BRATS: Our Journey Home A Donna Musil Film Featuring Narration and Music by Kris Kristofferson
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Published on Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Filmmaker, audience share a culture as military ‘Brats’
By Andrew C. Martel
Staff writer

Musil was in Fayetteville for the screening of her film, ‘Brats.’ Somewhere over the course of interviewing 500 people, filmmaker Donna Musil found herself.

Her interview subjects ranged in age from 20 to 70.    They were of all races and political persuasions.    But she shared a bond with them that was deeper than age or ethnicity.

They were all military brats.

Musil’s new film, “Brats: Our Journey Home,” tells her fellow sons and daughters of the U.S. military that they are part of a global community.    The film tells them that they are not alone in their hardships or joys.

Musil brought her 90-minute documentary film to Fayetteville on Tuesday night.    About 200 people — more than half of them brats — attended a screening of the movie at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in downtown Fayetteville.

The movie opens with the now-adult kids of the armed forces talking about how hard it is to answer the common question, ‘Where are you from.’    Do they say where they were born?    The place they last lived?    Do they just say they are Army brats?

The term “brats” is not offensive to most of them because the term connotes resilience and strength.    But the film also discusses the pain and challenges of growing up in the military.

Brats are isolated from mainstream society by growing up on military installations and constantly moving.    Military communities often hold kids up to unrealistic expectations, and expect them to act like adults when they should be allowed to explore, play and make mistakes.

The documentary, which uses home movies and film footage from the past six decades to portray the brat experience, presents both the benefits and challenges of growing up in the military, said co-producer Timothy Wurtz.

“It’s not a recruiting movie, it’s not a promotional piece,” Wurtz said before the screening.    “But it’s not an exposé.”

The hardships toughened up brats and made them adaptable.    Brats often grow up to be self-reliant and independent.    Years of moving around taught them how to make friends easily and take risks.

Military brats also grow up in one of the most racially diverse and equal societies in the world, where blacks, whites, Latinos, and all other races live, work, shop and worship together.

Musil, a daughter of an Army officer, said after the screening she sometimes felt angry at her father for moving the family around so much.    He died when she was 16.

But this film is not about blaming anyone, said Musil, who told the audience about an Army vet and father who told her he felt guilty after seeing the movie.

“I said, ‘No, No.    That’s not what this is all about.    This is just about understanding,’” Musil said.

Many of those who attended Tuesday night’s show identified with the itinerant lifestyle described by the brats on screen.

Joanne Blackwelder said she never felt like she fit in anywhere, because her father, an Army officer, was constantly moving his family.

Colleen Wellons, the daughter of an Army colonel, said she experienced a culture shock — not while living in Germany, Argentina, or Japan — but when she finally returned to the United States when she was 14.

The Department of Defense does not keep count of how many children are part of military households.    But it estimates that about 4 million to 7 million children have been educated in department-run schools overseas since 1946.    That is only about one-fifth to one-third of the total population of military brats.    So that means there are at least 15 million brats.

Overall, brats are inspired by their parents, Musil said.

“Most brats wouldn’t trade being a brat for anything,” she said.

Staff writer Andrew C. Martel can be reached at or 323-4848, ext. 372.
The first documentary about growing up military.