Top 10 Ways You Know Your Kids Are Military Brats

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We all know our military brats aren’t like other kids. I mean, how many other children can locate Iraq and Afghanistan on a world map or brag to their friends that the best part of their tenth birthday was finally getting their military ID card? Our kids just stand out. There’s simply no mistaking that they’re living the military life.

As we celebrate this Month of the Military Child, we asked our Facebook fans to share their thoughts on those unique characteristics of military children. Thanks to those responses and my own observances with the brats in my house, here are our top 10 ways you know your kids are military brats:

1. They ask the barber for a high and tight. I have to admit I’m not a fan of the high and tight haircut. But my son sure is. I’m pretty sure that by the time he was big enough to climb into the chair at the barber shop at the Navy Exchange, he knew to ask for the same hair cut as all the other sailors sitting in the waiting area holding a number. (I also have to admit that my daughter has expressed her desire to have a high and tight. One day I might give in just so she’ll stop asking.)

2. They have traveled to more places than most people will see in their entire lives. My son had traveled to four different countries before his fourth birthday, and we can’t even remember all the states he’s visited. As Facebook fan Dolores said, you know you’re raising military brats “when they have their own passports and have traveled to more places than most adults.”

3. They know the fine art of making friends. Dominic said that military brats “can make ‘best’ friends at the playground in 30 seconds after PCS’ing.” I wish I made friends as quickly as my kids do when we move! And sometimes friends make repeat appearances. As USMC Life pointed out, “They already have several friends at their next school from former duty stations!”

4. They’re okay with postponing holidays.  Between deployments, moving and other separations, our kids know that sometimes it’s more fun to celebrate holidays and birthdays a little late if it means they get to celebrate when the family is complete.

5. They can’t keep track of how many houses they’ve lived in and how many schools they’ve attended. I may know that before my son celebrated his fifth birthday, he had lived in 5 different houses and by her second birthday, my daughter was in her 3rd house, but ask them and they have no idea.

6. They have their own uniform. My son has had a uniform hanging in his closet just like his dad for as long as I can remember. One year he even had a Navy-themed birthday just so he could wear the uniform to the party.

7. When someone asks them where they’re from, they answer “I’m from all over the place.” Most adults I know don’t hesitate when asked where they’re from. But our military brats have lived in so many different places, it’s hard to pick just one!

8. They call every man they see in uniform “Daddy.” As Facebook fan Sabrina said, you know you have a military brat “when your toddler walks up to an ACU leg they see and says “Dada.”

9. They can execute a near-perfect salute. My children have known how to salute since they were old enough to stand at attention. It’s even better when paired with a “Yes Sir!”

10. They speak military-ese. Lots of our Facebook fans agree that military brats know the lingo. Victoria said, “He can sing the Army song.” According to Antoinette, “They say simper fi to the MPs at the gate.” As April noted, “They know what it means to PCS and go TDY. They know what an LES is and what TLA is. They also know the ARMY Values by heart. My kids know them all.” And I would love to meet Elizabeth’s brats just because her response was: “They play a made-up game called ‘gate guard’ involving not having your ID to get through the gate and the MPs being called and taking you to jail.”

What would you add to the list?

About the Author

Heather Sweeney
Heather Sweeney is an Associate Editor at, former Navy wife, mother of two, blogger, and avid runner. She’s the blogger formerly known as Wife on the Roller Coaster and still checks in every now and then at her blog Riding the Roller Coaster.

33 Comments on "Top 10 Ways You Know Your Kids Are Military Brats"

  1. I would add having three International Shot cards FULL before my 3rd birthday! And the total number of schools? 17 Housing units? 53 but since I'm only 64 that number can still increase.

  2. hi_desertgirl | April 16, 2013 at 9:32 pm |

    You know you have military brats when Taps is played and they stop dead in their tracks from whatever they are doing and wait until it's finished. And if there is a flag within eyesight they have their hands over their hearts.

  3. Rhonda S. Navy Brat | April 16, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
  4. For me it would be knowing how to spit shine my shoes, my closet in order, making my "rack" with military folds, and knowing each sailors and Marines insignia. lol

  5. When I went to Paris Island, my DI asked me how I knew all that I did I replied, "…Sir, I have already been through 16 years of bootcamp."

  6. Betty grover | April 16, 2013 at 10:55 pm |

    I have 4 army brats that speak 5 languages , all college graduates.. thanks to the military community they all did well..

  7. I never knew why military kids are called “brats”. Can someone explain?

    • Chauncey M Freeman | April 17, 2013 at 2:47 am |

      Perhaps it got started by the same bunch that started calling CHILDREN Baby Goats, i.e., KIDS. Mine mean more to me than to refer to them as Goats. They were given to me through and by God's Grace, so I think it disrespectful to GOD when they are referred to as GOATS/KIDS. But I am sure only a very few will agree, but that too is what's great about being USA BORN, we have yet the liberty to say what we like. But soon that too may be gone as Washington continually carves away at those things we were assured of by our CONSTITUON. God Bless The USA, and Chasten all Politicians.

      • For over 200 years, military children have been called “brats.” It’s not a pejorative term; it’s an historic, time-honored reference based on the acronym, “British Regiment Attached Traveler”.
        Keep a watch out for Unclassified: The Military Kid Art Show, traveling across the country for the next 5 years. Brats Without Borders and Military Kid Art Project have curated the first traveling, historical, art show, that has over 50 years of military kids art work and artifacts.

    • I have 2 Military Brats, and, I guess it is a Term of Endearment, so to Speak!! Military Brats most likely wllil say Mam and Sir when asked a question, so as to show u r being respectful to your Elders, so, to Speak, and, not saying "Huh" Or, "So"!!! Because These Brats are a Special Group of kids, they should be Proud to be called a Brat!! I have a Book I bought at a Garage Sale, Called Military Brats, and, it has some very Funny Stories. I have had People tell me through the Years, that our girls we're the most Polite Kids in the Military, and, not "Brats" They have In Turn raised Four Military Brats between them and, we are Proud of All Four of Them:) They respect the Ranks, and their children have also served, ROTC. So to All, Military Brats, Be Proud of your Brattiness!! And, Pass It On:)

  8. When you visit a kid and everything is a crisp "Yes sir or No ma'am", when they know how to spit shine their shoes, make their racks with military/hospital folds, their closets are neat and aligned and they know every Navy and Marine insigna is, odds are they're a military brat. :)

  9. Terry Dankel | April 17, 2013 at 12:29 am |
  10. Chauncey M Freeman | April 17, 2013 at 2:46 am |

    The Boys I raised would ask me: "Papa, when ya goanna paint the Bulkheads in my room?"

    Chauncey M Freeman, SCPO, U.S. Navy, Retired

  11. Spc Bonners wife | April 17, 2013 at 3:18 am |
  12. Chuck Olson | April 17, 2013 at 5:50 am |

    My kids, when they went to a civilian movie theater, were waiting for the National Anthem to play before the movie.

  13. Doucette AF Family | April 17, 2013 at 6:06 am |

    –our AF kids know what "pull chocks" means…time to go.
    –my daughter would say that driving onto ANY military base felt like you were home.
    –military kids know how to travel in any city, handle any kind of transportation, since they have been to so many international cities. We knew that if you can handle the subway in Tokyo, you can handle ANY subway system. They have been on more airplanes than any other relative (besides Dad).
    –my kids were excited to go to college…to live someplace for more than 2 years! They could also handle being dropped off at college, knowing they will settle in and make friends in no time. And they did.
    –they know how to thoroughly clean a house to pass inspection when moving.
    –they have heard the National Anthem more than most kids, with their exposure to many ceremonies, hearing it in the base movie theatre, and hearing it on the loudspeaker on base every evening. Without being told, you see them stop playing immediately and stand with their hands on their hearts. They know how to offer respect to the flag.

  14. Terry Dankel | April 17, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  15. Rebecca Martin | April 17, 2013 at 9:53 am |

    Check out for more articles like this one and to learn about gatherings, ways to find your old friends and teachers. It's a brat alumni group that is simply wonderful. I've been a member since 1987 and cannot say enough great things about it.

  16. Lisa Woolever | April 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm |

    I would add…(since I myself am a Brat) being convinced that Santa Claus didn't travel by Sleigh, he jumped out of airplanes just like my Daddy did at Ft. Bragg. I SAW Santa do that. My niece also a Brat, was convinced Santa came by Helicopter, because HER Daddy flew Medivac Helicopters and Santa arrived on one at Ft. Campbell.
    PS I used to go around and call any older adult male( Military or civilian) Colonel…not Mister.

    • At FT Jackson, Santa arrived on a fire truck. Now every time my 2 year old sees a fire truck, she yells, "Santa!"

  17. betty martinez | April 18, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  18. Lynne Rychlik | April 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm |

    I have always considered it a benefit and a privilege to have been a Marine Corps brat. I'm more resilient and resourceful because of my upbringing. I married right into the Corps and raised two daughters who have great memories of our extended Marine family. The lingo never leaves even after retirement. No one is more proud than the family member of a Marine when they see the straight attention given to the Marine Hymn by all Marines, young, old, active duty, or retired. They will always be Marines and we will always be so proud of them.

  19. I can totally relate to #8…..when I was very little my mom & I went to meet my dad when he returned from westpak. When we got there & all the enlisted men were in their uniforms, I told my mom "look at all the daddies" My dad thought that was hilarious when mom told him :)

    • How about this? You moved to a small town to raise your kids, so they would have roots, and you never feel like you belong?

  20. I can relate to most of these top ten. I did not have a uniform hanging in my closet but I was able to recognize rank ensignia by the number of stripes on a sleeve (non com only) After dating a lieutenent I learned most of the officer ensignia but have forgotten most of them now–many have changed. In spite of moving around a lot, living in 10 different states and 3 foreign countries, I do have some life long friends. has helped me get in touch with some of them. I remember going on field trips to Roman ruins and seeing the Vienna Boys choir at the Ely cathedral. Returning to the states and a typical school trip was to a farm or firestation kind of left a lot to be desired. We picked up traditions from many of the cultures we lived in that I have carried on to my children and grandchildren to this day.

  21. You know your a military brat when you know that if the airmen you are dating gets out of line, a simple statement about informing his commanding officer of his inappropriateness is very effective.

  22. Joyce Zimmerschied | August 20, 2014 at 2:27 pm |

    Former Air Force brat here ("14 years an Air Force brat; pick a year, and I'll tell you where I'm from"). When my kid sister and I had bunk beds, and she had the top bunk, I would sometimes climb the ladder to ask her a question or bother her. Her usual response was ordering me to get back down and stop violating her air space.

    Also, when she did something I didn't like, I'd threaten to bust her back to civilian, that being the worst possible punishment I could imagine.

  23. linda ives | April 17, 2013 at 6:56 pm |

    I do disagree…
    My siblings and I could go anywhere…and we did…
    We are all well educated(6kids) and loved our traveling life…In fact, we all find that we are wanderers still, and have NO problem connecting with anyone!
    I loved that home was where Dad hung his hat…and that change was usually good. I could go on.
    Bless u for sharing but some of us are pretty normal hardworking Army Brats and proud of it.
    Linda Ives

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