In the United States, you may hear the term “Military Brat” to describe a child of a parent or parents who serve or have served in the U.S. Military. The lifestyle and childhood of a “Military Brat” is very different than that of a civilian child. Brats are known for their adaptability, resilience, and unique worldview. These kids exist within a distinct culture: moving an average of 8-10 times during childhood, developing new peer relationships every 6-12 months, and spending a significant amount of time away from one or multiple parents.
I was born in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, then moved to Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Washington DC, and lastly Columbus, Ohio where I finished high school. My story is marked by what so many other Brats endured in their lives. Being a Brat means saying goodbye to friends, making new friends, months apart from a parent while concerned for safety and well-being, and looking at all your possessions piled up in boxes sitting outside waiting to be put in a moving truck.
I was blessed enough to be on a base when I was in 6th and 7th grade, at Fort Benning GA where there was a thriving Club Beyond Ministry. Club Beyond is a ministry staffed by Young Life but focused exclusively on Military Teens. During this season of life, like so many other Brats in the Post 9/11 War on Terror, I was being met with fears and challenges I had not previously experienced.
According to a 2013 Princeton Study titled, “Military Child and Families”, their research suggests the most important need that Brats have are communities that care. (Military Child and Families.165)
I found that community in Club Beyond and later in high school while in Ohio, within my Young Life Club. In high school, I was one of the few Military Brats at my school. It was easy to feel isolated and on the outside due to not having the relational capital my peers had built up over years of friendship. This was a challenge, however one of the first and most impactful times I genuinely felt seen and heard was when my Young Life leader, Mike Chilcoat, made the effort to come to my Dad’s retirement ceremony my senior year in high school. Mike took time to learn, ask questions and meet me and my family in a space that was very different than his own. This, along with being quick to point out how God was using my experience as a Military Brat to glorify the Lord and reach my other friends for Jesus cultivated a real appreciation for how the Lord can bless the experience of a Military Brat.
How the lives of Military Brats glorify the Lord:
Philippians 3:20 – But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Military Brats often have a hard time answering the question, “Where are you from?” due to constant change. Their upbringing put these kids in a spot where they can be open to finding their identity in something bigger and everlasting. And this is only found in Jesus.
1 Corinthians 9:22 – I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.
Learning who people are, what makes them tick, where to find them, and quickly building relationships is not just a skill or talent for Military Brats, it is a way of life. What Brats do in order to have relationships can equip them in amazing ways to be highly effective leaders in winning people to Jesus.
What you can do to care for Military Brats:
Military teens are living a life that can glorify God already…but they just need someone to tell them how amazing they are. They need people to welcome them into a loving and supportive community. In a song of praise to the Lord, Psalm 68:5,6 says, “A father to the fatherless, defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…” Here are some practical ways you can live this scripture out and help serve the families that are serving you in this country:
Watch and Pray
There are nearly 500,000 military personal and families serving today. Military Brats may in your community or school system. So, when you are considering your Young Life Ministry, please consider the Military Brats that may be hiding in plain sight. Please pray the Lord will connect Military Brats with a Young Life Leader.
Military Brats and Families attend camp internationally, locally and we also host several Military Family Camps. We always need help. If you would like to serve America’s heroes and their kids and families please reach out. We would love to bless you with the opportunity to serve.
Join Our Team
If you are considering full-time ministry and want to reach kids and families that need to know about how much Jesus loves them, have a desire to see new places and, perhaps work internationally then Young Life Military could be a good fit for you. Military Brats exist within a fascinating culture. Going on staff with Young Life Military means that you will have the opportunity to serve, bless, grow and impact young people who have so much to offer to the world, and could be our next leaders.