Washington, DC, area before we had gotten orders to report to Ft. Benning.
Now, more than forty years later, I returned to Ft. Benning with my mother, two of my five siblings, and husband to visit three places to honor Edward R. Schowalter--my father--and a Congressional Medal of Honor Holder:
1)the National Infantry Museum (where all U.S. Medal of Honor Holders are commemorated),
2) the Fort Benning Cemetery (where my father is buried),
3) and Schowalter Hall, a school for training military leadership that was dedicated to him.
|THE NATIONAL INFANTRY MUSEUM. Pictured here in front of the Infantry Museum are my mother and brother. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)|
|DAD IS RIGHT THERE. My mother has visited the National Infantry Museum a number of times. I have asked what it means to be an ARMY BRAT. Another important question to ask is what does it mean to be an ARMY WIFE? (photo by Ruth Schowalter)|
|PHOTO TRIBUTE TO DAD. Upon entering Schowalter Hall, one can see a row of framed documents and objects with significant photos and citations related to my father's military actions and Medal of Honor. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)|
After, our eventful day at Ft. Benning, we left its gates and drove back to Auburn, Alabama, where my mother lives, to eat a meal together and discuss our experiences.
I have not answered the question, WHAT IS IT TO BE AN ARMY BRAT? Aren’t we all changing all the time? What we experienced as children, does that make us who we are today?
I feel some times that although the Army Brat “me” left the Army years ago when I left for California in 1976, I still have many aspects of the Army Brat in me—is that good, bad, just is? You tell me.
That’s Coffee with Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me and share your insights about how our childhoods make us who we are today—or don't! Who are you now because of what you learned and did as a child?