Military Lifestyle

Call me ‘Military Brat’ one more time…

Macy Rupp is a senior in high school living in the DC area. Her father retired as a Colonel in the Marine Corps two years ago, after 30 years in Marine aviation. One of her four sisters is an active duty Lieutenant in the Army. Macy gave us her thoughts on the term “Military Brat”:

“Military Brat,” a term used to describe those of us whose parents serve in the military.

Whenever my dad’s career in the Marine Corps comes up in conversation, the immediate response is “Oooh so you’re a military brat?” Though I know their intentions are pure, I can’t help but get really annoyed when someone refers to me that way.

As I got older I noticed that more often than not, my parent’s career seemed to define me, at least to new people. Though I know my parents and friends never felt that way, it always bothered me. A military dependent is so much more than their parents career. Growing up in a military family has of course shaped who I am and I am not ashamed of that, but sometimes I just wanted to feel normal. Because despite the deployments, moving, and base housing, we are normal!

So now what? I’m sitting in a conversation with a civilian and I can slowly feel my blood pressure rising out of irritation. Over the years, I’ve developed a handful of responses that I still find clever and funny:

Response One:

Civilian: “Ooh so you’re a military brat?”

Me: “What’re you? An accounting brat?”

Response Two:

Civilian: “Ooh so you’re a military brat?”

Me: “Sorry I don’t speak civilian”

Response Three:

Civilian: “Ooh so you’re a military brat?”

Me: “I’m also a part time unicorn and occasionally a wizard”

Response Four:

Civilian: “Ooh so you’re a military brat?”

Me: “Oops, I think your autocorrect said “military brat” when you actually meant to say “boss”.”

Sandboxx Military App - Letters to boot camp

So there you go! Four solid responses that will put an end to “military brat”. Good luck my fellow dependents. Until next time.

Love, lights, and plywood,

Macy Rupp

Sandboxx is an app for service members, recruits, their families and supporters. It was created by two Marines and a Marine father who wanted to make it easier to stay in touch with family when off-the-grid without a phone and with units when they were back home. Download Sandboxx free.


  1. I’m sorry you don’t like the term, but as a Military Brat who doesn’t have a stable location….who moved 12 times before I graduated from high school (because if we didn’t transfer bases, we got assigned base housing midway through the tour), when someone asks me where I am from, I say “I’m a Military Brat.”

    BRAT stands for a lot of things, and it is a heritage and a culture. We are known as Third Culture Kids, but within the TCK community, military BRATS are a very distinct subset which is quite different from non-BRAT TCKs.

    Perhaps one day, you’ll embrace the term as the badge of honor that it really is.

  2. I’m proud to be a Military Brat. I respect your thoughts and opinions but I accept being defined by my association to my father’s career in the Air Force. With all the moves and all the schools, it’s all I had and I wouldn’t change my life for anything. Peace.

  3. Macy: Interesting thoughts you had. I grew up in a Navy family, so was a military (Navy) brat, too. I would not trade away the experiences for anything, and over the years became proud of the term “military brat”. I never saw it or experienced it as a derogatory term at all. And one thing is for certain: I have had experiences that the vast majority of people I know have never had, have seen places they haven’t seen (or earlier in my life than they did)….and have come to appreciate family and friends and roots that many people do not really appreciate in the same way I do.

  4. I’m a BRAT and DAMN sure PROUD IF IT! While I can appreciate her humor, I DON’T WANT an end to the term. I CAN’T identity as a Southerner. I CAN’T identity as a Northerner. I CAN’T identify as a veteran. What CAN I identify with? A BRAT. When my Dad retired, the Navy KICKED me out (for lack of a better term) and treated me as NOTHING. The bases I grew up around and on? Closed to me. The ships I would visit Daddy on? Closed to me. The ONLY identity I have is as a Navy BRAT. If you don’t like it, fine. But DON’T take it away from the MAJORITY of BRATs who are PROUD of that title!

  5. Macy, I am so proud of you! As a lifelong friend of your mom, and a military brat myself, I know from whence you come! Stay true to yourself and to your amazing family!

  6. i don’t mind the term — but in reality I think there were very few of us who were “brats” in the true sense of the word. we were all taught way too young about proper behavior and being a “brat” would never have been tolerated 🙂

  7. I’m 60 now. And still an A.F. brat. Doesn’t bother me. I moved…Otis AFB, Andrews, Travis, Hurlburt, Japan, Beale, Hickham, and a few others I probably forgot. I went to 19 different schools. Maybe it’s a generational thing. We, in a way, were defined by what our father’s did, but, we also didn’t really have identity crises’. We who were we were, and simply accepted it. We were like a dandelion. We were blown from place to place at the whim of others, and expected to take root and thrive, regardless. And we did. The vast majority of us turned out to be very productive members of society. When someone asks me “where are you from” my answer is always “I’m a Military Brat, I’m from everywhere.” I know people from all over the world and am proud to say I can fit in anywhere.

  8. Proud to be a Military Brat as well … Raised on Okinawa, Frankfurt Am Main (and surroundings). My Dad was a Dept of Army Civilian, and it was not his career that defined me, it was the culture that not only shaped me, but led me to a career in the Navy. To me, the conversations back stateside went like “Where am I from? Everywhere…. I am a military brat. You’ve never lived abroad? Never even left the state you were born in except on Vacation? Bummer, Dude!”

  9. Military brats share a culture 8n and of their own. Being called a brat says a lot about me and all of it positive. I belong to the biggest family in the world. Civilians cannot hold a candle to the experiences, people and places our parents careers afforded us. I feel sorry for civilians. Knowing someone is a civilian allows me to define them. Inside the box, looking out for number one, no comprehension of life beyond their state line. I am proud to be a brat. I am sorry you choose to view your experience negatively.

  10. Not only am I proud to be and referred to as a Military Brat but honored. As we are special and only those like us can ever understand. Civilians can even imagine.

  11. I am also the daughter of a retired Marine Colonel, although mine retired shortly after yours got his commission. It doesn’t make me angry, but I don’t like it, especially when it is shortened to just plain “brat”. My dad always said that we weren’t Marine “brats” we were Marine “juniors”. In recent years, I’ve had others who grew up with Marine fathers tell me that they’ve never heard of that, to the point where I was beginning to wonder if my dad made it up. Then, I started studying the US Naval Academy, via the yearbooks, called the “Lucky Bag”. I found the term “junior” used to describe sons of career military fathers from the 1890s, through to the 1950s, which is as far as I’ve gotten on them.

    I think “junior” is a much nicer term, but I doubt that the “brat” name is going away. I can see how people in military populations might be comfortable with it, but what does it say to the general public? We serve our country from the day we are born. I think we deserve a more respectable term than “brat”. So, when people asked me if I was an
    Army Brat (for some reason, civilians always thought Army), I just said “No, Marine Junior”.

  12. I, too, am proud to be an Army brat. My father served 33 years and we moved 11 times. I think that being a brat actually does define me. Living in the military life, moving all over the world, having intimate exposure to the realities of war… these are the things that give you a broad outlook on life, a greater appreciation for diversity, and ability to “fit in” anywhere. Yes, you lose out on some things (primarily never being “from” anywhere), but, in my opinion, the massive life teachings you gain from being exposed to so many different people and places far outweigh anything you might have lost. Appreciate your blessings… because there are many.

  13. This is awesome! First, thank you for your service as a dependent. It’s not easy. I loved your post. It spoke fondly of your dad’s service, hilarious and honest! Who wants to be called a “brat”!

    I also loved your responses to those that disagreed with you ! They were kind and showed who you really are as a military dependent! You are awesome!

  14. Hey Friends! Thank you all so much for your feed back! Please understand, I love being a brat and I wouldn’t change that for anything! After 14 moves and 10 deployments, I’m proud to say that my dad served. I have no problem being a military brat, but I’m much more than just a Marine brat, I’m a sister, technician, student, friend, etc. Being a military brat has absolutely shaped who I am, but just as much as I love being the Colonel’s daughter, I love being Macy. Again, your feedback is much appreciated!

  15. Macy, I appreciate what you are saying and understand. However, I invite you to go on to Facebook and just type the word Brat in the search bar. You will find literally hundreds of groups with the name Brat in them. You will find Brats on thousands of DoDDs sites having reunions right and left. A year ago, it was found someone was trying to get our Brat name changed to Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel. Needless to say being called a CHAMP did not go over well. Thousands and thousands of Brats came forward to reclaim their Heritage. Donna Musil did a documentary with Kris Kristofferson called Brats: Our Journey Home. I would invite anyone who has not seen this to do so. It can be rented for 48 hours via the website of that name. Donna also has worked tirelessly along with many other Brats to define our heritage and our culture. One young Brat, Kenzie Hall, who was one of 5 Military Child of the year in 2014 started Brat Pack 11. Find them on Facebook and see what they do for the younger generation of Brats. To me being a Brat is who I am. I went to elementary, Junior High, and High school in 2 states, and 2 tours in Germany. It was my Air Force father that gave me a world and an upbringing that most would envy. I will not try and change your view but I think you can tell from the comments that you have received that there is a whole bunch of us out there that are Proud to be called Brats. Btw. I am one of 9 admins one a Facebook group called overseasbrats we have 6883 (some groups have more) and growing Proud Brats. The website was started by Joseph Condrill to allow Brats that never thought they would have a chance to have reunions with the Brat friends they left behind. He has been doing this since 1986. We have a Brat Flower the Dandelion. Go to Military Brats Registry. com and read how that came about We have Bob Hollicker of the Brat Pin. com that has designed an official Brat pin and has be successful in Ohio and Texas legislation to give us recognition as Brats. We have retired military officers/NCO’s/Vets that are will past their 60’s that are proud to be called Brats. Once a Brat always a Brat.
    Btw. I am a 60 year old Brat who also was a Coast Guard spouse for 10 years and had a 30 year career as a Title Officer and a mother of a Coast Guard Brat. Ask me where I am from and it always starts, well I am an Air Force Brat and lived all over so do you want to know where I was raised, lived the longest, loved the best or am at now.
    Surprisingly one response I get is ..Me too!! and off we go talking about our life. It is a bond and our heritage.
    Proud Air Force for life Brat.

  16. I love your replies. Sounds very much like my thoughts when asked the same question. #3 especially. I don’t think the civilian types can relate to the brat life. I’ve given up even worrying about what they think. That comes with age I think. Another response that comes to mind is “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” said with a big s&*t eating grin. More subtle than the boss remark but with the same intent. I’m an Army brat btw.

  17. Macy, well said, you are definitely Military Brat material.
    Accepting the title or not is a personal choice.
    Live long enough and you will find yourself accepting many things where you were not given a choice.
    Only a Military Brat would understand the difference between defending the ground you’re on and choosing the ground you defend.

  18. I’m not a “military brat.” I’m an Army Brat. Beat Navy!

    Seriously, I’m not IN the military, but I am OF the military. I am proud of my parents and happy to be identified with their service to our country. Sure, it’s reflected glory, which I did nothing to earn but inherited as my parents’ legacy to me. But it’s mine.

    There are times when I make sure people know I am a brat. There are times when someone remarks on my being a brat & I say, damn straight I’m a brat. And if people ask me where I’m from, I say “all over.” Except when I say “Chicago”. Except when I say “small town in the Deep South”. Or “California.” It never annoys me to be asked, because I have lots of useful answers I can use depending on the situation.

    As far as I’m concerned, I’m the normal one. It’s the civilians who aren’t….

  19. I was a Air Force Brat till 1964 ,when I voluntered for the Navy where I served for 23 years . I was proud to be a brat and all my friends were brats at all the schools we went to and were very proud to have that moniker. Some times I thought others were envious of the places we have been to. We saw a lot of Europe and when I was in the Navy I saw alit of Asia. Be proud and be strong . You can be what ever you want but be proud of being a brat . You can say I am a DR. And in my childhood I was a AF brat and saw things people only dream about. I do and it creates wonderfull conversations and sometimes new friends. Also you may find out they were one also.

  20. I am an Army Brat of the late Maj. James “Jimmie” D. Morton, USA, Ret. – Buffalo Soldier (he served from 29 Jan 41 until 01 Jan 68), and, the late Mrs. Carey B. Morton, Teacher – D.o.D. U. S. and Overseas Dependent Schools.

    I advanced in the U.S.A., Nurnberg/Worms/Mannheim Germany, and, Ojana/Machinato Okinawa – Islands Of The Ryukyu’s…up through “Bratdom” until I reached age 65.

    When I turned age 65 I was given my own “Flag”.

    Now I am a “Brigadier Brat”.

    Macy, you cannot desert from the term “Brat”, because it is part of your Official Grade/Rank, and, therefore, that would constitute grounds for Summary Court Martial!!!

    Michael James Morton
    Brigadier Brat, USA, Ret.

  21. I love your commentary, Macy! I can’t say I ever recall a time where my kids were called military brats by anyone who was serving in the military or by their family members. I’ve observed it as a term used primarily in CIVLANT. I know it’s said with the intention of summarizing a kid’s reality of new schools, frequent moves, and even more frequent deployments. However, that term brat does strike a nerve in me, too. I’ve never used it and haven’t ever heard anyone use it to classify my children — thankfully. I hear your message loud and clear,and applaud you sharing your point of view in such a public forum! Bravo Zulu!

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