9 Things I Learned Growing up a Military Brat

9 Things I Learned Growing Up a Military Brat | College with Caitlyn

I usually put up a new post every Sunday, but this week’s post couldn’t wait another day. Why? Because today is Veteran’s Day and I have things to say. You see, my dad is was in the military, (Wow. I just realized I have to say “was” now because he retired like two months ago.) which makes me a military brat.

Don’t worry, I’m not insulting myself. “Military brat” is just the term for children with a military parent. Although, I didn’t hear the term myself until I was well into high school and I was offended the first time I heard it since I didn’t know any better.

In honor of Veteran’s day and my dad’s recent retirement, I’m going to be sharing nine things I learned from growing up in a military family. I thought this would be a cool little way to connect with you who are a part of military families as well but also to give those who aren’t some insight into what military life is really like.

15 minutes early is considered on time

If you have a doctor’s appointment at 2 p.m., you best be there before 1:45 p.m. or your butt is late. The military doesn’t have time for people to be late. But even if you are early you still have to wait forever for everything. Appointment at 2 p.m.? Get there at 1:45 p.m.? Yeah, you still won’t be seen until like 3 p.m.

I’ve carried this with me my whole life. If a movie starts at 3:30, I have to be there at 3:00 or I feel like I’m going to miss the beginning.

Making plans with people is always a struggle, too. We say we’ll meet at noon, but what I really mean is be there at 11:50. Otherwise, I think you’re late and you aren’t coming. But if I’m the person meeting them I always feel bad when I get there before the set time.

MREs are awful

If you’ve never eaten an MRE you’re a lucky little fellow. And if you don’t know what an MRE is then you’re even luckier.

An MRE (Meal ready to eat) is like a Lunchable, but ghetto and not tasty at all. I had to eat a few when I lived in Louisiana during Hurricane Rita and I don’t remember enjoying them.

Always be open-minded

I consider myself a very open-minded person. If you have an opinion that is different than mine, that’s okay. I’ll even sit and listen to you explain yourself because I’m so interested in learning why people think the way they do.

In recent years, I’ve found this might be because of my military upbringing. I’ve lived in four different states and gone to eight different schools through my life. All of these different locations all had their own subcultures, so I was always learning and experiencing new ways of life. People having different views and opinions was always the norm for me.

Home is not a location

When you’ve lived in four different states and about eight different houses, your house isn’t your home. Everything was always temporary to me. I knew that in a couple years we’d be up and off to somewhere new. Because of this, I’ve always considered “home” to be more the people than the place. Right now I have three homes: NKU, my family, and my friends on the west coast (who all live in different states themselves so we could argue I have even more than three homes but I’ll just keep it simple for you).

I also don’t really have an answer to the question “where are you from?” Which sucks because it’s always the first question people ask when you’re first getting to know them. My answer is usually, “That’s a long story.” Or I just say one of two states (Kentucky or Washington) depending on which I feel closer to at the moment.

Now that my dad is retired, and my parents officially bought their first house (so proud of them!) I’ve felt really weird. I have a room at the house, but I haven’t stayed in it yet. The house feels so foreign to me for two reasons: I haven’t spent really any time there and because it’s permanent. I’ve never really had anything permanent in my life before so it feels weird to have my family settle down, even if it means I myself am not really settling down.

Don’t get attached

Because I knew we were always going to move, I learned really young to not get too attached to anyone. I don’t remember struggling too much with this as a kid. Instead, I was always so excited to be moving again. Well, that is until I moved away for college but that’s a choice I made, not the military.


If you don’t know what cadences are then you’re missing out! Cadences are funny songs that soldiers sing while doing PT (physical training for those who aren’t familiar with military lingo). My dad has taught me and my siblings quite a few and we would sing them sometimes when we got bored on long car to rides. My favorites are Found a Peanut and Drip Drop.

Sometimes during track practice in high school, I would even get some of the other distance girls to sing along with me.

Civilians will never understand

This is a really harsh statement. But I really stand behind it.

Up until 5th grade, I always lived on a military base. Because of this I was always surrounded by other military kids and their families. We all had this unsaid way of just understanding what they were going through. We had all been there and done it. That’s why it was a weird adjustment for me when we started living off base and I attended normal public schools.

Not many other kids knew military lingo or what it was like to never see their father. They didn’t understand that I didn’t know what he was doing or if he was safe when he was deployed.

I could tell because at every Veteran’s assembly people didn’t pay attention. No one cared. But me? I always bawled. And so did the few other kids I knew with family members in the service.

Related: A Letter from the Daughter of an Army Man

Sometimes you have to sacrifice your extracurriculars

Having a parent in the military means that sometimes you only have one parent at home for months. I remember growing up there were things I had to give up or plans I couldn’t make because my mom was only one person. She couldn’t be in two places at once shuttling both me and my brother where we wanted to go while also watching my little sister.

I could never be an army wife

Piggybacking on that last one, I could never be an army wife. Having to worry about my dad’s safety when he was deployed was hard enough. I could never imagine worrying about the love of my life while also holding it down at home with children. Army wives are a whole different breed of women.

So that’s it for today’s post. I hope you learned something new or have a newfound appreciation for military families and all they go through. And happy Veteran’s Day our there to anyone you know who has served.

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