Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Brats Reunion

A couple of weeks ago I drove to Eugene, Oregon along with my wife and sister. The purpose of this sojourn was to attend a rather unusual reunion.

Overseas Brats is an organization that was formed twenty-five years ago strictly for the purpose of reconnecting with people you once knew while attending a school for military kids somewhere around the world. Officially, these schools come under the Department of Defense (DOD), providing an American style school for military kids whose parent is stationed in a foreign land. This could be Africa, Asia/Pacific, the Americas, the Middle East, and Europe.

Allow me to explain why this is important. Military brats, as they are frequently called, often attend a number of different schools outside of the United States during the course of their parent’s military career. Exposure to different cultures and climates are part of the overall experience of brats. A tour of duty for the parent typically lasts from one to three years. Because kids are thrown together from all over the United States in DOD schools far, far away, they learn to make friends quickly, knowing that, at best, they will have three years together! They may run into each other again somewhere around the world, but the odds are against it. So, even if they haven’t spent much time together, there is a bond develops transcends time and distance.

My sister, Joy, and I attended the Oslo American School (OAS) in Norway from 1961-63. I was in 8th & 9th grades and Joy was a grade behind. Despite the fact that our dad was a civilian (working for an American corporation) the school gave us permission to attend OAS. And we weren’t the only non-military kids there. But I have to tell you, those were some of the best times Joy and I ever had! Going to school was fun because we were constantly exposed to new and different things. You met kids who already had developed a level of maturity because of their travels and military environment that you did not see in kids back in the States. Besides having to study Norwegian, we often had coordinated events with the local Norwegian school next door to ours. We would go on ski trips together on the weekends, or play ice hockey (a huge sport in Norway), or go to the movies at night during the summer, only to exit the movie house late in the evening and the sun was still up! Conversely, in the winter we went to school in the dark and came home in the dark! That’s what happens when you live that much closer to the North Pole. But what I enjoyed the most was the Friday Night Teen Club. We would gather at the American Embassy in the basement with someone acting as a DJ, spinning 45 rpm records. We danced to all the latest hits. The guys wore slacks and buttoned-up shirts with a tie and sport coat, and the girls wore dresses. Parents and teachers acted as chaperones for the evening. We bonded with so many of those kids that hardly a day goes by that I don’t find myself thinking about one of them. So a few years ago, Joy told me about this organization of Overseas Brats holding these reunions around the country. She had managed to keep in touch with some of the kids from our time in Oslo, so I was aware there was something going on. But between my responsibilities as pastor to my church, and my role as a Navy chaplain in the reserve, traveling to a reunion was not on my priority list.

My wife was curious about this group because she had heard me talk about them over the years. We had beautiful weather the whole week we were gone. We spent the first three days in the Hilton Hotel in Eugene, getting reacquainted with brats we had known, and with brats we never knew before. It was particularly fascinating to meet the spouses of those brat friends you last saw when they were teenagers! We chatted on about careers, grandkids, and ailments! Lots of activities and entertainment were planned. One of the evenings we had a delicious dinner at Lane (County) Community College, hosted by the students of the Culinary Arts program. Entertainment during dinner was an Elvis Presley impersonator, one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was a wonderful evening, and those of us who had not seen each other in decades enjoyed getting caught up with each other’s goings-on, and renewing our friendships.

I’m hoping to attend more of these get-togethers, both to revisit those we spent time with at this reunion, and because there were so many more who were unable to attend.

Oh, yeah! If you happen to be an Overseas Brat, but you didn’t know about this organization, or you know someone who is a brat and might be interested, tell them to connect with Joe Condrill at [joeosbpres@sbcglobal.net], or go to the web site [www.overseasbrats.net]. Joe is responsible for getting the ball rolling on this in the mid-80s.

Some of the brats have written books about their experiences. One is entitled, “Hot Times During the Cold War.” Another is, “Military Brats and Other Global Nomads.” But my favorite title is, “I was a Teenage Norwegian!” Obviously, this title was a take-off of the movie title years ago, “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.”

So, thanks, Joe! Here’s to good times and renewed friendships! Let’s not allow another 47 years to escape before we do this again!

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