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MILITARY MATTERS: Brats

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By Chuck Leonard  - bio | email 

FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) -  Fred Brown says the hardest part of being a military brat was the constant reassignments.

"I mean I was picked in the 8th grade the most likeable guy. I thought, man, this is going to be great! High school is going to be wonderful! Then, we moved."

If that sounds familiar, you may be interested in a film written and directed by former Fort Benning, Ga. brat, Donna Musil.  "Brats: Our Journey Home " tells the story of military life through the eyes of the sons and daughters of our soldiers.

Musil says it was her own need for information that led to the project.

"Well, originally the purpose of the movie was to help myself. To try to really understand who I was and where I was from."

Oddly, she thought her experiences were unique, but quickly learned that others felt the same way.

"Absolutely, and I didn't know that before. By the time I was 16 years old I had moved twelve times on three different continents and for a large part of my life, particularly my young life, I really didn't know what that meant. But I just knew that I wasn't from anywhere."

That is a theme heard over and over in the documentary.

When asked where he's from, Army brat Marc Curtis replies, "From? Uh, I don't know. I was born in San Francisco, and I kind of call that my home, but I never actually lived there."

Air Force brat Heather Wilson-DeSpain views her roots as being much broader. "I'm from everywhere."

Others seem perplexed by the question. Valerie Anderson, whose father was in the Army, says, "I'm not from anywhere", while Air Force brat Cindy Greenwood gets technical. "That's always been a loaded question for me because it was, ‘Do I tell them about the place I was last'?"

Two well-known figures are part of the documentary. Kris Kristofferson serves as narrator and even provides music for the movie. Retired General Norman Schwarzkopf shares his experiences as both a military child and father.

For local flavor, WTVM talked with a Columbus soldier about his life as a brat. Lt. Gen. Bill Caldwell, whose father spent his career in the Army, now heads up the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan.       

He told us via satellite from Kabul, "I absolutely loved growing up as a military brat, living all around the world, between Europe, the United States, out in the Pacific. It was a wonderful experience, but I had great parents that made it very special."

Too bad not every brat feels that way. Some blame their parents for what they call dysfunctional childhoods.  Others feel the military itself is the problem. That's why Donna Musil suggests an open line of communication.

"I encourage all the people of Columbus to talk to the military kids around you. Listen to their stories. Share your own. I think you both have things to teach each other."

If you'd like to know more about Brats: Our Journey Home, or wish to purchase a copy, go to www.bratsfilm.com.

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