BRATS: Our Journey Home A Donna Musil Film Featuring Narration and Music by Kris Kristofferson
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Film Shows Reality Of Being A Military Brat

By Debbie Evert

Space Guardian

Imagine moving more than 10 times before the age of 16.    These moves aren’t across town to a bigger house, but they are to a different state or country. Relatively new friends are told goodbye again, in hopes of finding other friends in yet another new school.

Life is very mobile, very transient.

That’s the life of a military brat. These are children whose fathers or mothers (or both) are active-duty military.    Depending on the parent’s career field, brats might move every two to five years.

Donna Musil fits the description of a military brat.    Before age 16, she lived in three countries and multiple states.

“I can’t even remember all the moves,” she said.    “We lived stateside as well as overseas in Germany and Korea. I can hardly remember the places we lived.”

Her father, an Army judge advocate general officer and military judge, died when she was 16 and the family stopped its mobile lifestyle, settling in Columbus, Ga., where she finished high school.

Years ago, Musil’s need to connect with old friends took her to a relatively new resource — the Internet — to search for friends from Taegu, Korea, high school.

“I hadn’t seen these friends in 20 years,” Musil said. “We all got to gether in Washington, D.C., for an impromptu reunion.    For the first time in almost 20 years, I felt a sense of belonging.”

Although they hadn’t seen each other in a long time, “it’s like we just saw each other yesterday,” Musil said.

That gathering of friends started Musil thinking that other brats might have similar feelings.    She launched a Web site and asked for other military brats to respond to some questions.

“It was a very extensive questionnaire,” she said.    “Some answers were more than 70 pages typed.    I read them all.”

Musil knew she had hit a sensitive spot in responders’ hearts.    Four years and 500 interviews later, a film was born.

“BRATS: Our Journey Home” was released earlier this year and is making an impact throughout the country.

“Initially the project was to find out who I was and where I was from,” this first-time writer and director said.    “Then it got bigger and bigger.”

There are about 15 million brats worldwide, according to the film’s Web site,    Musil talked with people of all ages, nationalities and vocations and received similar responses.

“We don’t have a home,” Musil said.    “You have to get used to that.    A lot of brats keep searching for home.    The only way we’re going to find it is in each other.”

The bond of being a military brat is what ties the group together.

“Everybody’s got a different story to tell, but we have more in common than we don’t,” Musil said. “[In the film] we talk about the good, bad and ugly.    You have to take away what applies to you.”

Being a brat teaches children resilience, tolerance and provides a sense of mission, Musil said.    Brats take these qualities into their future lives.    They’re aware and motivated by this sense of mission to give back to the world.
“At the same time, it can be difficult realizing that the mission is No. 1, you’re not,” she added.

The 90-minute film won the best documentary award at the 2006 Estes Park Film Festival in September.    Musil also picked up the best first-time director’s award at the 2006 Roving Eye Documentary Film Festival in Rhode Island.

“It’s not just a nostalgic film,” she said.    “It covers universal issues we face.    We don’t pull any punches, so we don’t recommend it for anyone under age 13.”
Musil encourages people to gather friends and show the film in their homes.    Afterward, it’s important to talk about feelings and thoughts.

“We’re also starting a ‘brats film tour,’” she said. “Cities in this tour include places with a large population of military brats.    We’ll finish the tour in D.C. next summer.”

Musil said the film has made a difference in the lives of those who have seen it.

“That’s all I really wanted to do,” she said.

In addition to the film, Musil recommends the following resources for military brats:, and “Military brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress,” Mary Edwards Wertsch (1993, Brightwell Publishing).

Sponsored by the Peterson Community Activities Center, “BRATS: Our Journey Home” is being shown at the base auditorium Nov. 3, at 11:30 a.m. Admission is free.    The film is appropriate for ages 13 and up.

The first documentary about growing up military.