Friday, April 15, 2011


April is the Month of the Military Child...

I thought this “month of whatever” was something that had only been started in the last few years. Looking into it, this year is actually the 25th anniversary of the Month of the Military Child! Way back in 1986, then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger designated April as the Month of the Military Child as a way to honor military children for their courage and sacrifices. According to more than 1.7 million children under the age of 18 have at least one parent serving in the armed forces. And it is estimated that more than 900,000 children have had one or both parents deployed multiple times.

The President of the Air Force Association, Mike Dunn, recently sent out an e-mail which included a story describing the origins of the term “Brat.” It’s funny how something starts out as an acronym and then becomes part of regular vocabulary. The e-mail is in it’s entirety below.

I also found a website from 2010 that has a lot of activities, scrapbook page designs, ideas for parents and teachers to help celebrate the Month of the Military Child. Not sure why they haven’t updated it, but most of the information still looks good. Finally, the National Military Family Association website has a link to send an eCard to show your support of military kids. I’m sure there are tons of other sites out there containing information and/or activities. I know most, if not all, military bases have many different functions planned for this month.

As the parent of a military child, it’s nice to know he will be recognized for the sacrifices he will make as he grows up. It won’t make up for leaving friends every couple of years and missing his dad while he’s gone, but at least it’s something.

AFA members, as many of you know, this month is the month of the military child.  AFA has recognized this with a press release you can find here:

But to honor the month, I want to tell you a story … one that very few people know.

When I was President of the National Defense University (NDU), I frequently bragged about the NDU library, calling it the "best library in the world."  I had reason to … as, before I took over, it had won an award as the best library in government.  One night, at a social event at my home, I asserted the above praise, and my dear wife responded:  "If your library is so great, ask them to find the origin of the term 'Military Brat.'  I think the term is an acronym."

[Many of you may know that the term Brat is a common reference to children of military members.  It is a term of endearment – referring to a group who endure hardships, frequently move, change schools, leave behind friends, put up with frequent deployments, long absences of their parent(s), and (sometimes) inadequate government housing.]

Well – it turns out my wife was right … and the NDU library came through.  A researcher there found a book written in 1921 which described the origins of the term.  It came, like many of our military traditions, from the British Army.  It seems that when a member of the British Army was assigned abroad and could take his family (mostly in India), the family went with the member in an Admin status entitled:  BRAT status.  It stands for:  British Regiment Attached Traveler.  Over the years, it was altered to refer only to the children of the military member (the wives of the British Army [who were all males] objected to the term referring to them).  And the term not only stuck, but in many cases was adopted world-wide. 

I can't emphasize too much the support role of families to our military.  They move all over the world.  Continuity of education, friendships … and even living conditions are often lacking.  The success of the military is dependent upon the safety and support of their family members.

That is why one of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force's top five priorities is:  Developing and Caring for Airmen and their families.  Family members' motto is exactly the same as that of the Air Force Association:  The Force behind the Force

Please share this note with as many others as you can.

Michael M. Dunn 

 Air Force Association

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