Diana K. McLean : Excerpts from Military Brat: An Encyclopedia of Location and Dislocation

Fall '10 TOC

In study hall at my high school in Great Falls, Montana, a football player sitting in front of me turned around one day, and commented that he thought I had an interesting accent and wondered where I was from. Somewhat dumbfounded, I replied, “Nebraska...” He said, “Oh, that’s near France, right?” Now well beyond dumbfounded, I said, “No, it’s one of the United States!” He said, “Oh right, near Ohio?” “No, near Iowa.”

A year later, in high school in Ekeren, Belgium, my fourth-year French teacher pointed out that while I spoke French fluently, she felt compelled to give me a B+ instead of an A because of my strong American accent. I politely pointed out that she spoke beautiful, fluent English, but with a pronounced French accent.


1. An exciting experience.
2. What some people think of the military lifestyle.
See also exile


What much of my father’s work was. This meant that when people asked me “What does your dad do in the Air Force?” my answer was either “I don’t know,” or “Something to do with missiles,” which was true for most of his career.

A “memory” that I know is not true, but have nonetheless carried around for years thinking it might be, when in fact I am sure it is a blend of memory and a common joke: I came home from kindergarten one day and asked my dad what he did at work. He said it was classified. I asked what that meant, and Dad, with his usual dry sense of humor, said, “It means I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

commanding officer (CO)

The military version of “the boss.”

conscientious objector (CO)

A person who, on moral grounds, refuses to serve in the military in a time of war, or refuses to serve in a combat position.


1. “[A] prolonged living away from one’s country, community, etc., usually enforced; banishment,
     sometimes self-imposed.”1
2. What some people think of the military lifestyle.
See also adventure


  1. Where one was born and raised.
  2. A place that feels like home whenever one returns to it, even after long absences.
  3. A foreign concept to a military brat.

military brat

  1. According to Wikipedia, a “U.S. Subculture.”
  2. A child of a military parent.
  3. A term used as a positive self-identification by the aforementioned children.
  4. A derogatory term when used by some nonmilitary children.


  1. What prompts many people to serve in the military.
  2. What prompts me to serve as an activist for peace.

“Proud to serve.”

An unofficial response equivalent to “you’re welcome” used by my father and his friend (and coworker at Offutt) Debbie Jermunson. My father said this to me when I thanked him for his help on some of the details of this project.

“Where are you from?”

A question often asked by the people next to me on airplanes. When in a particularly grouchy mood as a teenager, I would reply, “Do you mean where I was born, where I lived the longest, where I consider home, where I am living right now, or where I will be living next month?”


1. Fear or dislike of strangers or foreigners.
2. Something no military brat can afford to have.


  1. The number of times I have seriously considered joining the military.
  2. The number of times I have seriously considered marrying someone who is in the military.
  3. The number of my circle of closest “military brat” friends who have joined the military.

1. From Webster’s New World Dictionary, Second College Edition. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980.

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