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The Brat Pack: Four USU Students Share Memories of Growing Up Military

6 month old Bianca Eubanks with her father.

By Vivian Mason

Did you know that Tiger Woods, Steve McQueen, Reese Witherspoon, Shaquille O’Neal, Pink, Bruce Willis, Amy Adams, Kris Kristofferson, and Mia Hamm were all military brats?

It’s estimated that there are more than 15 million American “military brats” -- a term of endearment and respect to describe children of military personnel. “Brats” wear the name as a badge of honor often because of the moves, stressors, and cultural experiences that make them more resilient than their civilian counterparts. In military culture, BRAT means Born Rough And Tough. However, sometimes it’s elongated to “BRATT," meaning Be Ready At Tough Times. 

In 2016, National Military Brats Day was established so the nation could pay tribute to the overlooked sacrifice that goes into being a family member of service members. Military life is full of ups and downs, long hours, mind-boggling acronyms, and dreaded deployments. For adults, military life can be unpredictable and stressful. But for kids, it’s even more so, as they navigate the confusing and adventurous role of a military family member.

USU medical students Air Force 2nd Lt. Bianca Eubanks, Navy Ensign Hunter Culp, Army 2nd Lt. Elise Brady, and Air Force 2nd Lt. Laynee Allemond share memories about their unique childhoods as military brats. 

Being a Military Kid Was Great

By 2nd Lt. Bianca Eubanks

I enjoyed being a military brat. While my father was active duty, I traveled to many U.S. cities and to countries in Europe. Most of my childhood residences were split between living in Texas and Germany. These two different locations afforded me the opportunity to learn about various cultures and meet many amazing people from all walks of life. Relocating every two to three years and always being the “new kid” were difficult at times, but I learned to embrace and view each relocation to a new duty station as a new opportunity.

14 month old Bianca being held by her father.
Bianca at 14 months old with her dad who just
returned from deployment. [Image credit: Courtesy
of 2nd Lt. Bianca Eubanks]
Many military kids laugh when asked where they are from. A common response is, “Well, I’m from everywhere.” Although I may not have one true city or state where I grew up, my home was always my family and the other military kids I met along my journey. Being surrounded by other people who experienced the world similarly to me made me feel tremendously supported.  

I learned resiliency. I believe it’s clear why military children are often equated to dandelions: they are resilient, and can adapt and blossom in any environment. As a military child, one learns how to adjust to a variety of environments, cultures, and norms. A big benefit to growing up in a military environment was that it provided me with a unique perspective in terms of me placing myself in other peoples’ shoes, while also developing relationships with people from various cultures and backgrounds. 

My father served in the Army for 24 years until retiring just before my sophomore year of high school. Having served in Armored, Calvary, Air Defense, and Infantry Units, my dad was frequently on assignments that required my mother to maintain the household. Being in a military family had its challenges. I didn’t always have the opportunity to be around my extended family members. This was especially difficult during the holidays. 

Being associated with the military has its own unique challenges. However, the military is like one big family. I can remember being at different duty stations and everyone gathering at a service member’s house for barbeques and cookouts. One fond memory involved me and a group of my friends planning to perform a choreographed dance for our parents at one of these events. Unfortunately, we all got stage fright and ended up just enjoying the food instead. Regardless, it was a great day. 

With the emergence of social media, keeping in touch with past and present friends has been relatively easy. Growing up, I didn’t have a Facebook account. But now that I do, it’s always exciting to get a friend request from someone I knew as a kid. Seeing the number of mutual friends we share on social media also highlights how large, yet small, the military community is. Many of my childhood friends I met while my father was serving on active duty have also continued their family legacy by serving in the armed forces.

Looking Back With Fond Memories

By 2nd Lt. Elise Brady

My dad, a former Air Force F-15 pilot, stepped down from active duty before I was born. However, he spent many years of my childhood in the Hawaii Air National Guard before he retired in 2003. Because of this, my four younger siblings and I were lucky enough to grow up on Oahu. Although we didn’t live on Hickam Air Force Base, it was a constant throughout our childhood that I remember fondly. 

We spent every July 4th at Hickam Beach watching fireworks. We’d often drive out to the Reef Runway to watch the planes take off. My grade school was just five minutes from the base. Whenever I’d see fighter jets fly over us during recess, I’d look up and give my dad a wave. We went out of our way to make the 30-minute trip to the commissary each week, which is where all of my siblings and myself eventually worked as grocery baggers throughout high school and summers back from college. My family’s connection to Hickam forged a unique military identity for me and my siblings. 

Elise's dad swearing her in as a 2nd Lt. at her commissioning ceremony in 2017.
Elise's dad swearing her in as a 2nd Lt. at her commissioning ceremony in 2017. [Image credit: Courtesy of 2nd Lt. Elise Brady]

Throughout my life, my parents instilled a sense of service and responsibility in us. My dad values integrity over everything, a principle that was ingrained in him during his time at the Air Force Academy. It’s reflected in every decision he has made throughout his life. I find myself gravitating toward those who share the same affinity for honesty and putting others above themselves.  

In 2001, my mom needed surgery. But, with all the uncertainty of the post-9/11 environment, my dad couldn’t take extended leave away from his critical responsibilities at the Air National Guard. So, my mom and us kids stayed with my aunt and uncle in Canada for two months. This experience involved entering a new school in the middle of the year and adjusting to an environment that was completely different from the one I knew. When it was time to return to the United States, I was upset at having to leave my new friends and my new life. Looking back, this was the closest experience I had to being a child of an active duty service member. It required a high level of adaptability. I remember missing my dad and not understanding fully why we were away from him. The experience gave me a new understanding of what I saw my friends going through with their parents’ deployments.  

I still keep in contact with friends that I made during grade school, which primarily included military families. A few of them also chose to join the military, so I enjoy following their careers and sharing our own service experiences. I also still keep in touch with the friends I made when I bagged groceries. These relationships help me realize the deep bond that is shared among military children. All of these connections played a big role in my decision to join the military, and I’ll always be grateful.  

Always New Beginnings and Opportunities to Adapt

By Ensign Hunter Culp 

We were stationary the first 12 years, then we moved to Virginia Beach. My dad’s tours were normal
until I was about age 12, then we started moving like crazy: two years in Hawaii, two years in Virginia, and another two years in Washington State to finish high school. It was an interesting opportunity to see different parts of the country. At the time, I didn’t necessarily appreciate whether it was a normal or abnormal thing, but it offered me the opportunity to reinvent myself. My dad was Navy. We actually overlapped in service when he retired just last year after 28 years of active duty. 

Hunter Culp with his family.
Hunter Culp with his family. [Image credit: Courtesy of Ensign
Hunter Culp]
The biggest advantage to being a military brat was that I learned to be really adaptable. There were a couple of moves that were supposed to happen but didn’t. Something my mom and I used to always say was, “We’ll believe it when the truck shows up,” which meant that we had to be ready for anything. But, it also forced us to take advantage of opportunities and make the most of the time. You have to be ready to adapt when things change. 

As it was happening, I didn’t like it. Moving a lot is not something you really get used to. But, it was something that I eventually became okay with. Every time we had to move, I got better at adapting. The amount of time it took me to settle in and adjust became faster and faster. When I was in high school in Bremerton, Washington, we moved to Virginia Beach. I remember my dad actually gave me the option of staying in Washington or moving to Virginia. My parents were very supportive of me and my choices. Moving was a part of life. 

"You go anywhere, and you grow anywhere."

When I was eight years old, my dad deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and I was really nervous. He had other deployments, but I wasn’t so worried. He used to send me and my sister little souvenirs and photos from cool places. But after 9/11, we were more nervous when he deployed.

I’m in touch with two friends from my Hawaii days. I talk to them every couple of months. However, I talk to my Virginia friends quite frequently. Also, it’s nice to drop in and see them since they're not too far away. 

Living a Not Quite Traditional Military Life, But Still One of Service

By 2nd Lt. Laynee Allemond 

My experience as a military child was not as traditional as some of my fellow colleagues who come from military families. My father was in the Navy until just before I was born. So, I didn’t experience much of the effects of having an active duty parent. However, the military played a large role in my life in other ways. Both of my siblings enlisted in the Navy when I was very young. During most of my childhood, it was just me and my parents. My sister has been stationed in several locations and embarked on several deployments, thus my contact with her was limited to mostly phone calls. My brother was stationed in Florida for most of his active duty time, and my contact with him was similarly limited. Currently, I’m quite lucky to be stationed in the same location as my sister.

Laynee (back row, second from left) and her family. Her brother and sister are also proudly serving in the military.
Laynee (back row, second from left) and her family. Her brother and sister are
also proudly serving in the military. [Image credit: Courtesy of 2nd Lt. Laynee
My grandfather is a military veteran who was drafted into the Army and fought in the Vietnam War. He was exposed to Agent Orange, which resulted in his extensive heart failure. He has more than 30 stents in his heart, an impressive feat that earned him the nickname of “bionic man” within his medical community. His health battles inspired me so much that I eventually shadowed his physicians to learn more about what was going on with him. Ultimately, this led me to attend medical school.

My three major life lessons include:  (1) Never assume you know someone’s story; everyone is dealing with something below the surface. (2) Your only failure is giving up. (3) Service teaches you more about yourself and humanity than you could ever imagine.

I’ve thought a lot about what it means to sacrifice since I began my own service in the military. The dictionary defines sacrifice as synonymous with loss or giving something up. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as though I’ve lost something by being in a military family. On the contrary, I’ve gained more by being in a military family than the sum of things I may have lost. 

I’ve learned what service truly means: from my grandfather risking his life in Vietnam to protect the lives of others, to my father missing the birth of his child to maintain a ship carrying sailors safely across the world, to my sister spending a year in Africa to help save the lives of her fellow sailors, and my brother losing time with his children to ensure that naval planes function efficiently to get his fellow sailors back home. I’ve gained a tremendous perspective of the world outside of south Louisiana, and now understand the call to aid, heal, and protect those in need.