I am a military brat. I have earned this title proudly as my family has served our country. Today, if you asked my brother about the title “military brat”, he may or may not deny it but would definitely let you know that I am a brat in real life. Both of my parents served over twenty years in the United States Air Force. We have lived a really cool life and they have done or been a part of history in the making. Today, my parents are sort-of average. My father is an FSO (Facility Security Officer) for a private company which entails making sure classified government documents are kept safe. My mom works for the government of Kuwait as a Liaison. I am a Youth Pastor. My brother manufactures eyeglasses. Pretty normal right?
Military kids are part of a unique population in the United States. They are on the front lines in serving with their parents. They are also fairly unreached in youth ministry. That is not to say that we want to be singled out, but military brats have their own unique set of challenges.
Here are a few things I’d like you to know about us military brats.
- We come in flavors. Each branch of the military has its own flavors and traditions. I am of the Air Force flavor. We are proud of our flavors.
- We like when you learn our lingo and use it properly. For instance, if you are not military, we call you civilians. If you hear us talking about a parent going “TDY”, that means they have been given a temporary duty assignment. “TDY” and “Deployment” are different too. “TDY” is travel to a place other than your own assigned military base for a short length of time. Deployment means the parent is traveling into a combat zone.
- We are what is typically defined as Third Culture Kids (TCK). Military brats don’t always have roots. We don’t grow up in our parents’ culture of origin. We build relationships in all cultures while claiming none. Our sense of belonging is felt when we are around other TCK’s. We relocate ten times more often than civilian families, moving every 2-4 years. This can put us in a particularly awkward spot in youth group because of the culture. We don’t get to stay at the same church where we were baptized. For myself, I remained a distant but loyal friend knowing that I was probably going to move again and not desiring to feel the pain of that loss.
- We have been a part of some really cool stuff and we’d love to tell you about it! For instance, I got to spend time in Saudi Arabia while my dad was assigned there. I got to play in palace ruins and ride a camel. For myself, these things fall into the deep soul category and my inherent desire to be known.
- If one or both parents are career military, we end up knowing adult things that our peers do not which often gets us labeled “more mature”. For instance, from a very early age, I knew if both my parents were deployed and happened to be KIA (Killed in Action) who I was going to live with. It was part of our family prep work.
Here are some things you can do as a youth pastor to a military brat:
- Spend time with us: Until our families leave the military, we are raised in a village and understand a village mentality. We want you to be part of our village too.
- Be willing to learn: We have a deep desire to be known if only for the short amount of time we’re in your youth group. Ask us questions about our lives, what our parents do (if we actually know) and help us make memories that we can take with us to our next assignment
- Pray for our family: Military life is hard. I wouldn’t change it for the world but it’s hard. We need all the prayer we can get!
*A special note on deployments: Deployments are tricky. When a parent deploys it essentially mimics divorce. We live in a changed household and it changes people. There is also worry that our parent won’t ever come home. When the parent returns, we then have the stress of reunification. For months or years, the family who is holding down the fort stateside has lived their new norm. The reunification brings joy and exasperation as we all fumble through learning how to be a family again. Our parent doesn’t always come home whole or as the person we remembered. Please talk to our parents about how you can walk alongside our family during that time.
Here are some other great resources:
Tori Mick is the Director of Youth Ministries for Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, LA. She earned her M.A. in Youth Ministry from Memphis Theological Seminary and The Center for Youth Ministry Training. She is passionate about youth, worship, social justice, and issues of race. When she’s not hanging out with her students, you can find her hanging out with her sweet dog Roscoe, traveling, trying new food, or reading a great book. You can connect with Tori on INSTAGRAM, TWITTER or her BLOG.