In Dec. 2009, I began reading “Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress,” by Mary Edwards Wertsch, again. I say ‘again’ as I had attempted to read it several times before, and kept getting stuck in Pat Conroy’s Introduction – my eyes often clouded with tears.
This time I was bound and determined to get further; but in the end, I was unable to. When I got to the part where Conroy talks about a parade, and mentions, “…they would thank us for the first time,” the tears returned. Then I thought to myself, “Beyond our fathers recognizing and thanking us for ‘our service,’ why hasn’t America – the nation we served – ever recognized our sacrifices and service?”
And the wheels were set in motion…
I fired off an email to my U.S. Representative suggesting he introduce legislation for a Congressional medal, recognizing the service and sacrifices of military brats. Five hours later, I received a call from one of his “horse holders” (staff) wanting to know more about my idea. As I further explained it, I discovered I was actually talking to an Army Brat! He knew of what I spoke, and liked the concept.
After numerous emails and phone conversations, Congressman Bob Latta (R, Ohio’s 5th District) introduced legislation to recognize the dependent children of military service members through the presentation of an official lapel button. (They dropped the term “Military Brats.” They didn’t want to offend anyone. As an Air Force ‘Brat,’ I have certainly been called worse!)
This is his first bill:
It made it as far as “committee,” then died along with the 111st Congress. The official explanation was that “we already had recognition.” Oh yeah? Where? (We don’t.)
So I asked Congressman Latta to reintroduce the bill. He did on 10 March 2011 as H.R. 1014: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-1014.
It now languishes “in committee.”
This is a simple proposal – a win-win-win proposal: a win for our kids, a win for our nation, and of course, a win for our politicians. The way the bill is structured, the cost of the pins won’t contribute in any way to the national deficit. Parents (and others) will purchase and present them to kids who have been ‘brats.’ When this bill becomes law however, I will never allow some deserving kid to go without a pin even if I have to spend my last nickel! But I digress…
When the bill became ‘rat-holed’ again this year, I almost gave up. Then I discovered the 112th Congress passed legislation to remove sodomy and bestiality from the Uniform Code of Military Justice (To be ‘fair and balanced,’ they later dropped the initiative to amend the UCMJ), and, in another piece of legislation, authorized the slaughter of horses for human consumption. YGBSM! This lunacy has just emboldened me to press on!
Our Congress has, at one time or another, recognized almost everyone else on the planet. Why not Military Brats? Pat Conroy makes several other very poignant points in his Introduction, among them:
“We grew up strangers to ourselves,”
“Our greatest tragedy is that we don’t know each other.”
Imagine what a simple lapel pin could do for us?
When I see deployments today, when I see funeral services today, when I see returning troops today – I tend to focus on the kids; often the kids in the background, silently serving. I know them. I ‘was there,’ a long time ago. Then I see the politicians glad-handing everyone around them, often ‘capitalizing’ on those same kids. So I wonder; why can’t they get off their asses, and pass ‘our’ bill? It’s not like they are accomplishing anything else …
Imagining the Future
I envision military service members calling their kids together and handing each one of them a Congressional Lapel Pin as a token of appreciation. It’s a small acknowledgement from both the service members and our Nation. Commanding officers might use the pins to honor a child, or a grandparent might give a pin as special recognition when mom or dad is deployed. Even politicians might make presentations when ‘brats’ visit their offices or participate in special programs.
I also hope to see the day when two “strangers” instantly recognize each other through the lapel pins they are wearing. The pins will ignite new friendships through “chatter,” because of a common heritage – Were you Army? Navy? Air Force? Marines? Coast Guard? Where were you? When? Did you know… and so forth …
Maybe, someday; hopefully, soon …
What can you do? Write, call or email your US Representative and/or Senator and ask him/her to support H.R. 1014… Thank you!