Growing Up Around the World as a Navy Brat


Photo Courtesy of

Having had this unique upbringing and for those who want to learn more about it read on.

I’ve spent a lifetime answering the question “Where are you from?” with a very long pause…trying to figure out which answer to give the person.

What Do I quickly say “Everywhere!”

Do I give the slightly longer version, “Well, I’m an Navy brat and I grew up mainly overseas and came to the States when I was in elementary school.

Or do I go into the more accurate version which would take about 15 minutes and detail all the countries, states, bases, and towns where I “grew up” and the culture shock I experienced which has made me the person I am today?

“BRAT…Born Rough And Tough”

Being a military brat isn’t a choice that a child makes…it’s a lifestyle that you are born into based on a choice that your parents make…and you are along for the–sometimes wild–ride.

There are advantages and disadvantages to a life that involves almost constant moving, often to foreign countries.

Brats get to see things, do things, learn languages, meet people, and have experiences you would never be able to have staying put in one place.

I’ve gotten to climb around on Stonehenge, run through so many castles in Scotland I lost count, and have acquired and lost both a Queen’s English and deep Southern accent. one!)

Brats also are the new kids in class a lot, often don’t get to see extended family for years, transition into and out of schools frequently, and miss out on seeing childhood friends grow older alongside them.

I learned some of the most important lessons about life and how to cope with the things life will throw at you growing up as a military brat.

Along with a lifelong respect for anyone I see in a uniform, this is what sticks with me decades after leaving the last Navy base I would ever set foot on, and maybe it will mean something to some of you:


Brats learn to make the best of wherever they are, and this saying has come to symbolize to me not only what being a military brat’s life is about, but what being a healthy human being is about.

No matter what life circumstances you were born into or where you find yourself at this very moment, all you need to do is the best you can where you are right now. Find out how you can be the best you that you can be here, now.

You don’t have to wait until all the conditions are “just right.” They may never be. And they’re going to change again, anyway!

Just see what happens if you put down your roots and soak up what sun and nutrients there are around you (and they are there!) and just bloom where you are planted.


What I learned moving to a new place every few years was not to get very comfortable where my roots were growing…because there was going to be an uprooting a’coming.

No matter how good (or how badly) things were going, I was going to have to say goodbye to every best friend I made, to every teacher I loved, and to every special place I bonded with.

As painful as that was for me, I learned that “goodbyes” are a part of life. They are as normal as the “hellos” and the conversations that take place in-between.

And just because there are going to be the inevitable endings, it doesn’t mean that you don’t give your all to create meaningful friendships, relationships, and experiences before it’s your time to go.


I count as one of the incredible blessings of being a military brat the fact that with every move to a new country, base, or town came the opportunity to re-create myself.

Not one person in my new school or neighborhood (other than my immediate family) knew who I was, how I had done in school the year before, what my personality was like, if I excelled or sucked in sports…there was literally no past to haunt me.

I could start over again fresh that year…with a clean slate. It taught me the power of believing that anything is possible, that you can be anyone and anything that you want to be, and that the past does not determine your future…you do.


To end this, I have to tell you one of my favorite memories of being a military brat…and it has to do with going to the movies on base as kids.

Movies shown on a military base began with previews just like in civilian theaters, but after the previews of coming attractions the movie did not start immediately.

Instead, there was the playing of the National Anthem…and everybody would rise, place their hand on their heart, as best you could with hands full of popcorn and candy, and often sing along.

To this day when I go to the movies, after the previews are over, I start giggling.

I’m waiting for all the jawbreakers and lemonheads to start pinging off of my heels the way they always did…because inevitably some poor kid behind me would lose control of their candy trying to stand for the National Anthem!

So if you hear me giggling in a theater after the previews are over…that’s just me “being a brat” again!

This post is dedicated to all the military brats out there who have served and are serving their country by being such an important part of the families who keep our servicemen and servicewomen grounded, no matter how often they may be deployed or stationed abroad.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


James Carter

James Carter has a real passion for online "stuff", is an avid WordPress fan and user, and gets great satisfaction out of helping others. -- so in his spare time, he's busy doing community service with his church, spending time with family and friends while creating post for this blog.


  1. I can’t speak for others, but I was HEAVILY recruited as a high school senior. Apparently a study had been done showing that the children of lifers like my dad were FAR more likely to become lifers themselves if they joined. West Point, US Navy, and the Air Force were all pursuing me. I decided that the military was not for me, and said no.

    Like the OP, I miss the life on-base. There were wierdnesses there, sure, but it was just better overall. The people were nicer, the streets were safer and cleaner, and the culture was more positive in general. I’m not a military servicemember but I still don’t fully ‘get’ civilians. I’ve figured out how to relate as I’ve been out of the army life for two decades now, but it still boggles me sometimes. It also might just have something to do with the choice to live in an area with something like 23% of the country’s active duty military within an hour’s drive. It means a significant chunk of the people I deal with day to day are military, former military, related to military members, or at least clued in on the military life.

    I’m glad I didn’t join, but I do miss on-post culture. Happy to be a fat, sloppy civilian myself, but I know I’ll never quite fit in. Luckily, as an army brat, I’m used to that, and okay with it.

    Oh, and all of my oldest, dearest friends but one are also military brats. Many of them I met while still living on base. Every once in a while, I’ll meet someone I knew way back when. It’s awesome, because it means I have friends all over the world. It’s just a matter of finding them. And some of them I don’t know, but they’re more likely to be someone I can be friends with simply because they’re that crazy mix of worldly, open, genial, and interested that characterizes my weird little tribe.

    “Where are you from?”


    • Yes,I truly understand about not fitting in on a military base, saying your from everywhere. My father was in the Navy for 21-years so we moved about every six months or more we moved to a different state even over seas. But being a military brat was fun and interesting as I got to experience different cultures and live in many different places. I do really relate to what you are saying Dick about living the military life. Thanks for reading my blog post and taking time to comment at the blog. I do appreciate it very much!

  2. I know from first hand experience that a lot of us will see it as more of an option than kids who grew up outside the military, but many of us will also try to do something else first, in a field that we really like, with the idea that “If this doesn’t work out, I can just join the (fill in parent’s service branch.)“ Some end up doing this, others don’t. I applied to ArtCenter (for a second degree), and fully planned on Navy OCS if I didn’t get into ArtCenter. A friend that I grew up with couldn’t find a job he really liked upon graduating from his college, and ended up becoming a Naval officer instead.

    • Tommy, I can really relate to what you are saying here. My father had a 21 year career in the United States Navy and I had many friends from high school join one of the military branches of service. Its a good choice for some people but the military is not for everyone. Considered joining the service at one point in my life just after high school for the educational benefits heading to college because my parent’s where not rich by any means. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with me and my blog readers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *