BRATS: Our Journey Home A Donna Musil Film Featuring Narration and Music by Kris Kristofferson
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The Huntsville Times

Film relates military brat joys, travails
Documentary takes look at sense of belonging, home
Monday, April 23, 2007
Times Staff Writer

Chances are, you know a military "brat."

Here in Huntsville, the chances are good that you are an Army or other service brat - that your childhood was or is being spent as the son or daughter of a man or woman in uniform.

That's one reason why Army brat and filmmaker Donna Musil is so glad to be bringing her documentary "BRATS: Our Journey Home" here for a free showing 6 p.m. Tuesday at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

"We talk about the good, the bad and the ugly," she said during a telephone interview last week.   "It's not a political film.  It's about children and people's feelings."

There is a long list of issues that kids growing up in military families routinely deal with that the majority of their peers don't, she said.

Such as a parent being gone for extended periods, sometimes in dangerous areas, sometimes coming back with post-traumatic stress problems; moving from base to base, town to town, school to school; knowing that your behavior could get your military parent in hot water; never really knowing what to say when people ask "Where are you from?" or "What's your hometown?"

Musil, 47, said she attended three high schools, and so did the other kids she thought of as her friends.  " You don't have a school to go back to, to have a reunion," she said.

Today, the Internet and technology let the worldwide network of brats reconnect and rediscover their shared experiences in a virtual community.   In the 1990s, Musil was delighted to discover a Web site for a group of kids she went to school with in Taegu, South Korea.

"For us, it was just amazing to be able to talk with people who knew you as a child," she said.

It was the first time that I felt like I belonged somewhere.

But it was with the people, not with a place." That experience led to her seven years of work on "BRATS: Our Journey Home." The film is narrated by Kris Kristofferson - himself an Air Force brat - and features archival footage and rare home movies and pictures from some of the people interviewed, including Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf and Mary Edwards Wertsch, author of "Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress."

They and others talk about the travails of growing up the way they did, but also about the joys and incredible experiences and opportunities that life afforded them, Musil said.

Things like living in integrated neighborhoods 20 years before the civil rights movement and the chance to know people in other countries and cultures.

Musil said brats in the audience see themselves in the film and know they are not alone.

But she emphasized that she didn't make it just for them.

She made it so that everyone will better understand and appreciate the experiences of children in military families.

"You don't have to be a brat or know one to enjoy the film," she said.
"It's taking the audience someplace they've never been."

Musil said the best data available indicate there are about 145,000 adult military brats in Alabama.

Overall, there are 15 million adult brats and 1.2 million current brats, she said.
And about 700,000 of those children have a parent deployed overseas.

"These kids serve, too," Musil said.
And they don't have a choice.
The first documentary about growing up military.