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What Military Children Won’t Tell You about Being Asked, “Where Are You From?”

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Last year, a magician from the United States performed for the local military community at the American High School on the U.S. Army Post Patch Barracks in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany. He brought a seven-year-old military child up on stage to assist with an illusion and asked him, “Where are you from?” The child looked out at his parents as if he’d been asked a question in another language. The audience broke out into murmurs. The magician was confused. He thought the child’s lack of basic personal knowledge was funny, but he was the only one laughing. Silly magician; the trick was on him.

Smoke and Mirrors

Confusion is just one of the themes that emerged when I asked a bunch of military children what they think when asked the question, “Where are you from?” Younger military children are indeed confused by the word “from.” The seven-year-old child on the magician’s stage had already lived in two states and two countries.

Once military children reach high school, they begin to shed their confusion and adopt concern or even distaste for the questioner—and the question. This is especially true when the child is well into his teens with a bounty of addresses under his belt. He doesn’t want to confuse the person asking, but finds it difficult to answer in a way that doesn’t confuse: Will she understand my answer? Will he accept my answer without asking more questions? Will they get that look on their face?

Uh no, everywhere isn't the name of a city.

Uh no, everywhere isn’t the name of a city.

Drawing from the answers of U.S. military BRATs aged 16-60, the most common response to “Where are you from?” can be summed up with, “I’m not from anywhere. I’m from everywhere.” But this is as meaningless an answer for the person asking as the word “from” is for the military child. As she gets older, she learns to—or rather she concedes to—give questioners what they want: One answer (even though it isn’t the correct answer.)

Paige (Air Force): If I feel like explaining, I’ll give ’em the whole military shpeal [sic]. I don’t like explaining, though, because people don’t get it. So pretty much, “Hi, I’m Paige. I’m from Alaska.”

Justin (Marine Corps): Usually I just say North Carolina. Trying to explain more usually confuses the average person.

Shawn (Army): My answer to “where I’m from” changes as circumstances warrant. If we’re talking about wintertime childhood experiences I will say, “Well I’m from Connecticut and let me tell you about the blizzards we had when I was a kid.” Occasionally people call me on it if they’ve heard me say that I’m “from” two or three or eight different places.

Faith (Navy): So I usually just say that I’m military and if they don’t get what that means or if I don’t feel like asking exactly what they mean by where I’m from, then I tell them I’m from Earth.


Benefit of the Doubt

A lot of military kids recognize that most civilian children and adults don’t share their experiences.

Sam (Air Force): I think they’re just curious and interested in getting to know you (at least, at college that seems to be the norm since we’re coming from all over).

Melody (Air Force): It bothers me a little bit when people ask me that ‘cos I don’t really have one place, but it’s not like they do it to be mean or anything. They just wanna learn more about me I guess.

Brendon (Army): When they ask I reply with, “I am an army brat and I’ve lived all over.” They just wanna know, so they’re not bad.


Second Verse, Same as the First

As they get older, however, many military children get tired of being asked, “Where are you from?” because so often there are more questions (and more confused looks) right behind it. Some have developed answers that best work for them while others still aren’t sure what to say.

Abram (Marine Corps): When someone asks me where I’m from, I think to myself, “I’m about to find out if you’ve lived in the same town your whole life.” I’ve synthesized the whole thing: “My dad’s a Marine, so I’m from everywhere.” If they ask, I’ll tell them what’s up. If they don’t, or say something like, “That must’ve been tough growing up moving so much/having a Marine as a father,” then I know they’re probably not worth explaining it to.

Janet (Army): I say “everywhere,” but usually not before having a deer in the headlight moment.

Amelia (Marine Corps): When someone asks where I’m from, I feel almost obligated to tell them my life story: Where I was born, how many times I moved, where I moved from to my current location, etc. I make the point that my dad was in the Marine Corps so I’m not really “from” anywhere. That confuses people and it makes me laugh at them.

You're right. We're not in Kansas anymore. Funny.

You’re right. We’re not in Kansas anymore. Funny.

Nathan (Army): I think that those people tend not to think about what they are asking before they ask.

Ashley (Army): I say I’m from Stuttgart [Germany] and they give me that face because you know they are dying to say it: “Is that in Canada?” Yeah, sure man.

Daniel (Marine Corps): I guess they don’t mean anything by it, but it still feels weird when someone asks me and then looks at me kind of like I’m lying when I say I’m an American who never lived in the United States. I was born in Okinawa, moved to Germany and live here again. Then they ask more questions and then I have to explain why I don’t “look Japanese.”

Hannah (Air Force): The reactions you can get from people when you tell them you are an American citizen that was born in England and have never lived in America are priceless.

Joshua (Army): [I say] Ohio or Texas. Then when you go on to explain where you’re actually from (Germany), you get the reply, “Oh you have excellent English!” Then I just smile and end the conversation because it’s awkward.

Stop speaking zee German. You're gonna get us deported!

Stop speaking zee German. You’re gonna get us deported!

Rachael (Army): I generally find people who ask me where I’m from highly annoying, mainly because I don’t want to answer the question.

Faith (Navy): I hate that question. I never know if they want me to tell them where I am living currently, where I consider home right now, where I have lived the longest, or where I was born. And that’s a problem because they are all different answers.


Location, Location, Location

For most civilians, the definition of “from” is pretty strict. It is synonymous with, “Where were you born and raised?” For the military child, this is two questions; and their experience doesn’t lend itself to just one answer. The word “from” has no relevance. As they get older, any meaning they give the word isn’t as rigid as the one found in the dictionary. “From” becomes flexible and relative.

Paige (Air Force): I usually answer with the last place I lived. I’m from Alaska. When I get back to Alaska in June, I’ll be from Colorado.

Stephanie (Army): Omg, I don’t know where I’m from, especially since I’m Hispanic. I tell them I’m Chilean who is American who has lived in many states who is currently living in Germany. It’s difficult to answer with just once answer.

Shawn (Army): I rarely think that I am “from” anywhere, but rather that I went to grade school in such and such and high school there and graduated from this other place. An interesting point [my sister] Kim and I have observed is that we reference our lives geographically. We don’t think about Mom’s cancer as happening when we were in whatever school grade or how old we were, but that we were in Texas. I went to a particular concert when I lived in Virginia. I know [my friend] Laura from Hawaii, not from high school, though both are true. Once I have the geographic reference, then I backtrack into the temporal setting. “Okay, we were in Texas, so that would have been about ’74-’77.”

Charles (Marine Corps): If I want to be snarky I will hit the list, otherwise I say my dad was in the military and if they want to know more I can list ’em.

Nathan (Army): I have a standard answer and generally I say “Ohio,” then stop myself and say, “Well, be more specific.”

Terri (Air Force): I go with the classic AFN (Armed Forces Network) commercial response: “Do you mean where was I born, or where do my parents live, or where I just moved from or where I live now, or do you mean where is the best place I’ve ever lived?” Or there’s the Bill Clinton-esque, “That depends on what you mean by ‘from’.”

Pictured here: 34 answers to the question, "Where are you from?"

Pictured here: 34 answers to the question, “Where are you from?”

Sam (Air Force): I usually hesitate a lot and then just tell them where I’ve lived last, which is not where my parents live anymore, and it’s not where I’m going to school. So right now I say I’m from Texas, but when I go back to [Washington] D.C. for the summer to see my parents I’ll probably tell people I’m from Ohio, and then after that I’ll say I’m from D.C. But mostly I just stick to where I lived last. (Though on Facebook I’m from my favorite place to have lived: Okinawa, Japan.)

Robert (Army): Home for me since I’ve moved around so much in my life always go back to what my grandpa said all the time, “Home is where you hang ur [sic] jacket up before you go to sleep that night.” So right now I’m from Frankfurt [Germany].”

Kimberly (Army): Yeah, I usually either say “from all over,” or hit the list: Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Virginia and [back to] Kansas.

Rae (Marine Corps): My answer is always, “Well, I was born on a Marine base in North Carolina and raised in a small town in West Virginia and I’ve been in Canada 10 years.” I kinda enjoy confusing them!

Hannah (Air Force): At first I used to tell people I was a military brat but because of the amount of times that I’ve moved I don’t consider myself a military brat. I’ve been able to live in only three places and get to know the people there as if I’ve known them my whole lives.

Rachael (Army): My standard response is cringing and then saying “everywhere.” Then I have to explain that I grew up in Ohio (my legal residence), but I spent my high school years in Germany, and then that my parents currently live in St. Louis, so I go there for breaks. After that, they generally stop asking me where I’m from. All they remember is I’m the girl from Germany.

Ashley (Army): Standard answer: I’m from Germany, my parents are military and that is where I spent the better part of my life. Where I was born or where my residency is stateside is irrelevant. That is not where I grew up.


Knowledge is Power

Those who want to get to know a military child better without making it an awkward encounter could try these recommendations from the children themselves:

  • Don’t ask a military child of any age, “Where are you from?” It’s better to ask, “Where do you live?” If they want to tell you something more about themselves, they’ll volunteer it.
  • If you do ask, “Where are you from?” accept the answer. If the answer is “everywhere” or “I’m a military brat,” that really is the answer. It really isn’t where they were born or where they lived five years ago or where their parents were born (for a lot of military kids, this also has more than one answer). Dismissing what they’ve said and pressing them for “a real answer” is insulting.
  • Once the military child has answered the question of “from,” refrain from asking more questions. “Oh, I see” is fine. Let them decide whether they want to keep the conversation going or not.
  • Be conscious of your facial expression. Military children are painfully familiar with what they call “that face.” It’s a combination of confusion and distaste some people get when they hear something they weren’t expecting and/or don’t understand. To see “that face” for yourself, walk up to a stranger and ask them for walking directions to your house without telling them where you live.

Sam, whose parent is in the Air Force, summarized the military child’s feelings about the “from” question with a little reflection: “Do you remember that AFN (Armed Forces Network) commercial where the guy tries to pick up the girl at the bar and he asks her where she’s from and she asks if he means where she was born, grew up, lived the longest, etc? When I was younger it seemed silly, but now, I realize it’s the story of our lives.”

All images ©2011 Diana M. Hartman. All pictured are military children.

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.
  • Glenn Contrarian

    Diana –

    Very good article.

    I’m retired Navy, and so are most of my friends, and as a result we see all our kids who are by definition Navy brats. There are some of the common traits in them as you pointed out, but there’s a couple other common traits that I might mention.

    1 – They’re normally unafraid of travel, of exposure to different cultures and languages. I’d say it’s certainly easier for them to interact with those who are different from them than it is for the normal high-school kid who’s grown up in Small Town, America. As a result, I’d also say that military brats are generally (but not always) less racist, less prejudiced than ‘normal’ American kids are. My youngest son considers himself a ‘citizen of the world’ – he’s equally at home in Seattle or in the slums of Manila or in any of the other places he’s been.

    2 – They’re generally healthier, since at least one of their parents must stay in good shape, and they’ve got access (while the parent is on active duty) to free and high-quality health care, including preventative care.

    3 – In the days before the internet (and particularly before Facebook), military kids were forced to leave their friends every few years or so, and often had difficulty in keeping friendships or relationships for long periods of time as a result. But now, I don’t know if that’s the case anymore since Facebook is so pervasive in our kids’ world.

    4 – I suspect that military kids also have a better grasp of the ‘big picture’ than do ‘normal’ kids…because military kids see their parent(s) go off to deployment for something that’s a lot more important than, say, a job at Safeway or who’s the Homecoming Queen or whose car is fastest. Yes, military kids do these too, but I’d say that for most military kids (but not all) on a deeper level such things are not quite as important to them as to ‘normal’ kids.

  • another good read from one of my favourite BCers.

    I can understand this issue as I too have moved around a lot and don’t really think of one particular place as home. When I get asked these days I generally say I’m an Earthling! Or online I say I’m from the internet.

    As to Glenn’s comment, points 1 and 2 are good; Facebook is helping keep lots of people in contact, for me particularly with my family and friends as we seem to have spread around the country (UK) or the world as time has gone on.

    His 4 is the most contentious point though; I don’t know what military kids think of what their parents do, but there is only a small proportion of what the American military does that is actually “important”. Most of it is some combination of delusional, misguided or naive…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Chris –

    You may be right and I may well be wrong on that last point. I’ll give you that one.

  • Thanks guys 🙂

  • Dear Editor who got me on the front page so fast – Thank You!

  • Igor

    Diana’s articles are always interesting, and perhaps the best at Blogcritics. Ordinarily I wouldn’t find an article about military brats very interesting, but this one had just the right touch.

  • Thank you Igor 🙂

  • I’m curious as to what sort of accent these military kids who are born, grow up and live overseas have. Do they spend most of their time on base and sound indistinguishably American, or does their English contain nuances of the local lingo?

    As an expat I often get asked where I’m from. I usually just say “London” although most Londoners, myself included, think of the suburb they grew up in or live in as their true hometown.

    The response I’d love to be able to give sometimes is along the lines of Fisher Stevens’ character in the movie Short Circuit, who has a thick Indian accent. When asked where he’s from, he answers “Bakersfield”. When the question is clarified – where are he and his family originally from? – he says, “Oh! Pittsburgh.”

  • Nathan from the Blog

    At Dr.Dreadful.. I can tell you personally that my accent is well hidden. Some if not most military brats who have to move and become the “Social Chameleon” to make friends often learn how to disguise their accents quickly. For example the general public doesn’t/won’t ever know that I secretly have a Nordic/Germanic accent. Only my close friends do and that’s only because they’ve seen me slip up. Our “cover-up” however is just as good as any American accent because we grew up with it from our parents.

    • armybrat1970

      I have been often told I don’t have an accent, but noticed I get told, “you didn’t sound like people from here”. I often have a hard time with pronouncing things the way “locals” do and I get called on it by “your not from here are you” . So I spend a lot of time listening to the way people around me say things and will usually pronounce phonetically until I hear it the way others will pronounce it. I will still mess it up. Example we have a town nearby named Staunton, VA. I pronounced it with a long a (like fault) but it is actually pronounced with a short a like ant. Still gets me, but it has also allowed me to notice when others “aren’t from here” as well.

  • David B

    when asked I just say ‘pick a place’ – Navy brat, and retired Navy – drives my wife nuts though, and she’s an Army brat

  • James

    Very interesting article. I’m surprised that people seem to be put off by the “where are you from” question. I always liked being asked that question because I loved seeing people’s reactions when I went through “the list” of where we had lived.

  • Candy

    I was an Air Force “Brat”. I guess I must be unusual because I was never confused by that question. If I was asked I was say I was a Air Force brat and had lived in many places. I more commonly heard “Where were you born?”, which was Texas although I was 6 months old when I left and have never been back. Now that I am older, the question rarely comes up but if asked I say I consider where I am home as I have lived here longer than any other place in my life.

  • Kristy

    I’m not sure that I understand why the author is making a big deal out of the “where are you from” question. I never felt awkward or sensitive answering that question, regardless of where my dad was stationed. I just answered, “I’m an Army Brat, so everywhere and nowhere.” I have a hard time believing that there are lots of military kids who feel put off by the question, or people’s reactions. We don’t need more folks trying to be PC in this world.

  • Devyn

    Oh gosh, I can’t tell you how annoying that question is, as an Air Force brat. I was born in florida, moved it Japan, moved to california, moved back to japan, then back to florida, and as soon as I explain this and that my dad is Air Force, I get the ignorant comments and questions “Were all your friends Japanese?!” “OH, say something in Japanese!” “Do you speak Japanese?!” -__- NO! I don’t. What part of military did you miss? I lived on a base – with ALL THE OTHER MILITARY MEMBERS STATIONED THERE. It’s truly annoying.

  • Holly S.

    I’m confused as to why anyone would be in the least bit offended at being asked where they’re from. It’s a bog-standard get-to-know-you question, and there’s no need for hints as to how to ask, what to say, etc. I’m an Air Force brat who lived all over the US while Dad was on active duty, and I now live in England. Since I clearly don’t sound English, but I also don’t have an identifiable regional American accent, I’m always getting asked where I’m from. Standard answer: America. If that’s not specific enough, I just say my Dad was military, and that invariably does the trick. I’m with Kristy on this one. Get over it, people – it’s just a polite question.

  • Elena

    I’m not offended by the question, but I’m always caught off guard. You’d think by now I’d have an answer ready but I just don’t. The concept of being “from” somewhere is foreign to me.

  • Irma

    No Coast Guard?????????/

  • Paul

    I was raised in suburbia, but now live in rural America. Here, when someone asks “Where are you from?” the answer is often “I’m not from around her, I’m from ___” and they’ll name a one stoplight village less than 20 miles away.

  • Carol O.

    My kids and I all have the same hesitation. We don’t identify with “place” as much as family. It is hard to know what to say and although it is not “offensive” to me (or my kids) it is sometimes awkward. The author has it right on. However, I do not think the public needs educating as much as we need to prepare our kids for these situations. It does not matter which answer you decide is most comfortable, it is just necessary to have an answer. Help your kids decide which answer is the best fit for them and practice it. Then they will be prepared and not upset, irritated, confused or put out by it.

  • Stefanie D.

    Dr. Dreadful,
    I like your question. It’s thoughtful in a way that considers our daily activities & wide-ranging experiences as individuals even in our own unique group.
    My own family is Cajun and I spoke with a cute lil Cajun accent as a tot. At 12 years old my family moved from Little Rock Air Force Base to Okinawa, Japan. I was suddenly the racial minority as a Caucasian & developed somewhat of a complex. Everyone else had such cool & interesting ethnic parents: Japanese, Filipino/-a, Thai, Korean, German, French, Samoan, Hawaiian (the true difference), & on & on…
    This kind of diversity at our Dept. Of Defense School on base (where the standard language spoken was English) also brought with it a wide variety of linguistic accents being heard from every corner of every hall & classroom. It was awesome! There were even dialect differences between students who shared primary ethnicity. If you cared enough to notice or were intrigued to care, it was the greatest experience you could offer a young mind.
    My own accent now? I took it all in & let them out at different times & different moods, in different settings. I have such a vast expressive palette at my disposal if only through linguistics.
    I have a speech pattern that no one has ever been able to nail down with certainty (afterall, how could they?), but frequently ask about it. I’m asked if I’m from up north, down south, Canada, Australia, even once asked if I was an ESL speaker from Asia after a few drinks on holiday, haha.
    It has also allowed me an amazing ability to “mimic” – or maybe it’s true acquisition – of very native speech intonation, accents, and even behavior patterns when I am learning new languages. Among the countless others, experiencing language diversity is still easily one of my very favorite military-brat lifestyle benefits that I consider a gift to have been given to me.

    (sorry for minimal editing, on the go!)

  • Jenne

    The problem I always had with being asked where I was from was that people where not willing to accept the answer. They wanted to decide for me that I was from Mississippi (where I was born, although I only lived there for a few months) or New Jersey (where my dad was from.) They wanted to impose their sense of being “from” somewhere on me, but I don’t have the points of reference that people have when they are “from” somewhere. I now say “APO AE/NY” or simply “everywhere.” I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything, but I also know that the only people who understand it are my fellow brats.
    As for accents, mine is a very bland middle-American accent with surprising bits of flava added from the various places I’ve lived and people I’ve known. I can mimic a wide variety of accents very easily and I can understand English spoken with a heavy accent.

  • julie

    @ Christopher Rose, you are entitled to your opinion as to what is and is not important, and your freedom to voice that opinion was provided by the sacrifice of a veteran. Also remember that the campaigns of our military in America are decided by our government, not by our service members, so whether you agree or not, please do not cut down the men and women who protect the freedoms we enjoy….

  • Jordan Richardson

    Julie, how specifically is the military protecting your freedoms currently? What freedoms are under attack?

    I’ve always been curious about this.

  • julie

    I’m talking about our basic constitutional freedoms. The fact that people fought and died for those rights cannot be discredited. Neither can the fact that our military continues to protect those by presence alone. Why does any country have a military? To stand for, and protect what they value. I’m not specifically referring to our current “war”, but as an American I feel better knowing that we have the ability to kick ass when we need to. Not sure what country you are from, but I’m sure you have a military of some degree, doing exactly what American service men and women do.

  • “I’m talking about our basic constitutional freedoms.”

    who is “our”? Christopher doesn’t live in the U.S. And why do so many people who support the military think they can tell others how to use the freedom they are allegedly fighting for? Seems like a bit of a contradiction.

  • Jordan Richardson

    “By presence alone?” What does that mean?

    I’m Canadian and, yes, we do have a military. But it, like most other military forces on the planet, pales in comparison to yours and what you guys spend on it. And I really don’t see anyone barking at your door to take away your constitutional freedoms. What I see instead is a series of endless wars against a nebulous enemy (one that would probably leave you alone if only you left it alone) and an aggressive search for secure resources and other “American interests.”

    It seems to me that all of the military spending and politicizing has made your country’s citizens less free with every passing billion spent.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Julie, if you find the time, this is a good article on the subject that speaks to what today’s military is really protecting most of the time. The article, as you can see, was written by a Navy veteran.

  • julie

    I was answering a question, when I stated that I was talking about “our” rights, as in what’s outlined in the Constitution.You obviously enjoy your freedom as I do, I have never once stated how you or anyone else should use their freedom, that’s the beauty of having it. Being able to choose what to stand for or what not to stand for. Having said that, historically speaking people have used force to sustain the way of life, in every country. This is a personal issue for me since I am a military wife, with children, which is why I read the blog in the first place. When I directed my point to Christopher I was aware that he lives in the UK, placing an unimportant title on what my husband or any service member in any country does, was insulting. So naturally I voiced my opinion, just as you and every respondent on this page has. I have no hard feelings toward him, it anyone else, use your freedom as you see fit

  • julie

    Jordan, you bring up a good point about the cost of war, most people see it in the billions of dollars, hell, that’s the logical way, but living through it, the cost is different for me. I personally wish all our men and women would come home tomorrow, but it is not up to me or you. It’s funny however that we should not feel threatened in the US, considering we were attacked on our own soil, how can it be said that we should not take every measure to make sure it never happens again?

  • Jordan Richardson

    The question there, Julie, is when are you safe enough? You can take every measure to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, like what happened when Japanese people were rounded up in internment camps in 1942, but doesn’t that erode your freedoms by an unacceptable degree?

    Just like now, part of “protecting” yourselves from attacks includes invasive checks at airports and borders, racial profiling, locking up American citizens and others without charges, etc. Is that a fair trade-off for the illusion of safety? I don’t think it is, but, of course, you’re “free” to disagree.

    And none of this is a knock on the sacrifices made by your husband or anyone else in the military. It’s a knock on the policies and constructs that got us here to begin with and a knock on the idea that we ought to live our lives ensuring that every possible precaution is taken so that we can think we’re safe.

  • julie

    Per American Interests, I believe you refer to the few, not to the masses, am I correct? We need an overhaul to get back to the roots of democracy, there is no question about that. Everything in the world is powered by greed, not just in America.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Julie, I agree with #31. I do struggle to come up with another modern nation quite so active in invading other countries, though.

  • julie

    I’ve enjoyed our banter Jordan! Thanks for indulging me! One last thing, I personally think it sucks that we are brought to that level, ie airport security, or fear of other races/cultures, but its not up to me to decide….we as a human race have to get our priorities straight. Have a good night or day, depending where you are.

  • Jordan Richardson

    You too, Julie. It’s nice to have a civil discussion online. Have a good one.

  • julie

    BTW, I’m a democrat, the Iraq invasion was republican revenge in my opinion…..lol

  • “I have never once stated how you or anyone else should use their freedom”

    Then what is “do not cut down the men and women who protect the freedoms we enjoy” other than stating how he should not use his freedom of speech, regardless of how polite your request?

    And I understand why you made it, but freedom of speech is not just for the things we like to hear.

  • Julie, I think maybe you are misunderstanding what I said. My actual words were “There is only a small proportion of what the American military does that is actually “important”. Most of it is some combination of delusional, misguided or naive…”

    You said “Also remember that the campaigns of our military in America are decided by our government, not by our service members, so whether you agree or not, please do not cut down the men and women who protect the freedoms we enjoy….”

    My comment was addressed to the campaigns that the US military has been involved in, so I fail to see how I could possibly have been said to “cut down the men and women” of the US military.

    You also said “you are entitled to your opinion as to what is and is not important, and your freedom to voice that opinion was provided by the sacrifice of a veteran”. This is certainly debatable at the very least.

    If you are referring to the second World War, the USA entered it very late and was very close to deciding to support Germany and was basically paid to get involved. Not a huge amount of commitment to freedom there.

    If you are referring to any other military action since then, almost every single one has been a clear waste of lives and money that has done nothing to make the world a safer place whilst at the same time destroying many of the freedoms upon which the USA’s reputation and self image were based.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Chris –

    My comment was addressed to the campaigns that the US military has been involved in, so I fail to see how I could possibly have been said to “cut down the men and women” of the US military.

    Perhaps it wasn’t your intention to ‘cut down the men and women’ of the military, but you showed your ignorance by implying that most of what we do is to be involved in campaigns. With the exception of the sheer idiocy of the Iraq war (and the good-intentions-gone-bad of the Afghanistan war (because of the Iraq war)), the majority of modern military is NOT involved in campaigns. MOST of what the military is supposed to do is PREVENT campaigns…which is why the Cold War never turned HOT. There’s a whole slew of nuclear subs out there that have done ZERO campaigning at all…and the same goes for our troops in Korea, in Germany, and in dozens of other places around the globe.

    In fact, Chris, if you’ll think about it, exactly when has the military gone on stupid campaigns except at the behest of a stupid commander in chief? That’s why the wielder of the sword is always to blame…and not the sword itself.

  • I think, as usual, you are playing mind games with yourself, Glenn.

    A military presence anywhere carries with it the underlying threat of going from a mere presence to an active campaign at any time.

    A great example is Iran, which is almost completely surrounded by US military bases, which is probably fuelling its drive for nuclear weapons as much if not more than any expansionist or hostile intentions it may have.

  • kris

    Interesting that “Where are you from” stirs up so much in people. As an AF wife, I now answer with the polite, “We’re an AF family; we’ve lived in many places.” Some people let it go, others ask more questions. I enjoy answering as it gives civilians some insight on the military life. As for kids, I think it’s a parent’s job to teach them how to deal with this. In our family, we think of Tampa as home. We know we will retire from the AF in that area, we visit often, we have family there. One son was born there while we had the pleasure of being stationed “at home.” My husband and I met, fell in love and married in the area. My kids think of home as Tampa even though they’ve spent more time outside the US. I have taught them to answer as I do: We are a military family so I’ve lived all over. Most people who ask are just trying to strike up conversation. I got used to this when I first moved to Florida, as so many people there are not originally from Florida.

    I really do not see a reason to take offense to the question of “Where are you from?” Really, do you not have the patience to speak to someone? If you’ve been asked before, haven’t you thought to come up with a prepared answer just for that occasion? Why would we look upon the questioner as inconvenient, rude, annoying? It’s a normal way to start conversation. Being military doesn’t change it. Think of the child (as my husband was) who lived in many places growing up just because that’s how his parents lived? Or a friend I had in middle school whose father was in sales and moved frequently with his civilian company?

    I hope this article opened the eyes of parents and children who have not been able to deal with this question. For me, it was a reminder to keep talking with my kids and make sure they are prepared each time they meet someone new.

  • Tanya R

    As a military child and the mother of military children, I appreciate this article. My standard answer is always, “I was born in Minnesota, but I am from everywhere.”

  • Brett

    Let’s be honest, if you’re a child of any age (excluding children who can barely talk) or background (military or not) and you don’t know how to answer, “where are you from,” you really shouldn’t be out in the public (due to public safety issues).
    And if you don’t catch what I’m hinting at here: I’m called you mentally retarded.

    also if you get mad at a question or questioner then you’re a moron, plain and simple… and let’s just say, I’ve said everything as kindly as possible.

  • Stefanie D.

    I’m disappointed that this thoughtful editorial was shifted to the discussion of the U.S. military’s purpose or intent as others see it.
    I thought this was a wonderful article about a secular group of children and adolescence who are not always acknowledged as being incredibly unique through lifestyle and having a wealth of experience to offer their own peers.
    I hope, despite each person’s individual ideas about government, politics, or the military, that they will read this and come away with a sincere appreciation. Whether it was an appreciation for the experience offered to these dependent youths or an appreciation for the fact that those military members whose job/career you may or may not agree with (and that’s ok!) were our parents, and that job/career was how they were providing for their children. Providing on a larger scale than simply fiscal responsibilities, they offered us a worldview so few American children even know it is reasonable to dream of, and we lived day to day experiencing how others lived outside of the confines our borders – not watching biased media or antiquated history books.
    My own father joined the Air Force because he refused to raise his children in the racial confines of South Louisiana. Having never been farther from home than New Orleans (approx. 60mi away), he just knew there was more and it was better than this accepted racism that went unchallenged. He wanted bigger and better things for himself and most importantly for his daughter, another one to follow in just few short years.

  • Judy

    Great article. Every time someone asks me this question, I actually get a little excited. I usually say I’m from Germany because my dad spent two tours there totaling nine years of my childhood, but people tend to look at me like I’m crazy when I say that because I think they’re asking me because I’m half Korean. Either way, I love sharing my experiences as an Army brat, and my parents always taught me to be proud of the experiences we got to have living in a foreign country and being from a bicultural family that most American children will never truly experience since most Americans never leave the United States in their lifetimes. I’m proud of my military upbringing, and now that I’m married to a soldier, I hope I’m able to pass that pride down to our future Army brats!

  • Jordan Richardson

    I’m disappointed that this thoughtful editorial was shifted to the discussion of the U.S. military’s purpose or intent as others see it.

    That’s the way things typically go here, Stefanie. I don’t think the discussion in any way diminishes Diana’s wonderful piece.

  • Rootless Cosmopolitan

    I do one of two things – if I’m in a small setting I ask if they want the long or the short answer. In a larger setting I just shrug and say I’m a Rootless Cosmopolitan.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Chris –

    A military presence anywhere carries with it the underlying threat of going from a mere presence to an active campaign at any time. A great example is Iran, which is almost completely surrounded by US military bases, which is probably fuelling its drive for nuclear weapons as much if not more than any expansionist or hostile intentions it may have.

    If you knew half as much about the Middle East as you think you know, you’d know that the REASON behind Iran’s nuclear ambitions isn’t America or Israel…but Pakistan. Iran (and now Iraq, thanks to Bush) are Shi’a, and the rest of the major Muslim nations in the world are Sunni, and while the ones in charge of each really don’t like us or Israel, they HATE each other. The Sunni/Shi’a schism is much like the old Catholic/protestant schism, but it’s a much deeper schism than the one that divided mainstream ‘Christianity’.

    Chris, America and Israel are the excuse, but Pakistan is the reason…because Iran knows that just as Pakistani national hero A.Q. Khan (perhaps the most important person in the development of their bomb) was able to send technology to North Korea, it’s every bit as likely that the Pakistani government is (or has already) sent nuclear technology to the other Sunni nations…and Iran hates and fears the other Sunni nations much more than they do us.

    Next time, Chris, stick to things you know about, ’cause a little knowledge is a dangerous thing – it makes you think you know more than you actually do. That kind of ignorance is what drove Bush to send us into Iraq…and was demonstrated when a group of Muslim scholars went to go see him. They spoke to him about the Sunni/Shi’a schism, and his reply went something like, “Sunni and Shi’a? Doesn’t matter – they’re all Muslim!”

    He didn’t know. Worse, he didn’t know why it was important that he should know…and never learned as a result. That’s the danger of a little knowledge, Chris – and you’re showing it by your comment that it’s somehow OUR military that’s driving Iran to develop nukes.

  • Glenn, as you actually know fuck all about fuck all, please don’t tell me what to say, do or think.

    Any time I want advice on how to do anything, the last person I’d ask is some online nitwit who believes in miracles and thinks that having come up with a theory based on faulty reasoning and no data might be right because some actual scientists did some actual work that is still just one of many possible explanations makes him scientifically competent.

    In other words, take your condescension, your ignorance and your overwhelming conceit and sit on it.

  • Glenn, it’s precisely such comments as your #47 above which makes you unbearable and total waste of time, and that’s regardless where the truth lies or whether you’re right on this particular point.

    I really can’t imagine you having any decent relationship with anyone (excepting those of course who feel they’re dependent on your “largesse,” God help them) if your’re even nearly as obnoxious and Mr. Know-it-All in person as you happen to be online.

    I really find it amazing that you’ve been tolerated on this site for as long as you have and taken even half-way seriously. It speaks volumes for the other participants, just as it speaks volumes about you.

    What in the hell is wrong with you?

    And no, I’m not giving you any frickin’ advise, am just at my wit’s end that people such as you still exist.

  • Jessica

    I am an Air force brat. I was always jealous that I never got stationed outside the country. I was however, stationed all over the united states.

    As a result I don’t understand most family dynamics. I rarely saw my family outside my parents and brother.

    Keeping friends were not a priority as people come and go and that was it.

    As a result I totally don’t understand my husband’s family and his disappointment in his high school friends drifting apart.

    It is not always a bad thing. I don’t feel the ting from not doing as his family expects of us because I never had that pressure.

    I have convinced him to move with me to an ideal location instead of staying where he was born. When we got together he only ever lived in the same area all his life.

    There are some advantages and some disadvantages to the life I have. I am grateful for the opportunity and the freedom I feel. I look back at my cousins still living where my parents were from. I am glad I have my well traveled experiences and to have gotten out of that tiny town in Texas.

  • Roger, it’s precisely such comments as your #49 above which makes you unbearable and total waste of time, and that’s regardless where the truth lies or whether you’re right on this particular point.

  • With regard to Chris’s comment about the futility of most US overseas military operations, and the subsequent argument: aside from not being American, Chris is, IIRC, also a military veteran himself.

  • Sure, El Bicho. Can’t you do better, though, than mimic me?

    Use your imagination, man. Speak with your own voice.

  • Deniz

    The thing that upsets me the most is when I tell people “I’m not really from anywhere” they seem really confused then ask me where I was born I tell them “Germany” they they try and tell me that I’m German and from Germany

  • IanC

    As a military brat I really enjoyed this article. It’s not that we get offended or put off by the question it’s just always a situational thought process for us. ‘Do they want to really know the whole list? Am I in the mood to try to explain? Am I going to get the 20 (usually dumb) questions?’ ‘Oh you’re German!’ sigh… A lot of people just can’t wrap their minds around the fact that being born oversees to American parents still makes you American. My folks are both retired Air Force and now teach for DoDDs on a Navy base in Japan. When people find out then I’m Japanese. ‘Do I look Japanese?’ (Not at all by the by.) I can say that I do agree with another poster though, I do think military kids abroad do grow up with a different set of core values than their hometown raised counterparts. Especially those whose parents chose to live off-base. And to answer Dr.’s question, yes we do pick up bits of dialect and especially terms and expressions. Drives my wife nuts when I tell her we have to stop for petrol or a random ‘u’ with find it’s way into my spelling of colour. It’s not something most of us even notice until it’s pointed out.

  • Aimee

    While I’m not a military brat, I moved frequently due to my father’s work and later my own. I used to struggle with the question, but now I just try to read the situation. Do they mean where I was born, grew up, lived the longest, lived last, went to school, currently live or where my parents currently live? All of which are different. Or maybe I’ve just told a story involving a location and they only mean to ask to where am I referring. They’ve lived their whole life in the same town, and don’t get it, not their fault. I never expended much thought on it. It wasn’t until reading this article though that I realized: I don’t ask where someone is “from” but where they live, entirely without realizing, because “from” is a transient state for me, not a permanent connection.

  • Stefanie D.

    Jordan Richardson,
    Thanks for the info. I’m obviously new here. I was referred with a different explanation of the forum/comment expectation, but I’ll stick around and feel it out. 🙂
    Thanks again for the heads up.

  • Macie

    My parents are not in the military, but I have moved around just as often, and have had the same response to the general question of where I am from. I normally answer depending on the context of the questioner. It’s good to know I am not alone in growing up somewhat a nomad.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I hope you do stick around, Stefanie. This place could use some new blood. 🙂

  • Laurie

    At first it was annoying.
    Next it was a game.
    Now I just say, “My FAMILY is from Pittsburgh”
    And people still say, do you kow …
    To which I then say, I was not born or raised here.
    Next: Deer in Highlights look!
    Solution: found a job with a Defense Contractor where everyone can’t answer the question 🙂

  • Islandgurl

    I was an Army Brat. I was born in Hawaii and traveled back that way whenever my dad was oversea. So I would just tell people I was from Hawaii whenever someone ask. Basically my whole family on both my parents side were all living in Hawaii during the time we were in the Army. My dad may have retired over 20 years ago and although we stayed where he was last stationed at, til this day I still tell people I’m from Hawaii.

  • inSANEmom

    As an Air Force Brat myself (and now an Army wife and mom to 2 Army Brats), I never was bothered by the question and wore the answer as a kind of badge of honor… so I’m a bit surprised/confused at the number of responses by people in the article who “cringe” at the question or are irritated by it.

    Just answer the question with, “I’m from a military family and we moved around a lot.” Add more if it applies like… my favorite place was… or I was born in… or my family considers itself from…

    If the person wants to know more, they will ask. It’s not rude or insensitive… they just want to get to know you.

    I am sure that the vast majority of these kids wouldn’t trade their experiences for the ability to say, “I’m from Omaha” just because it’s “easier.”

  • Jessica

    I was born in East Tx but spent most of my life living in a military town. I’m not military but having moved a lot as a child I get the distaste for that question. Once I answered “my mothers stomach” since technically that is where I started out at. The question I really hate is “which parent is military”. I know the “face” they talk about because of that question which is usually asked by a military kid. They look as if I’m speaking another language when I say neither parent is military, my mom is a teacher. I once asked a girl if she really thought nobody but the military ever moved to take a job or because of a job. The only thing that shocks me about the multi answer list is that they hardly ever see anything. I know people who have lived just minuets from some amazing things but never bothered to go see them. Which is why my sister and I who have lived in Texas all our lives are more cultured then a lot of the military kids who have lived all over the world.

  • Susan Russell

    I looked this article because it very closely parallels my life. When people hear my response, they usually think I am a military brat. My father worked mine construction, and we moved every one/two/three years. To add to that, my parents were divorced and they both moved. I once calculated that I averaged a different school for every grade. Military brats are not the only ones who give the deer in the headlights look. I have finally picked the place that I spent the longest in to use as the short answer otherwise I just say I am from the West.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Kudos to Laurie!

  • lisa

    As an air force brat I can honestly say that your comment sugar coats the situation. Military children are not given any say in when or where their parents are posted, they are thrown back and forth between school systems, they are forever “The new kid”. I went to 3 elementary schools, a middle school and 2 high schools in three different countries. Although this may have exposed me to different cultures etc the far more prevalent consequences included depression, separation anxiety, difficulty maintaining relationships, and profound fear of abandonment and rejection. Being a military child is an unimaginable struggle. Being a military child robs you of the childhood innocence and stability children should have. You are exposed to unimaginable circumstances involving death, war and the politics around it. There is no “childhood innocence” when you are a base brat. Your mom or your dad has a big gun and goes to work in combat gear and children are not stupid, we know the realities of what are parents do and the consequences that may have.

    Basically, being a military brat is not some kind of fantastic opportunity for growth and health and appreciation of the world. Being a military brat hurts, it robs you of your childhood, and it causes damage that cannot be repaired. I realize that the military is necessary but don’t kid yourself when it comes to the effects it has on your kids.

    • Lori in Lakewood

      Lisa, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. I see soooo many on differing brats sites with these (albeit nice) looking in the review mirror through rose colored glasses view. I had positive experiences also but acknowledge the realities too. Always made me feel bad because I didn’t have that lovely Kum- By- A experience everybody else had and I KNOW I was stationed at the same places as the others were. I lost track at about 20 schools and then went to 2 highschools myself. Always being the new kid on the block and “has your mom killed anybody yet ?” were some of the worst parts of BRATdom. Hang in there. It does get better. Eventually

  • Michelle

    I am an Air Force brat, and currently in my 13th year on active duty in the Coast Guard. I always feel defeated when I answer the “where are you from” question because I always answer it with a long drawn out story that leaves the questioner overwhelmed! However, I didn’t really start getting this question until I was an adult because when you grow up on military bases, in military schools, no one asks you this question. We are our own breed, separated from what is considered “normal” because our best friends are our siblings, and we graduate class of 38. If you were lucky enough to graduate stateside, then you get the enjoyment of a 20 year high school reunion. But for those who are products of DODDS, well, we don’t have that privelege. I don’t regret any of it for a moment, but it would be nice if the “normal” folks recognized our differences.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    lisa –

    I’m not a military brat…but I am retired Navy, and my sons know the issues first-hand as well. Furthermore, most of my friends are retired Navy as well, and I know their kids very well, too – and most of their kids have turned out quite well, thank you very much!

    And you know what? While there are significant downsides to being a military brat, there’s significant UPsides, too. Of course that’s not what a lot of people on this thread want to hear, but it’s the truth.

    For instance, a military brat is FAR less likely (it still happens, but is FAR less common) to have one or both parents abuse drugs. A military brat is often exposed to many more cultures and ethnicities than most kids are (and are usually significantly less-prejudiced as a result). A military brat below the age of 22 – as long as his or her parent is on active duty (or retired like me) – has good quality health care on demand, for free. Military brats have at least parent who is given training on every safety topic on the planet – and yes, this has a very real benefit to the home!

    And let’s not forget that every military brat whose parent served in a supervisory position has a parent who received at least some (and often quite a bit) of training on how to counsel and supervise…and again, this has more of a beneficial effect than you might think, since such training forces us military supervisors to learn about ourselves, too.

    YES, lisa, there’s very real challenges that face military brats – but there are very real benefits as well, benefits that are not readily found in the civilian world.

    One last thing – as I said, I was not a military brat, but I grew up without a dad at all from the age of two…and there’s millions of non-military-brats out there who are in the same boat. Problem is, all the non-military-brats who don’t have both parents around (since half of all marriages fail) do NOT have the luxury – I repeat, luxury – of being able to say, “My mommy/daddy isn’t home for me, but I’m very proud of her/him because she/he’s serving our country, and she/he loves me and will be coming home to me soon.”

    Sometimes they don’t come home…but more than 99% do!

    So don’t give me a song and dance about how terrible life is for military brats. There’s downsides, yes, but if you’ve the courage to see the BIG picture, you can see there’s very real benefits, too.

  • Stefanie D.

    “Being a military brat hurts, it robs you of your childhood, and it causes damage that cannot be repaired.” -lisa

    Wow, Lisa. The household and environment you grew up in does sound quite damaging. As a military brat myself (and now a spouse), I don’t know anyone from the 5 schools (in various countries, as well) that I attended who would describe such an emotional devastation at the hands of their parents’ employment or career choice. I say this because we were stationed at a couple joint bases, so we went to school with kids whose parents served in all branches of the military, children of embassy representatives as well as the DoDDS employees children. I count the teachers kids among us, as military brats, hehe. 😉
    I wonder, were your parents aware of this anxiety, depression, or other turmoil you were experiencing &/or the emotional upheaval you describe experiencing?
    I know that my parents were always very involved in our transitions and we were never left to resolve our issues on our own, nor were we thought to be naive to the “bad things” happening in the world. My mom especially was always very upbeat and positive when I started at a new school and with hindsight I know now that she was INCREDIBLE at picking up those new names that seemed so important to me from day 1 at the new school. I was allowed sleepovers to connect with people and also to attend them. We were involved in youth activities. She and my Dad were never ignorant of our situation and always took an active role in assisting when they could but as an adult I can appreciate they were, most importantly, staying aware of just how we were coping – because they had been involved before, during, AND after. It would have been easy to see changes.
    I knew where and what my Dad was going to do (when it was appropriate) and we discussed these things at a level appropriate for my age and understanding. Despite his involvements with special forces, there was still plenty of opportunity to include me in what took him away for those weeks and months. This allowed me to feel pride in what he was doing while away and still does to this day.
    There is a wealth of counseling services – specific to the needs of military families – provided for parents and children of all ages offered through the base.
    I feel incredibly sorry for you if you were having all of the trouble you describe for all of those years, preventing you from achieving those developmental milestones that can lead to collateral damages like the depression and anxiety you spoke about. Why other adults, like teachers or coaches, did not reach out to your parents, I can’t imagine. If they did, I find it very unfortunate that your parents wouldn’t seek out help for you at that time or if the problem was truly that severe – consider a medical waiver to relocate for concurrent tours – these are done quite often for a multitude of reasons, not exclusive to emotional adjustment.
    I think it’s safe to say, no matter what career field your parent is in, there will be some opportunity for maladjustment or incomplete emotional development. The reliance on these childhood factors appears as an outlet to relinquish the longterm responsibility we have to ourselves (with whatever our haunts us) to … quite frankly: accept that it happened to you, you can’t and won’t change it, so dwell in sorrow, or move the hell on.
    Again, your story is such an enigma by comparison to all of the friends (& family) I knew growing up as a military brat. Still today I keep in touch with the majority of my friends from all over the world – with thanks to the marvels of technology, haha – and I can’t think of a single person who describes anything similar to what you do when we speak about our childhoods. I would guesstimate that upwards of 80-90% of my friends from middle & highschool (in Okinawa, Japan) either enlisted or commissioned to carry on the same lifestyle we grew up in.

  • Dena B.

    I really liked this posting, because it is SO right on. I am not a military brat, although most people assume I am when I get that deer-in-the-headlights look when asked where I am from. My parents were missionaries in the Philippines, and, until very recently, I hadn’t lived in the same town, let alone the same house for more than a few years at a time. Heck, I still feel the need to change up SOMETHING every couple of years or so. It drives my husband to distraction to find a room in the house entirely rearranged because I’ve gotten that “itch”.

    When asked this question, I usually answer that I lived in the Philippines for most of the first half of my life, but now live in Marietta, Georgia in the US. I then explain that no, I’m not a military brat, I’m a missionary kid. 🙂 I used to dread this question, but now that I’ve been in one place for a while, it feels easier to answer.

    I would agree that kids who have lived in more than one place, especially in more than one country, DO tend to have a much greater tendency to pay attention to world news, and are often able to identify and analyze trends that most people their age can’t. This is a bit more apparent in younger kids, but the gap is often still there even as people age.

    I would also like to say that, as someone who has lived in another culture, it most definitely is easier for me to understand people’s languages, even when they aren’t technically one that I know. I can hear the rhythms and the cadences that identify language in a lot of cases, and that definitely helps with understanding, even when they are speaking heavily-accented English. I also do tend to have a very chameleon-like ability to pick up regional accents and usages to be able to fit in very quickly with my surroundings. It has even gotten me in trouble more than once… 🙂

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dena –

    Well said. I have a house in the Philippines and my youngest son will be graduating from high school in March. He’s said that as poor as the construction of schools is there compared to here in the states, he prefers it there because he doesn’t have to worry about kids carrying guns to school, drugs aren’t as big a problem, and there’s much less bullying than he saw here.

    Living in different cultures does broaden one’s perspective – in children as well as in adults.

  • ‘Where are you from?’ is a very informative and useful question for civilians, much more so than ‘where do you live.’ Where a person is from has a lot to do with their perception of the world, culture and life experience. If I ask that question, then it means I’m on good terms with the person, curious about them and want to get to know them. If I know they’re a military brat, then I won’t ask that question, but otherwise, I’m not gonna fall all over myself to apologize for asking it. If it’s something they don’t want to talk about, then I’ll sense that as a listener and change the subject, just like I would for any other distasteful subject.

    It is unfortunate that the ‘where are you from’ question poses problems for military kids, but it’s the way the world is. There’s no need to be snarky to someone asking a reasonable question when they don’t know your background.

  • AirforceBrat

    I find it surprising that so many people are shocked by other’s having trouble answering this question. It clearly is a complex answer, and everyone will answer in different ways. As a militarybrat, I find that besides not feeling like telling my list each time, I can have trouble figuring out what the person actually wants to know. Some different answers are needed when a person bases “from” off a mailing address (mine was forwarded from ontario while I lived in germany and attended school in NS), others are actually looking for a birthplace, some are looking for where your family lives…etc. I have been stumped several times. I used to just list the last place I had moved from, but now I just picked one that I liked, and I go with it. When I told people I was “from”(born in) Germany, I was called a Nazi. It made me not inclined to discuss it with other kids, and I was too young to realize it didn’t matter what they thought.

    Additionally, I can believe the bicker that was started on here about the use and importance of military, what an innapropriate forum, kind of irrelevant to the topic.

    And finally, there is also a debate on how people can be affected negatively by being moved every few years, have few long term attachments, and having their parents often gone away for long term. As if having health care makes a kid feel better about repeatedly leaving their friends. It is not the worst case senario, but different people react differently to situations, and military life can definately be stressful and cause a lot of problems in growing children. It happens outside of the military, and plenty of kids in worse situations may turn out fine. Regardless of how other people deal with their personal situation, it may be very hard on a child living as a military brat.
    And that is all folk, interesting article, nice to see others sharing the experience!

  • Dennis Barrett

    Spent time in the air force and I know several “brats” which term I’ve always frowned on. When I’ve first met them I’ve always been interested in various places they’ve lived and their experiences. I always ask what their favorites were and why. Myself, I was raised in the midwest, but have many people try to figure out my accent. A friend once told me I have a perfect east Texas dialect. He’s from West Louisiana so I’ll defer to his expertise on this point. I still catch myself swearing in German and Greek at times. On Crete, my sergeant’s daughter spoke English, French, Italian, a Blackfoot dialect, Greek and German. She could switch language in the middle of a sentence. At three years old, I’d ask to borrow her as my interpreter when I had to run into town as I was just starting to pick up the language. (she was also so stinking charming, she was a perfect “babe magnet” and landed me many an introduction) The diversity of experiences is something to be proud of. Some I’ve met are touchy about it; don’t be; you’ve had experiences that most people would envy.

  • Diane Kokko

    Oh man, “That face” never stops! I lived in Stuttgart and graduated from Patch in ’01. Whenever people ask me where I’m “from”, I’ll give them options – the whole list, born, lived longest consecutively, lived repeatedly, now, before now, high schools, liked the most, etc.

    My parents were both in the military (Dad – USMC, Mom – USN) and even they are from different states. They met in the Hampton Roads area of VA in the 70’s, Dad proposed while deployed in the Indian Ocean via letter, married in NY, then immediately moved to GA. I was born 3 years later in Hawaii, then it was off to our next destination. My younger brother was born in Rhode Island (now in the USMC himself – sooooo proud). And the rest of the list is longer…

    I feel very privilaged to have been able to move around and visit so many places while growing up. Yes, it was painful, but I cherish those memories. I’m a little saddened that I won’t be able to pass on my nomadic upbringing to my own daughter.


  • Angie, Navy Brat

    Though I am not irritated by the question, I can understand the irritation. I’m a Navy brat, now in the Army. My 7 year old has had 10 homes and 4 elementary schools, and he’s lived in 6 states and 2 countries. I’ve deployed 3 times, so pretty much screwed up his answer to the question too.
    I can understand the irritation because I hate the question, “What’s Iraq like?” Answer: Sandy and hot. You’ll never get the rest.
    When asked where I’m “from,” I generally answer: my Mom’s family is from Ohio, my dad’s family is all over, so I’m homeless. I’ve been everywhere and don’t know where I’ll end up when I get out. If I’m asked where I was born, I get told then I’m from Jacksonville, FL. No, I lived there for only 18 months and haven’t been back. Besides I was born in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, so you know that ones a little iffy anyway. I’m not sure if the ambulance was in Mayport still or Jacksonville.
    I kinda just feel sorry for people who never lived anywhere but just “there.” But sometimes I wish I had a more “normal” childhood.
    I’m glad to know there are more brats out there with the same feelings and experience. It’s not like we really ask each other, “Where are you from?” We ask, “Where’d you JUST come from?” or “Where is your family headed next?” We already understand the rest.

  • I tell people I went from being a Yankee to being a damn Yankee at age 5 when we moved from upstate (Plattsburgh) New York to Shreveport Louisiana. Now I run a guesthouse, bar and grill in Phnom Penh. Moving about has suited me well for this life. I get guest that come in and say they are from Osaka…I went to Expo 70. Threw a few swear words out to some Turkish customers once and they got a laugh. I was fortunate as my parents took us Space A to many places from Japan and Turkey. I claim San Diego as my home town as it was the first place I chose to live on my own and it was the longest I have ever spent anywhere. Now my second choice Phnom Penh is the second longest I have lived anywhere and I now call it home. Wish more brats would come to visit me at California 2!

  • Colleen Williams

    I did not like the question at all. I was born overseas, my Mom is from NJ and my Dad is from CA. I would tell people that I’m not from anywhere…then they’d ask “Well where we’re you born” and when I’d answer, they would assume that I was a foreigner. I asked my Mom what I should say…and she said just ask them where they are from and then say you’re from there too! When I finally moved back the states, as an adult, the police at the German airport didn’t understand how I was American when I was born in Germany. I thought they were going to detain me!

  • Aww, Colleen! A LOT of American kids born overseas get questioned at Passport check. You’re so not alone!

  • Tiffany

    I was once asked at a DOD school where I was from. I answered that my parents were from New York State. I feel very fortunate have grown up in the Air Force-by the time I was 9 years old, I had lived in three different countries. I know that there is more out there than what is in the town I live in now, where there are actually people who go their whole lives without leaving the county.

  • Paul Conatzet

    One of the things I like living in San Antonio is that if you tell people your dad was in the militairy, they understand. Also, some will ask where was your favorite place to live.

  • Nina

    Folks are trying to get to know you. After 5 decades I have a spiel: “My Dad was a career officer in the Air Force. I grew up all over the world.” I’m happy to fill in all the details which they may find interesting or TMI !!! I’ve seen a few eyes glaze over…But at my ivy league college admissions interview I was more than happy to give the full answer. The fact that I was able to excel in high school despite going to 3 schools in 4 years (2 states and 2 countries) and gain acceptance into a professional ballet company in the interim, seemed to impress the admissions officer. I received my acceptance letter within a week!
    (How we choose to answer that question is a reflection of our personal attitude. It ain’t all negative!)

  • Mike

    I graduated at that high school. Moving around with my family was awesome and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I take pride in saying that I’m from everywhere. Who needs a hometown when you have a “Home-earth”. I’ve been to alot of places. It may not be something I should flaunt but I do.

  • Sheri

    Hi everyone What I didn’t know then I know now. My father was in the army as a macanic. He lived in Germany for 2 years.

    My father was very stricked and i’m sorry to say this but it did a lot of damage to me.I was bullied picked on spit on all the above. I’m 29 now and I’m Scared to talk about it. I remember my dad telling me, “don’t tell anyone anything or you’ll end up like marilin monroe and you don’t want that.”

  • Frank Schiffel

    I remember being part of a Boy Scout troop that was put together from members in the military in Japan to the World Jamboree in Japan. When we met American troops from the US, they asked, ‘Where are you from?’ we answered the local base. They didn’t believe us. They had no idea that Americans lived in Japan or that there were military bases there. And they couldn’t get their head around that we were an American Boy Scout troop.

  • Frank Schiffel

    The other thing, is depending on your age, a lot of places you’ve been to no longer have a military base there.


    im a coast guard brat all the way… i hate that question and now that im in college im getting it a lot more. my common answer is Hawaii. where I’m from is where my heart still longs to return to. lived there for a few years then had to move. i still want to go back and its where i felt the most at home and accepted

  • Jon

    After spending a childhood on the go, one learns not to care about the question.


    We had 12 transfers and I went to 16 different schools by the time I was 16. The longest we stayed in one state was actually 4 years I think but in those 4 years between 7th & 10th grade I went to 8 different schools. (I had to repeat 8th grade). Even though my parent was at the same base, he kept moving us to different towns. Not sure why. Four kids, not one graduated but we all did get GED eventually. I find that sometime I get angry, feel sorry for myself (I am in my 50’s now) but on the other hand I do beleive that I learned some very important people skills along the way, was able to see many places and meet many people. I do not blame our moving on our not graduating. We were very capable intelligence wise but for me and my siblings as well, it was always easier to fit in with the “cool” crowd and of course that crowd was the ones that cut school, smoked, etc….Eventually I just did not care anymore. I can say though that my husband thinks we are very strange. I continue to move. I move every 3 years approximately, lol. Two of my brothers are truck drivers and constantly on the road. I think it’s in our blood? I always feel like I can’t find home. I don’t get offended at all when people ask where I am from. I answer “Which year?” or “Pretty much everywhere”. Being AAFES and getting stateside transfers we were not eligible for base housing or schooling. I do think it would have been much easier on us kids and our mother had we had full base priveledges and been around families in the same situation as us. Glad to find this site as I’ve always wondered how everyone else felt.

  • Jason

    At the guy that asked about accents. I am a Air Force Brat, lived all over the country, as well as Germany, England, and Japan. I generally picked up the accents where I was very quickly. I lost them and moved to the next very quickly as well. I think the things that give me away most frequently now that I am a 32 year old adult are dialectic difference. I use words, phrases, and sayings from all over, all said in my normal Midwestern Iowa accent. Have lived here since I was 18, but still get funny looks when I throw a y’all, or a bugger off, or even something as simple as soda in while I speak. In college I took a class in American English Dialect, the professor prided herself in being able to tell where someone was from by asking a few questions. She offered extra credit if anyone could answer her questions honestly and stump her. Let’s just say I got the extra credit.

    As for where I am from, I have taken to just using the small town my parents moved to in Iowa when dad retired. As a younger man and child it never offended me, I was always willing to explain it. That said, when you are growing up, if you live on base no one ask, they just want to know where you were at last. They all have the same story.

    I will say that I hate the people that try to pitty you for moving around so much. I love that I got to see and do so much. I have seen 49 of 50 states (got to get to new Hampshire some time), most of Europe, Egypt, Australia, Japan, Russia, and so many other places I can’t even list. I saw and did more by the time I was 18 than most everyone else in the country will get to do and see in their entire life.

  • Rachel

    My father was in the navy for a few years before college and I love to hear his stories about his time in the submarine where he worked. I love to hear peoples’ stories – so I am the type of person to ask where someone is from. And, if given the answer, “everywhere” I assume military (since my family has a long military history on both my mothers and fathers side). Is it okay to them follow up with a genuine “That sounds fun, what kind of fun places have you been to?” or something similar? Or are military kids not keen on sharing a few stories?

  • NaomiJennings

    I am a pads brat as we are called and agree completely with this article! I dread hearing the question ‘where are you from?’ as I feel like I am from everywhere. For example I British but have lived in britain the least amount of time.. Therefore can I class my self as British? The article is great 🙂

  • Rosanna

    At least you military brats have the excuse of being a military brat. I had lived in new York, Minnesota, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska by the time I was five. My parents just couldn’t stay in one place.

  • Jackiesue Roycroft Denney

    I just tell them I was born and raised in the Air Force..if they want to know more, they can ask..

  • cindi kanipe

    I’m an Army brat. I work with the public. I ‘m frequently asked “where are you from?” I look at them and ask “originally?” That opens the door for explanation.

  • Yvonne

    I was an Air Force brat growing up and I always answer that I grew up all over the world.

  • Army Brat

    Only military brats can relate and understand each other about that question. At one point I said I’m not from anywhere…lol

  • Megan

    Army brat: I just say I’m like a nomad which almost always gets me the face then I tell them my list: Louisiana Alabama Arizona Korea Texas and Maryland. And everyone is always like you lived in North Korea and I’m just like yes I had coffee with Kim Jong un every morning

  • Steve O.

    Wow, sounds like a lot of people had negative experiences. That’s sad.

    My dad was air force. He left active duty when I was fairly young, 5-ish, so my experience may not be as typical. Even after that, we moved a couple times and I had plenty of unpleasant “outsider” experiences, even when we moved back to his home town.

    (It was fun, in my late teen years, watching the neighbors’ faces when mom & dad brought grandma over to the block party… and the mayor practically fell over himself running over to greet her. She’d been a life long member of his political party, starting back when they’d been a small minority in that town :-).

    Still, I don’t recall ever having a negative experience about being asked where I was “from”. People asked, and were interested to hear about my earliest memories: seeing a colorful bird – I think a toucan – at the mainland china zoo, from a foot away; being carried on a taiwanese farmer’s kid’s shoulders across the unbelievable vista of a field full of watermelons as far as my three-year-old-watermelons-are-a-super-special-treat eyes could see; etc.

    Google “third culture kids” for some interesting sociological stuff about this topic. Military brats make up a big chunk of third-culture kids; essentially kids who grow up with sufficient exposure to foreign cultures that they end up constituting a third viewpoint. Viewed positively, bridging the cultures. Negatively, stuck in between them.

    • Steve O.

      I have to say, sometimes I meet military brats who spent more of their childhood growing up outside the US, into their early teens, and I’m envious. They got to really experience more of those countries.

      At the same time, recently I chatted with a seventeen year old who’d returned to the states for the first time, and I’m glad I didn’t have to face transitioning to US high school in my late teens.

    • Steve O.

      On accents; I remember being fairly young, somewhere between 8 and 12, and having fun confounding a carnie who guaranteed to guess where you from based on your accent :-). I think that faded a little as we settled more into mom & dad’s home town.

  • booksforbrats

    we have started a campaign on facebook to ask them recognize our community by providing a ‘brat’ option under the hometown question in the profile. please join our efforts and ‘like’ our page! http://www.facebook.com/MilitaryBratHometown

  • Army Brat and now Army Wife

    I’m and Army Brat, Army Sister and now Army Wife. I was Born in Germany and spent the majority of my childhood there. I first left when I was about 2-3yo and went back when I was 10 left at 15. I loved Germany. growing up and even still today at 38yo I tell people Germany but my family is from GA. I get all those funny looks then simply say Army Brat. I am now BACK in Germany. When my husband got orders my first thought was “I’m going home”. From the moment we landed it’s been comforting and like I never left (Other than having to relearn my German lol) and now I have had my daughter here. And when she grows up I will one cay bring her back here so she can see where she was born.

  • belmboy

    AT LAST! someone has taken the time to explain this to everyone else. I am, and proud to be, an army brat. And I really liked the story about the boy looking confused as I could see myself. I also really enjoyed reading the reply’s to the question. Indeed, I am not from anywhere in particular. I was born in London, lived in England for a few months, then spent most of my younger years in germany, before moving back to the UK as a teenager. I guess, when people ask, where are you from, it pertains to where did you grow up? so I just reply, Germany. I explain that my father was British Army and leave it at that. Until now, I am still moving about all over the world and when I think to my childhood, I am in germany. Something else that people dont understand is. my unusual accent!, I have lived in England, France, Germany, the USA, Canada, Mexico, Philippines, Thailand well, all over the place, and I think we Army brats tend to pick up local accents /dialects very very quickly, some often think we are mocking them, but we are not. We are an odd bunch but we are a Strong knit bunch, I find that army brats will ALWAYS gel and get along with other army brats much faster and easier than civilians as we understand each other without having to say anything.

  • Susannah Martin

    Yeah, being homeschooled, I have much the same reaction to “Where do you go to school?” or “What grade are you in?” (because that last one is actually fairly complicated). I live in Norfolk VA, so it’s pretty much useless to ask most of the kids I know the “Where do you come from?” question because of the large military presence here. Most of them just got here last year and will be gone in a year or two.

  • Anastasia

    Being an Air Force brat, Army wife and now currently serving in the Air Force myself, I LOVED this article 🙂

  • ggggggggggggggggg

    I got called by a school and they asked about where I live and so I told them that I’m currently [here] but in the next 4-ish years I don’t know where I’ll be because I will have probably moved twice by then. They laughed at me. #smh

  • AFbrat5021

    Story of my life haha… I just tell people I’m from England, but California is where my heart is at the moment…. But in reality,a piece of my heart is on every place I’ve ever lived

  • Guest

    My favorite answer:
    ~Where are you from?”
    -“I’m from Japan”
    ~some mixture of disbelief followed by a simple “why?”

    -in a completely serious tone, reply “because I was a model – they love the baby blues in Japan”

    Stops them dead in their tracks (especially since I do not have any resemblance to model looks. Ahaha.

  • beepmachine

    my response always begins with an indescribable contorted facial expression, a pause, and a sort of drawn-out “well…”
    i don’t like lying to people or giving over-simplified answers (“i’m from texas!” no i’m not. i’m not a texan and i never have been.) because people tend to extract information about you from the place you were supposedly raised, and if that information is false, it’ll complicate future interactions with this person.
    so i have to say i was born in germany and i’ve lived in and out of germany and the US my whole life. and then they ask if i’m fluent in german, and depending on my mood i’ll either rattle off the small amount of german i know or just say i know enough to order food. and then there’s an awkward laugh and the conversation ends and i’ll spend a good few minutes wondering what my life would have been if i really was just “from texas”.
    fun stuff.

  • Ryan G Steele

    My dads a marine so I just say im property of the US Marine Corps.

  • Libia M. Castro

    My dad was in the Navy. I tend to just say that I’m from New Orleans because that’s where we lived the longest (if “long” is even a thing). But then it’s never that easy because people hear my mixture of Northern and Hispanic accents (we lived in Washington, I was born in Puerto Rico and my parents are Colombian), so I always end up telling my story…that or I relate to so many people because of where they’re from so they get confused. Unfortunately at that point, it’s not even worth it /:

  • LNCO

    This works for non-military children too! I’ve lived in numerous states, cities, and countries. Just because we enjoy moving and trying new things :). I usually tell people I’m from the place I lived the longest, or the place I lived last. Occasionally, I’ll start with my life story…

  • Jess

    I used to live in Germany and went back to the states for my sister’s college graduation. I was stopped by passport control back in Germany. They started asking me a bunch of questions like “how long are you visiting?” um… I live here. My parents had gone through that same passport control booth right before me but only I was stopped. I had to explain to passport control that my dad was US Air Force and he was stationed in Germany. They didn’t seem to want to believe me. They called over some people to the booth and were whispering to them. By then I was kinda freaking out. If they chose not to let me into the country I had no where to go. My parents were already through and headed toward baggage. Eventually they let me through but after that I always got worried going through passport control.

  • Deborah

    Boy, can I relate. I am one of the last group of Army brats born in France. Everyone’s first question is, “Do you speak French?” Nope, I was six months old when we left. I did, however, have dual citizenship until I turned 18, which was cool. We lived in Memphis, (my dad got out for a few months) New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Georgia, Virginia, South Florida, Germany, and finally, Tennessee, where my dad retired. I’d been in seven different schools by the time I finished second grade. I usually had a new best friend by the end of the first week. My brother was born at White Sands Missile Range, in New Mexico. I must have been 12 years old before I realized patients were actually supposed to pay doctors, that you could see the same one more than once, and they didn’t all wear a uniform. And then what do I do? Marry another Army brat who joined the Air Force. Now, one of my sons just did a hitch in the Navy, and the other is AF, stationed at Lackland, AFB, Texas, where my grandson was born. We did manage to live in Tampa long enough for both boys to be born there. I loved my life. I think I missed out on some things…I didn’t know my grandparents very well and I lost touch with many friends, but I’ve had an interesting life. I recently reconnected with my best friend from high school, another Army brat born in Bad Kanstadt, Germany. It’s been fun relating “war stories” with someone who understands.

  • DH

    Where I’m from? Lots of different places. Where is home? Wherever I am.

  • Aaron Weingartner

    I’ve always just answered the question with where I was born, as that was where I was conceived and birthed and initially started growing up.

  • SilverMama

    As a USAF D/W my response is originally, recently or currently. My husband was in the Air Force, and I’ve had 16 mailing addresses so far. If the individual wants to pursue the discussion, I’m willing to share.

  • Bill Jacobs

    My father was in the Navy in my early childhood and we moved up and down the east coast. He joined the Air Force and almost immediately we went to Japan for my first three years of schooling. Also spent 3 years in Germany where I graduated from high school. And, lived in IL, CA, NM, TX and NC in between. The question “where are you from?” never really bothered me. I enjoyed telling the questioner, “You mean today or last year? Or, where I was born?” I eventually settled down after spending 5 1/2 years in the Navy and stayed put in TX for 35 years. Now, I travel the US full-time in a RV and get asked the question all over again. My answer now, “Home is where I park it!”

  • Frugalmomy

    I say “the Navy.” Even in my 40’s I don’t feel I am “from” one particular place.

  • Nomad and love it

    I still have that question in my life @ 55 a military brat ; serve; and married now retired I have move all my life from east to west north to south.Asia ,Europe Live there…i still get asked where you form ” I learned AM A NOMAD the questions stop..Proud to be military

    • Gayle Long

      I either say I’m a nomad or what year are you talking about

  • swampfred

    I now live in my dad’s hometown, a small town, in south I have great fun with this question:

    “Where’re you from?”
    “Where’s your family from?”
    “When did they move here?”

  • Kerry Haislip Leming

    I usually tell them my parents are from Arkansas. Then they get that strange look on their face. Or I will tell them I don’t like where I’m living and I want to go back home, as soon as I know where that is.

  • Paul W

    I was born in Germany, moved to Texas for 8 years, then moved back to Germany for 13 years, now we are in North Carolina. I say I’m from Germany. 😛

    • Robin

      I say you are too 🙂

  • Simon_in_London

    Is the US military effectively abusing children by moving them & their families around so much that they have no ‘from’ other than the military itself?

    • Shea

      I feel like abusing is a really strong word. The US military isn’t abusing the children or families. I was born in Illinois but lived in Missouri, then moved to Puerto Rico then Utah then Georgia and my parents FINALLY retired in Texas. I would have loved to grow up in one place, but I got to see a majority of the country with the week long road trips from place to place. I feel like the US military gave me an opportunity to see things I wouldn’t have seen by myself.

      • Simon_in_London

        Yes, I’m not sure it’s accurate. But I was thinking more of the children described in the article who are moved all around the world and rarely if ever live in the USA, so that they have no sense of home and little connection to anything other than the military itself.

        • Ahijah Lee Adams

          A a military brat myself as well as raising 3 myself in a military family I can tell you “abused” is not the word. “Priveledged” is more like it. Growing up I saw and did things in multiple countries that no one else outside the military saw. Being from “everywhere” was a bonus as I could see greatness in other countries AND appreciate the contrasts in living. It’s a plus knowing how others in the world live compaired to your current arrangements.

        • Danielle

          That way of thinking implies that there’s something wrong with our experiences, and that living in one place is superior to growing up in several. It’s not. It’s just a different way of living. As another poster said, it’s okay to NOT have a hometown.

    • Katie

      Are non-military parents effectively abusing children by caging them up in one city, or even two, for their whole lives and not encouraging them to explore the world? Do children with only one ‘from’ suffer for not having first hand experience with multiple cultures?

  • Kami

    I go with the typical “I was born in England and grew up in Alaska.” If people ask, then I explain. That one quote about organizing your life geographically totally rang true; I think of events in my life in regards to where I lived, rather than how old I was at the time!

  • Gat

    I hate this question so much, because it always winds up with me telling a stranger the story of my life. Not that I care that strangers know my life’s story, I doubt I’ll ever see them again or they’ll remember; it’s just that it’s become a speech at this point and the recital is boring.

    I guess I could say I am from Hawaii since I lived there the longest, but then I get all these jealous “Ooooh”s and “You’re so lucky”s and “Do you surf”s that grate on my nerves even worse. I could also say I’m from Germany, where I lived last, but then I get the inevitable “Do you speak German?” No. I don’t. Stop asking if I do.

    It’s not that I hate having grown up in that environment, it’s just that it is so different to the average person that they can’t comprehend it. It’s okay to not have a hometown.

  • Darcey Tredway

    Personally i don’t hate the question. I feel that my answers show that i have lived in different communities and have different experiences than most people do. I remember when i was in 8th grade we lived in my Dad’s hometown while he was in Thailand (during the Vietnam war) and i was shocked at how many of the kids i went to school with hadn’t been out of the state and most hadn’t been beyond 2 hours away from home! I usually tell people that I was born in Texas but should have been born in California where my Dad was stationed, and lived all over. I consider Calif my home as that is where my father retired to but also consider Texas my home as that was where i was born and my mother’s family was from. I think it opens the door for people to ask questions about your experiences and most think it’s cool that I was able to live overseas. I am most proud that my father served in the Air Force for 20+ years and i wear the military brat nomiker as a badge of honor!

  • Vickie S

    As an Army brat and an AF wife, for 62 years I have said, “I was born in Ohio and raised all over the world”!

  • Jordan C.

    I’m sorry, but that last bit made it seem like we have some sort of disease….I don’t know whether to be offended or not.

  • david

    So as an Air Force brat, and 10 years in the Air Force myself, I always answer, with a straight face, “What year?”

  • Kyle

    its really not that hard of a question, granted i didnt move as much as any of my friends because my parents are direct military, but ive only lived in the states for 4 years. i was raised in italy and germany. its a fair question, you just need to find a simple way of answering it! sometimes i like to make it a little confusing and watch them try to piece it together! its also a great conversation starter! if its just someone who is hitting on you or someone your not interested it then i usually would just blow them off and say someplace random! like Zimbabwe!

  • Rick

    I’m surprised that so many of the interviewees seem to have a chip on their shoulders at these questions.

    I’m an AF brat who went to 10 schools in 12 years…not the most I’ve heard, but impressive enough. It was a little difficult to come up with a concise answer to that question, but as I grew up I eventually boiled it down. I never found the question offensive, even as a surly teenage—a stance which this article seems to take. I never felt like it was something anyone ever had to, or needed to, tiptoe around. I dislike the idea that I would expect or want anyone to treat me so sensitively about such a simple question.

    I usually found that my answer opened up the conversation to wider things and to the possibility of comparing and contrasting experiences of growing up. It was actually not a bad icebreaker.

    Yes, there were both negatives and positives about that experience. I was not allowed the sort of strong extended family/friendship ties some people have from living in the same place their entire childhood and going to school with the same group all that time. In a way, that did cause some alienation between my parents and me due to the fact that my upbringing was completely opposite of theirs—something they didn’t grasp until well into my adulthood.

    On the other hand, I generally went to better schools, had richer cultural experiences and was surrounded by a wider range of people at a young age than my peers. I think it made me a more well-rounded person with a more open world view. I can’t object to that. It’s something I’m grateful for.

    • Alan

      The reason a lot of us have a chip on our shoulder, is that only non-military folks ask it. Other brats and military related folks know better. With us it’s always, “when did you move here?” or “where did you move here from”. The point is, there are better questions to ask than “where are you from?” that would not single out military kids as different.

  • Bella

    I just moved to the US from Australia, and people always ask at school “where are you from in Australia?” And I always answer differently depending on how I’m feeling, so at times I’ll answer “I was born in Sydney” (that’s generally the only place in Australia that Americans know about) or I’ll give them my while life story about by 9th grade I’d gone to 4 different high schools and how I was raised all over the place, and then majority of the time I’ll just say “nowhere… Uh… Everywhere… I don’t know, I’m an army brat so…”. It’s weird if you think about it, most people have a hometown and then there’s just me… The new Australian army brat who doesn’t belong anywhere. It’s cool though in a way I guess

  • AF Brat

    I tell people I’m from wherever my parents furniture was located. 😉

  • Heather N

    My favorite is when I answer with “well I’m a Navy brat so I’m not really from anywhere” and the follow up question is “well where is “home”?” Um, did you not just hear me? Home is where my parents are and currently they’re living in 2 different cities. The answer has changed a bit now that I’m an adult, on my own, and haven’t moved in 11 years. I get that people are just wanting to know if I’ve always lived here so I usually explain that I ended up here via the Navy after moving around a bunch as a kid. When I first moved here from Japan I always got the “you don’t look Japanese” response. It never ceases to amaze me how ignorant non – military can be.

  • Erica

    Now that I’m an adult I don’t mind “where are you from”, but I hate the question of “Where did you grow up”. Why? Simply because now that I’m an adult I’ve found other adults tend to argue with me when I don’t give a definitive town name. I usually say “all over the US (we were not worldwide assignable due to medical things)” and then they will come back with a remark similar to “well where specifically”. I agree with a few other posters that since non-military people won’t accept the answer of “all over” you feel as if you need to tell them a summary of your childhood.

  • wormhd883

    as a military Brat , anytime someone asked us where we were from we would just till them ” From all over , but our home town is in the Panhandle of Texas”… that seem to stop any further questions… I think it dumb founded them…

  • Cass

    This one question gets really difficult when you were born and lived for a number of years (states too) with one parent in the military. Then a divorce happens and the other parent enters the military allowing more places. It’s the same concept, but I end up having to explain that my parents divorced and both of them have been in or still are in the military. That just becomes a larger snowball about questions of my family and how the divorce impacted me (honestly don’t remember them ever being married).

  • Zaire

    In college all they ask is where are you from I say I live … And they say no where are you from then I have to say I’m a military brat some know and some just look at you like what and I’m just staring at them smh…civilians

  • Gaia Persephone Glockner

    First off, I remember that AFN commercial (I just miss AFN). Second, I’m an Air Force brat and when people ask, I just give them the whole list. Born in Texas, lived in Colorado, England, Azores, Germany (twice), Hawaii, and now back in Texas. The short-version is; born in Texas, raised in Europe. That’s enough to let them know where I’m ‘from.’
    But if you really want to confuse them, explain the DoDDs school system to them.

    • Jojo

      And DODEA schools Pacific side! I’ve tried explaining them and gotten looks of pure horror an confusion.

  • Nate

    Born in Biloxi, raised everywhere else.

  • Charles

    This article is very true I think that it is worst when you have dual military parents as the moves are more frequent and in Lord help us if they are not same branch due. My parents were dual Army and Marine talk about the moves, I wound up going to 5 high schools in 4 years and I started in Japan before I wound up finishing in Maryland. That was Just high school middle school and elementary I can ball park a number it will be a lie as I really do not remember. For me the worst thing about being asked where I am from and is that I feel like no answer is ever good enough and that saying that I am from everywhere and no that I am also from no where at the same time because I have military parents either leaves people confused or they get it.

  • Austin

    It’s honestly pretty true. I say I live everywhere, I travel.

  • David

    I have always answered that question with ” I currently live in (what ever state or city I am living in at that time)”.

  • Gregory Fairhurst

    i just say i was raised in the military.

  • Ryanna

    I say “that’s a trick question, I am military. I’m not from anywhere, but I have lived **** the longest.” I find it is usually accepted well.

  • Kellyann Whatsherface

    As a military brat, what I really hated is when you came across a person that kept telling you somewhere had to be you hometown because you were born there. I was born in new york. I lived there for 2 weeks before moving to DC. How is that a hometown?

  • Stacey

    When asked this question I always say I’m not from anywhere my dad was in the Air Force but my parents are from Quincy Mass. I’m 33 and I still use this response. But I don’t know what my children will say because my husband is an AF bratt also. 🙂

  • Catherine

    I find this article a bit exclusive, although I agree with the premise. My father works for the Navy, so we’ve moved around a bit as well. My track record is Ohio for six years, England for four, Italy for two, Virginia for six, Germany for one, and now I’m in college. However, he’s a civilian so I have no right to say, “My dad’s in the Navy, so I’m from everywhere.” However, civilian kids also watch AFN and drank Italian Capri-Sonne’s from the Commissary and were part of the culture there. Civilians actually comprise a larger portion on foreign bases than one might think – DODEA employees, budgetary personnel, some doctors, etc and they each have their own role. And just as military brats are confused when they answer the “Where are you from?” dilemma, civilian brats are as well – but we somehow have less of a claim to our confusion, because our parents weren’t in the AF.

    Here are some excerpts from the comments below which highlight a hierarchial nature that military brats sometimes assume (assumptions such as these have often made me feel unwelcome going to school on navy bases):

    “And they say no where are you from then I have to say I’m a military brat some know and some just look at you like what and I’m just staring at them smh…civilians”
    “It never ceases to amaze me how ignorant non – military can be.”
    “The reason a lot of us have a chip on our shoulder, is that only non-military folks ask it. Other brats and military related folks know better.”

    The argument, as I read in a response below, is that asking this “where are you from?” question singles out military brats in an unwelcome manner, but this article also assumes that everyone who has moved around a lot is related in some form to the Armed Forces, which implies that others who feel awkward about answering such a question have a lesser right to feel awkward, although their experiences are similar.

    • Catherine, you certainly do have the right to say “My dad’s in the (X), so I’m from everywhere.” It doesn’t matter what (X) is, if you’ve moved around a lot with a parent, you know the difficulty of answering “Where are you from?”

    • Alex Kim

      I completely agree. My father is in the Foreign Service, but I lived on military bases and shared a lot of the same experiences with the military kids

  • Scott

    I’m a BRAT. No further explanation needed…

  • Patty Hamon

    Although my Dad was in the Air Force and traveled all over the world, we stayed, primarily in Texas/Louisiana. Born at Barksdale AFB, we moved to Texas when I was a baby, and stayed with my grandparents for a while. I actually grew up in Dallas, my brother was almost born on Spain, but my Mom was terrified of flying. No base housing for us! I am almost jealous of my cousins, my Uncle is a retired Marine and they had an opportunity to see, almost the entire country, while I spent my childhood in the same neighborhood, until I got married! I know you guys have all heard this phrase before, and it was tough to always leave your friends behind, when you had to go, but, WOW, what wouldn’t, I have given to be able to say, with a straight face, ” I’ve been everywhere man!” Prayers to you all, and thank you for your amazing service! We say it to the soldiers, but we need to also say it to these courageous families! If not for your sacrifice, your Dad/Mom could not have performed their duties! Hats off to all the military “brats” who gave up a normal childhood, in service to your Country! God bless you!

  • Glenda Varela

    As a funny story…I was volunteering at a shelter, I was wearing a shirt that says” I love London” and this lady with a very sarcastic tone read my shirt and told me” I love London” do you ever been there? And I say ” Yes ma’am, indeed a relocated from UK a month a go after living there 4 years! I also had shirts from Turkey, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Ireland and Iraq!! It was priceless!

  • Sarah

    I really, really like how this touched on how we get insulted when the matter is pressed further or they ask for a “real” answer. Not a lot of people get that when they ask where someone’s from and I sort of hate answering the question at all, especially when I say Italy or Germany and they tell me my English is so good or when they ask if I can tutor them in Italian (I barely know the language.)

    It’s even worse when you’re in college and there’s a group of other students from a state with a strong sense of state identity. This is literally a conversation I had my first semester: “Oh, you’re from California?”
    “Yeah, my parents moved there two months ago.”
    “Wow, cool, but you’re not really Californian. Where are you actually from? Like where were you born?”
    “I never lived where I was born. I’m from California.”
    “Well, you should tell people you’re not a real Californian because you’re so new. You’ll mislead them.”
    Like dude, no one gives a shit if you lived in California for a week or for your entire life. It’s not that great. Drop it.

  • Seren

    I moved 13 times before I was 16 and went to 9 schools during that time. I hate being asked ‘where are you from?’ I’m a British forces brat and it seems whatever I choose to say, someone knows someone else in the area I mention and asks me if I know their aunt or uncle, sister, dog or cat or if I went to school with Fred Jones – that’s the problem with GB being so small. If I say I’m from nowhere and explain the Forces thing I get asked ‘ok, but where were you born’ because people are determined to be able to fit me into a place or time. People are forever trying to place my accent, but they can’t because it’s a mix of accents taken up by me when I was a kid to stop me being beaten up (my brother and I were beaten up regularly for being ‘not one of us’ or pronouncing a word wrong and I’m a female!). I think this feels worse as I’ve got older as it didn’t bother me when I was a kid (maybe because we were on camp and knew other forces kids). I’ve settled in the same place for the past 20 years and still hate being the person left out when everyone starts reminiscing about school/neighbours etc.

  • Kelsey

    While my dad had retired from the Navy by the time I was born, he had a job with the army corps of engineers that sent him to Japan. I was born on base in Yokosuka. We moved back to the states roughly 1.5 years later. From there we moved to Florida then Tennessee and finally Virginia all before I was 6years old. When people ask me where I’m from I tell them Virginia. It is not only where I have lived the longest (more than 12 years now) but where I feel at home. When I was younger however, I told peers that I was born in Japan, and like Daniel (marine corps) from above they asked why I didn’t look Japanese. It was difficult for them to comprehend that my parents were Americans so I couldn’t be Japanese.

  • RuthAnn

    One of the advantages of moving around so much as a child (13 schools in 12 years) is that where ever I have lived I can adjust, meet people (they are all the same), and not be afraid. I see families who are not moving to a better place they want to be because they want to let there kids finish high school. It is not going to kill them to change schools in the middle of high school. I think it toughens them up a little for life. I think I am a better person for all the travels.

  • Victoria Jenkins

    Not sure if this is insulting, but city-based homeschoolers might understand y’all.
    I don’t know what to tell people when they ask where I’m going to school, or where I used to go to school, because at first we went everywhere with my mom. We used to say we were “car-schooled” because she spent the better part of the week running errands. In the meantime, there was a co-op, but that wasn’t “school” so I didn’t consider telling people we went there at the time.
    Then we started going to “school” once a week, then we transitioned to another once a week program, then we we transitioned to another one, then we transitioned to a highschool so tiny that my dual credit counselor told me to list it as homeschooling… and that’s another fun thing. Dual credit courses. Highschool and college. “So you’re getting credit for highschool and college at the same time? How does that work?” Well, um, is the name not self-explanatory? I don’t understand having to explain these things to adults. Children, sure. Not adults.
    Then there’s the church-hoppers, which we also were, and now I don’t know what to say. Churches were phases. They were home. They were relationship. Now I’m like “well I still like church, and I go to one sporadically, and my parents go to another, but I’m not sure if I can tell you I’m going to church because reasons.”
    Not sure if I’m overstepping my bounds. It just feels familiar, on a smaller scale. I’m not pretending it’s the same, I’m just saying that the homeschool crowd has an iffy chance for military children to not get so many weird looks. (I know looks like that. Not sure if they’re the same.)
    Don’t try this on country-based homeschoolers, though. They don’t have city resources, so they’ve probably stayed in one place for most of their lives.
    Unless they’re college-age. Then they’ll at least understand the experience of getting a weird look whenever they’re asked “basic” questions.
    Stop getting to know me, please. I don’t want to get that personal and you won’t understand the surface answer.

  • Sheila

    My favorite answer is to reply with “What year?” The looks I get are priceless.

    • rictic

      That has been my reply for many years. I ‘m a Military kid from the UK and now in my 50s. Despite coming from different countries you, me and all other military kids have more in common than people from the countries we supposedly come from

  • Mike Straw

    I usually say, “Born in Tucson; raised in the Air Force.”

  • Adam Lawrence

    Wow. These are some stuck up kids. “How dare strangers make small talk with me. Asking simple questions one usually asks of a new acquaintance? The nerve!” Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t tell a military kid just by looking at them, and I don’t expect others to have this ability. If you get offended when someone asks you a simple question, you’re the problem, not them.

    • Adrian J.

      WHOA! First of all, when meeting “military brats”, you’ll most likely find the most open minded, not judgmental, and diverse people. Sounds arrogant? Nope, not at all. Simply put, growing up in the military exposes you to multiple cultures, races, and religions. Second, The fact that you would read this article and appear offended (the stuck up accusation and “you’re the problem, not them” attitude) shows that you missed the whole point. Which again, is why we grow tired of that very question…You simply don’t know how it is growing up not being from ONE place, but raised in many. Having to explain 4888024 times where you are born is not where you were raised, nor is it where your extended family is from, nor is it where you went to elementary, middle, high school, or why you went to 10 different schools or…on and on and on…Third, we grow tired of explaining to 10x’s more people the average person is exposed to because we are always meeting new people with every new place. It’s not that we are “Stuck up”, it’s that we don’t know how to explain to closed minded individuals like yourself a logical answer that you’ll be satisfied with. Lastly, if you make “Small talk”, expect “Small answers” that makes NO SENSE. If you want to get to know a military brat, get to know them through conversation. AFTER ALL, WE ARE USED MEETING NEW PEOPLE.

  • Tanja Linton

    My standard response over the years has been, “I’m an Air Force brat, born in England and raised in the U.S. and Germany.” It’s very cool when the person asking identifies as a fellow brat and we determine if we ever lived in the same places or share our experiences. It’s a lot less cool when the person is pretty ignorant and starts saying stupid things like, “Are you a U.S. citizen?” or “You speak English really well.” #BRAT4Life

  • Hana

    All expat kids like that, not only millitary.

  • Nikki

    My answer is always “Europe and Asia mostly.”

  • Kris

    After 4 countries and multiple States, it is a difficult question to answer. People even ask, “Are you part of a witness protection program?” My response, “I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you.”

  • Red Fulton

    The last paragraph about the response from the commercial (Where was I born, raised or lived the longest?) is exactly the same answer I started using in the mid 60’s and still use today. In fact just last night I was asked if I’m from Wyoming and I just kinda snickered and said no. Thankfully they didn’t pursue the question any further.

  • Commentor

    Although I have served in the army if I was to get a response from them that their parents was in the military and they lived all over, I would most likely be more curious of the experiences they had, the cultures they was exposed to. Can learn a lot of the world that way.

  • An Air Force Brat

    I just say I’m a Air Force brat and leave it at that.

  • Sherice (army)

    I just say that I’m from Germany as that is where I was born and spent most of my childhood, don’t really have anywhere as such that I could call home

  • Amber (Army)

    I just say that I’m from Germany and that I lived there till I was 7, and no I’m not German and can’t speak German. I usually get asked why I was born in Germany, so now I just say that’s where my dad was situated at the time and my mum followed him. Short but sweet.

  • Steven

    I was born in Nebraska and lived there till I was 7. My dad was in the army and I moved in with him when I was 7 and then we started moving around. I know where I’m from, Nebraska, so people asking me where I from, just tell em where you were born, because that is where you are from. If they need more, give em more. It’s really not that a big of a deal.

    • tania

      Not really that simple. For you yes, however I was born overseas in Germany, but left there before turning 6 months old. I don’t know a thing about the place I was born so I’m not from there. We moved every 2, or 3 years after that. So truly, it was awkward being asked where I’m from. I got asked that question a lot because moving so often and trying to adapt, I ended up with accents on different words from all over the country and calling different things by different names according to what it was called in the place I had just left.

      • Samantha

        Same here I was 8 months old when I moved away from Michigan. Most of my childhood was spent in Germany. If they really are the same thing why don’t people just ask where you’re born instead of where you’re from…

  • Cerole

    Being a Marian/Army Brat coming from an old military family, both sides, I never felt apologetic, living in Iran since the 1980’s it has always been a multilingual conversation usually held at once that for a year or so I have cut to “The American Army” Interesting is that if my mouth is tired, in Persian “Army” can come out “The American Army” or “The American Fire” it does not matter it gets the message out!

  • Rose Boan-Cedola

    I tell them I am an Army Brat, I was Born in France, raised in Europe and now I live in Georgia.

  • Tanya Halley

    I always answer this with “I grew up everywhere so I got to choose where when I became 18 and home is Texas”.

  • Ashley

    I usually tell people I’m from California even though I only lived there for a year because my dad was also a military brat so he didn’t have a home but my mom was born and raised in LA and when I want to see my family that is where I go. I spent every summer in California so that was consistent to me. When people find out that I’ve lived in Texas longer than any other place they seem compelled to tell me where I’m from but texas never really seemed like home. I love here and my parents do too but my brother lives in Chicago and my sister is in Germany so if I want to see family I go to LA.

  • dlsbusiness

    Great article, Diana! Written in 2011, people still commenting in 2015. Nothing changes but the year… To find out more about “military brats,” feel free to take a look at http://www.USAbrat.org.

  • Kristie

    Sometimes I will say I’m from everywhere or ill pick the place I’ve lived longest. Sometimes I’ll go on to list states. I normally get interrupted at a state the inquirer can relate to. This tells me they don’t really want to know all of the places I’ve lived. However, I love relating to everyone on some level. So this is not bad. Home is where ever I make it and I’m happy with that. But from? What is from?

  • Pat

    First 35 years – Air Force BRAT, USMC active duty, Contractor. Usually I just replied “It’s complicated, I’ve been everywhere because of a military and government background”.

    Now that we’ve settled in one place for the past 20 years, everyone in our circle knows our background. When new people join our circle of friends most are fascinated with our life experiences and we have great discussions.

    Downside of being settled for 20 years … after moving every two or three years for 35 years, you really don’t acquire “stuff”. I can’t believe the amount of “stuff” we have now.

  • Tania

    I like this article! His home! I was born in Stuttgart but raised around the states. My parents are from the south but when they finally retired, they settled hours away from their homesteads. We were never raised around any of our extended family, so I, personally am not close to any of them. My family moved from Hawaii to Georgia when I was about 9, and I was teased about the way I spoke. Before that, we moved from the Midwest to Hawaii, and I was teased about the colour of my skin and texture of my hair. Now, when I’m asked “that question” I usually say, “Army Brat, I have no roots.”

  • Gracella

    I really liked this article, but, I grew up very similar to a military child but i was never considered one. My dad is a civilian who works for the military, and we relocated within the country every 2 years for the first 14 years of my life, after that we moved every 1 or 3 years until my dad retired. So I never became too attached to friends because i knew i was loosing them in a year, I made that mistake freshmen year. Anyway, I hated that i was never considered a military child/brat, I experience very similar things to one and I never got the title, when I was younger it always felt very unfair to me. I understand that it was not completely the same experience because my parent wouldn’t be deployed for long periods of time, but he would travel, and there were many military children that I knew where the parent/s never where deployed. I don’t really mean to offend anyone by this, I just wanted to rant and get this off of my chest, and if anybody reads this and feels they need to respond then please do.

  • Carlene

    I am a military brat My father was in WW2, Korean Conflict and the Vietnam war. He was in the Army/Air Corp and later it was the Air Force. I was born in Okla. moved to Tx, Moved to NC back to Tx Back to NC then SC back to Tx back to Okla then to Japan back to Okla back to Tx then to Colo. I married and moved to Maine. I always tell people when they ask where i’m that I lead a Gypsy life.

  • ivey platz

    from MD,DCarea1995-2000 to yokota JAPAN2000-2004 to New Jersey2004-2010 then to Germany ramstein2010-2014 proud family of two air force parents who have been retired now one from2014 and other 2006. I had an amazing 18 years with my parents I am now 21 going on 22 years old this coming summer yay us military brats go threw so much in life but it is what we learn from our time in the military with our family members who are and who have served in for their time for this country it makes us more stronger knowing the life we have or had to live . I will not lie it changes us for who we were to the people who see life differently and want to change the world for the better .