Military BRAT…do you know the true meaning?

By: Williamsburg Military Insider

April is the month of the military child.  So many of our children are referred to as a Military BRAT, I actually never knew what the acronym stood for until this morning. 

But to honor the month, I want to share a story … one that very few people know. This story is from Michael M. Dunn

When I was President of the National Defense University (NDU), I frequently bragged about the NDU library, calling it the “best library in the world.”  I had reason to … as, before I took over, it had won an award as the best library in government.  One night, at a social event at my home, I asserted the above praise, and my dear wife responded:  “If your library is so great, ask them to find the origin of the term ‘Military Brat.’  I think the term is an acronym.”

 [Many of you may know that the term Brat is a common reference to children of military members.  It is a term of endearment – referring to a group who endure hardships, frequently move, change schools, leave behind friends, put up with frequent deployments, long absences of their parent(s), and (sometimes) inadequate government housing.]

The NDU library came through.  A researcher there found a book written in 1921 which described the origins of the term.  It came, like many of our military traditions, from the British Army.  It seems that when a member of the British Army was assigned abroad and could take his family (mostly in India), the family went with the member in an Admin status entitled:  BRAT status.  It stands for:  British Regiment Attached Traveler.  Over the years, it was altered to refer only to the children of the military member (the wives of the British Army [who were all males] objected to the term referring to them).  And the term not only stuck, but in many cases was adopted world-wide. 

 I can’t emphasize too much the support role of families to our military.  They move all over the world.  Continuity of education, friendships … and even living conditions are often lacking.  The success of the military is dependent upon the safety and support of their family members.


      1. I Am A Military Brat

        My hometown is nowhere, my friends are everywhere.
        I grew up with the knowledge that home is where the Heart is and the family….

        Mobility is my way of life. Some would wonder about roots, yet they are as deep and strong as the mighty oak. I sink them quickly, absorbing all an area offers and hopefully, giving enrichment in return.

        Travel has taught me to be open. Shaking hands with the universe, I find brotherhood in all men. Farewells are never easy. Yet, even in sorrow comes strength and ability to face tomorrow with anticipation….if when we leave one place, I feel that half my world is left behind. I also know that the other half is waiting to be met.

        Friendships are formed in hours and kept for decades.I will never grow up with someone, but I will mature with many. Be it inevitable that paths part, there is constant hope that they will meet again.

        Love of country, respect and pride fill my being when Old Glory passes in review.When I stand to honor that flag, so also do I stand in honor of all soldiers, and most especially, to the parents whose life created mine Because of this, I have shared in the rich heritage of Military life.
        ~ Anonymous

  1. I had heard this story before when I was a guest of the commanding officer at Fort McNair. Please someone put this on Wikipedia. Their articles say they don’t know the origin. I searched the net as I was trying to tell a “brat” about the origin of the term and couldn’t remember other than it was an an acronym from British army. So glad I found this site.

  2. proud to be a BRAT- my dad was a Pearl Harbor/Hickam AFB survivor. I went to predominately BRAT schools. Even tho’ he was Air Force, I joined the Navy. My sons are also BRATS. Like ALL of us, I’ve lived places most people dream of going.

  3. Very very chuffed to be an RAF BRAT, then going on to serve my country in the Army for 18 years(british) and having my own BRATS.

  4. Proud to be a British BRAT and also served myself In Women’s Royal Army Corps and was also an Army wife. Life experiences never to be forgotten or regretted🙂

  5. Also proud to be a BRAT, lived in some amazing places in unusual circumstances, met people from all over the planet, who had also traveled widely having had their own profound experiences, great times and places, would not change a thing, even if the effects of all this nomadic lifestyle were not always positive, it was worth it. I would gladly do it all again.

  6. * was so happy to read about this, most people don’t know about military life ( I was a wife ) but I will never regret having lived this way. It was a lot of hardship, but also a lot of happiness.

  7. A proud Navy BRAT. Traveled all around and mom (who did not drive) and my three siblingshad to live without dad for 6 Antarctic seasons (Sep – March) during middle- high school. He has a mountain pass named for him in Antarctica.

  8. I am proud to be a British Army BRAT and that poem (apart from the obviously American last verse) sums me up totally and completely

  9. I am a proud Air Force Brat. I learned someting new today—the origin of the term “ilitary Brat” I never questioned where it came from, I just wore the badge with honor. I also want to thenk Lori Scott for sharing the “I Am A Military Brat” poen. It brought tears to my eyes. I can’ty wait to share it with my sisters!

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