“Brats: Our Journey Home”
Life of military child film premiers at Airborne and Special Operations Museum
by Lucille Anne Newman
Paraglide page D6
Ever wondered what makes a military child dif
ferent from the rest?
It’s a story Donna Musil, writer, director and independent filmmaker, Bratsfilm, will explain in her new documentary
“Brats: Our Journey Home” at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Tuesday.
Musil said the film will explore the hardships these children have to endure as well as the cultural experiences they
have faced whose only hometown are with each other.
The film explores what military children have gone through from her personal experience as a child.
“I made the film to understand who I am and where I’m from,
I decided to make the film after attending an impromptu reunion of brats (that)
I went to high school with in Taegu, Korea,” she said.
“I haven’t seen my friends in over 20 years.
(Just) being together, gave me a sense of peace and belong
ing I had never experienced as an adult.
Making this film has been a seven-year work of passion for me.”
Before Musil had the idea for her film, she had written many scripts and screenplays to include “Ananse,”
an animated film based on African folktales.
But before that she worked as an attorney helping to organize unions throughout the south.
Regardless of what job she held, she said she always felt ‘different’ from her fellow Americans and soon
found she was not alone.
After surfing the Internet, she found that one of her former schools was holding a reunion.
It was there she finally felt she belonged and found she wasn’t the only one wanting to belong somewhere.
“After the reunion, I discovered Mary Edward Wertsch’s book
‘Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress’
and it was phenomenal.
I finally understood why I was the way I was - and
that there were other people out there just like me,” said Musil.
“It’s the first documentary film made about this topic.
But I also wanted to conduct my own research.
So, it took a long time because I had a lot of ground to cover.
I put together a questionnaire that was answered by over 500 brats of all ages,
ethnicities and branches of service - some up to 70 pages typed.
I felt a huge responsibility to accurately reflect what the brats reported.”
Some of the people featured in this film include Air Force brat Kris Kristofferson,
a former Army helicopter pilot and actor; Army brat retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf,
mander of Operation Desert Storm and author of
‘It doesn’t take a hero’; author Mary Edwards Wetsch; Dr.
Morten Ender, professor of Sociology at the U.S.
Military Academy at West Point; and Dr. George H.
Junne, chair of Department of Africana Studies, University of Colorado and author of
‘Blacks in the American West and Beyond — America, Canada and Mexico.’
Musil added that this film is the first of many documentaries and books to come.
“This film was made by the nonprofit production company “Brats without Borders” and we will definitely be producing
more films and books about this topic,” she said.
“Not just about military brats, but other ‘third culture kids’ as well - foreign service kids,
education, aide and interna
tionally mobile corporate kids.
There really is a bor
derless nation out there of folks who often have more in common with each other than their own countries.”
Musil said the next film will be a related topic but more of a
coming-of-age feature film about brats on a military base in Korea.
“The message of this film is different for different people.
(Personally,) I’d like (military children) to walk away from this film feeling they are not alone.
That they are part of this big, wonderful subculture of people despite moving a million times as a kid.
They have people and they have a home ... each other.
(For military parents) I hope they leave the film understanding their children a bit better,”
she said and added that some parts of the film maybe tough to watch.
“It’s a documentary.
We talk about the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.
I don’t want parents to feel bad, they did the best they could with what they knew at the time.
We all do.
And I wouldn’t trade my life as a brat for anything, despite some of the challenges.
I think most brats (who aren’t from completely dysfunctional families) feel that way.
It’s the paradox of it all.
But we also know things now that we didn’t know then —
things that can help current-day brats and their families.
I hope this film can be a catalyst for reflection and positive change — to alleviate some of the stresses
of this life and encourage its strengths.”
Musil added that she hopes this film helps civilians understand
the military child and hopes to even take them some place they’ve
never been before even if they have no affiliation with the military or its children.
“There are 15 million brats in America.
Almost everyone in the country knows a (military) brat.
They’re your parents, your children, your spouses and your friends.
But very few understand the culture they come from,” she said.
“I think it’s important for the country to understand
what they’re asking military children and military Families to do.
One of the toughest jobs in the military is being a kid.
Like Pat Conroy said in Mary Wertsch’s book,‘they serve, too, but no one even knows they’re there.’
For the military as an institution (who has been extremely supportive of this film),
I hope, with regard to military children and families, that the film generates reflection
on what is really necessary for the protection of the country and what is merely expedient for the institution.
And often they’re between a rock and a hard place.
But the dialogue should continue.
There’s going to be a lot of emotional fallout after this war in Iraq —
and not just on the Soldiers, but on their children and spouses.
I think the country has to take responsibility for that.”