Introduction to “Military Brats” – 20

This is my last installment with this thread.  These last few paragraphs brought me to my knees when I first read them.  It actually took me a few years to completely get through them when I first attempted to read the book…

As I was reading this book, it moved me so many times that I could feel the novelist in me fighting to the surface for air.  The novelist kept trying to change Mary’s book and make it something it wasn’t.  I imagined that all of us could meet on some impeccably manicured field, all the military brats, in a gathering so vast that it would be like the assembly of some vivid and undauntable army.  We could come together on this parade ground at dusk, million voiced and articulating our secret anthems of hurt and joy.  We could praise each other in voices that understand both the magnificence and pain of our transient lives.  Our greatest tragedy is we don’t know each other.  Our stories could help us see and understand what it is we have lived through and endured.

At the end of our assembly, we could pass in review in a parade of unutterable beauty.  As brats, we’ve watched a thousand parades on a thousand weekends.  We’ve shined shoes and polished brass and gotten every bedroom we ever slept in ready for Saturday morning inspection.  A parade would be a piece of cake for the military brats of the world.

I would put all of our fathers in the reviewing stand, and require that they come in full dress uniform and in the prime of life.  I want our fathers handsome and strong and feared by all the armies of the world the day they attend our parade.

To the ancient beat of drums we could pass by those erect and silent rows of fathers.  What a fearful word father is to so many of us, but not on this day, when the marchers keep perfect step and the command for “Eyes, Right!” roars through our disciplined ranks and we turn to face our fathers in that crowd of warriors.

In this parade, these men would understand the nature and the value os their children’s sacrifice for the first time.  Our fathers would stand at rigid attention.  Then they would begin to salute us, one by one, and in that salute, that one sign of recognition, of acknowledgment, they would thank us for the first time.  They would be thanking their own children for their fortitude and courage and generosity and long suffering, for enduring a military childhood.

But most of all the salute would be for something no military man in this country has ever acknowledged.  The gathering of fighting men would be thanking their children, their fine and resourceful children, who were strangers in every town they entered, thanking them for their extraordinary service to the United States if America, to its ideals of freedom, to its preservation, and to its everlasting honor.

Mary points out in this splendid book something that’s never been pointed out before: that military brats, my lost tribe, spent their entire youth in service to this country and no one ever knew they were there.  This book is our acknowledgement.  This book is our parade.

I wrote The Great Santini because in many ways the book was the only way I could take to the skies in the dark-winged jets, move through those competitive ranks of aviators and become, at last, my father’s wingman.

And with this book, Mary Edwards Wertsch has taken up the guidon in her fathers’ well-trained regiment.  For this book proves that no matter how brave Col. Edwards was in battle, his daughter is every bit the warrior he was.

— Pat Conroy

It was after I read this that I became determined to see if I could ‘energize’ my US Representative, Bob Latta, to introduce a bill before Congress to recognize the contributions and sacrifices of Military Brats to our Nation.  To his credit, in 2010 he introduced HR 5333 – – on 18 May 2010.  It sat “in committee” for a year, then “died.”

The next year, he reintroduced the bill, this time as HR 1014, and it subsequently sat for 2 years in “committee” before dying at the end of 2012!  I think this speaks volumes to what our ‘politicos’ actually think of our kids – all the while using them as “backdrops” for their own political gains, when it suits them… and this makes me ever more determined to push this initiative!

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