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Okay, so I was poking around Google looking for information about Maastricht and the NATO base, AFCENT. I then happened upon something that definately grabbed my attention. There’s a documentary about expatriate Americans, and not the type that’s overseas on corporate business. This has to be a fairly long quote, because this synopsis of BRATS: Our Journey Home speaks to a lot of what I’ve thought about, in terms of growing up overseas:

BRATS: Our Journey Home is the first feature-length documentary, narrated by singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson, about a hidden American subculture – a lost tribe of at least fifteen million people from widely diverse backgrounds, raised on military bases around the world, whose shared experiences have shaped their lives so powerfully, they are forever different from their fellow Americans.

Using archival film sources, home movie footage and provocative first-person interviews, including General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, psychotherapist Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, West Point sociologist Dr. Morten Ender, and author Mary Edwards Wertsch, whose ground-breaking book, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress, was one of the seminal inspirations for this film, BRATS tells the story of children raised under a very unique set of circumstances, including:

  • living on the edge of history-in-the-making – attending the Nuremberg Trials and studying in the shadows of Dachau and Hiroshi

  • growing up in integrated schools and neighborhoods 20 years before the civil rights movement took hold in America;

  • moving around the world, rarely knowing one’s extended family, and losing one’s friends, identity, and social status every couple of years;

  • living on a series of “hometown” military bases with no permanent members, often in the middle of foreign countries;

  • living an almost socialistic existence under an authoritarian structure that espouses democracy;

  • suffering the prolonged absence of one’s father (or more recently, one’s mother or both);

  • growing up in a patriarchal society constantly preparing for war; and,

  • being exposed to art, history, and culture most American children only read about.

I really should order a copy and, perhaps, watch it with my wife. There’s this idea that when you live in somebody else’s culture, you tend to embrace your own even harder, with strange results. I’ve always thought that the American experience overseas — aka overseas and military brats — was a culture unto itself.

UPDATE:  The DVD has been ordered, and I’m watching the mail.  I have high hopes and can’t wait to watch it with my wife.

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3 Comments

  1. I, too, am a military brat. And yes, I, too, have written about my experiences all over the world with my army officer father from my birth in 1938 to his (our!) retirement in 1958. The book is titled, Once a Brat (am working on a sequel, Always a Brat) and is available on Amazon or PublishAmerica.com’s website. Mary Edwards Wertsch’s book is almost a bible for any military brat, and she made a path for us to follow. If you’re a “brat” and aren’t aware of the sites: Military-Brats Registry and Overseas Brats, now you know and you need to sign up. Thanks to the power of the Internet I found others “of my kind” from Linz Austria during the years 1948-1952.

  2. Hi, Rich! Just wanted to drop a note to say thanks for the kind words about the film. Although it focuses on military kids, DoDDS “brats” and other “third-culture kids” definitely relate. You should also consider attending one of your reunions, if you haven’t already. Making contact with your subculture does give you a sense of “home,” however virtual it may be!
    Your fellow “brat,”
    Donna Musil, Writer/Director
    “BRATS: Our Journey Home”
    http://www.bratsfilm.com

  3. Just stumbled on this blog, I am wondering if you have found the alumni sites for the schools you mentioned, AFCENT/AFNORTH (info at http://www.overseasbrats.net/afnorth-high-school/49-overview.html) and Soesterberg (info at http://www.overseasbrats.net/soesterberg-american-high-school/81-overview.html)?

    There is an organization (http://www.overseasbrats.com) which hosts all-schools reunions at 3-year intervals, next one is set for 2010 at the Dulles (D.C.) Hyatt. These usually attract 800+ brats. The guy who runs it (Joe Condrill) also hosts smaller regional & annual gatherings but the 3-year Homecomings are the big events.

    Mike


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