By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom
Just this week, I was on a conference call and the person stated she was an “Army Brat.” It’s a phrase I heard a lot growing up between Fort Eustis and Fort Monroe, and one that comes up at work frequently. Many a co-worker is a self-proclaimed Army Brat. To me, the phrase is used as a badge of honor–and rightfully so. As someone who had a meltdown when moving one time in elementary school and who also came unhinged when my dad “went away” for his doctorate–in our hometown–I respect and am in awe of the inner strength of Army Brats.
During the past three years, I’ve gotten to know a special type of Army Brat–the “wounded warrior’s Brat.” Each year about 50 kids attend the AW2 Symposium and participate in Operation Purple© camp. Each year, the kids come in quiet, guarded, and hesitant. Each year, they leave boisterous, open, and connected. For me, it’s a real treat to get to know these Army Brats. They are strong, dedicated, loving, protective, tender, and fierce. And, I think they deserve a new nickname–“Army Hero.”
These Army Heroes have been through a lot. And have a lot share. Having asked them a few questions before, I decided I would share a few of the comments from four kids whose dads were severely wounded in combat. Makale and Dreyson’s dad was an active duty Soldier and Bradley and Lauryn’s dad was a reservist.
What frustrations do you feel about having a parent in uniform?
“He was not there for many events in my life. Some kids in my school would tease me about not having done some things yet like hunting. I’d say, ‘Dude, my Dad is fighting a war in Iraq.’” – Bradley
“Not seeing my Dad. I missed him so much and I was always excited when I knew I would see him.” – Lauryn
How do you feel when you hang out with other wounded warriors’ kids?
“It’s nice to hang out with kids who know what it’s really like to have a parent with horrible injuries. My friends at home have no idea what it’s like to have a dad who is completely different than before they went off to war.” – Makale
“Fun! But, also kind of sad because of seeing all the moms and dads that have been hurt in the war.” – Dreyson
“They understood what I have gone through, we connected.” – Bradley
What advice do you have to kids whose parents are wounded?
“That it will all be OK. Try not to worry about it all. And, anytime you can, go to Operation Purple©!” – Makale
“If your dad or mom has seizures or flashbacks, do not be afraid. It will be okay.” – Dreyson
“Stay calm, but find your outlet. I was given a huge stuffed bear when I was in the 3rd grade. I used it as my punching bag sometimes when I was angry. I still have him with me.” – Bradley
“It’s OK, we have all been through it. Being around other hurt Soldiers helped me understand what my Dad was going through.” – Lauryn
What do you want people to know about your mom and dad?
“That just because he is different now than before, he’s not crazy! My dad’s injury has been really hard on my mom, but she still does a good job taking care of all of us.” – Makale
“That my dad fought in the war to save the world. My mom works hard taking care of my dad and me and my brother.” – Dreyson
“He is brave and strong in his heart and mind. She is kind.” – Lauryn
What should America know about Army Families?
“It is tougher than most people realize. We are strong kids but have had a void in our life with a parent serving.” – Bradley
“They are brave and they are not like other Families I know. My dad has been a reserve Soldier and none of my friends have Families like mine. We are not like ‘civilian’ Families.” – Lauryn
“Kids serve too. It is hard having your parent in the Army and never knowing when they may have to leave and whether or not they will come back home.” – Makale