Thursday, December 11, 2014

C.H.A.M.P.S. may just be for chumps after all...

So last month, I wrote a post about Debbie and Jennifer Fink, two ambitious authors who have been seeking to change the way people refer to kids of parents in the military.  These two ladies, themselves not "military brats", apparently have the notion that the time has come to change the term from "brat" to "C.H.A.M.P." (Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel).

When I wrote my initial post about this topic, I didn't really take it too seriously.  I mean, I am an Air Force brat and it never bothered me to be called that, though I also didn't have the typical "brat" experience because my dad retired when I was six years old and I grew up mostly in one town.  I do have three sisters who did have the traditional "brat" experience.  I'm not sure if it ever bothered them to be lumped in that group or not.  Anyway, my initial thought was that the Finks meant well and I didn't begrudge them the success they were apparently enjoying, even though I think the idea of losing the brat moniker is kind of pointless and stupid.

Well... that post turned out to be surprisingly popular and I got some comments from other military brats who feel a lot more strongly about the importance of preserving the term "brat" for military kids.  They launched a Facebook group, which I did join.  They sent letters, tweets, and emails to the companies supporting the Finks' efforts.  They left one star reviews on the Finks' book, which is for sale on Amazon.com.  I doubt most of the people leaving reviews actually read the book and I don't condone reviewing books one hasn't actually read.  But most of the comments left expressed very clearly how much affection "brats" have for that term, which dates back to the British Empire and originally stood for British Regiment Attached Traveler (BRAT).


A video about Operation CHAMPS

Anyway, due to the extreme backlash and uproar over the C.H.A.M.P.S. movement, the Finks decided to close down.  A rather biased article on Military.com confirms what was posted on the Warrior-Families blog about their decision.  Apparently, they felt "bullied" and "abused" by some of the more vocal "brats" out there.  They also claim that some of their volunteers were threatened.  I'm not surprised the Finks felt threatened.  This movement really put people in a tizzy.  Even though I am myself a brat, I had no idea just how attached so many people are to the cultural identity of the military brat.  

This situation also proves that the military community is a tough group to take on, especially if you are a civilian who has never had any actual experience with the military lifestyle.  The Finks have volunteered with the military, but they are not themselves a product of the military culture.  I think they meant well, and were no doubt looking for a little money and prestige, but they really took on a formidable group.  I'm surprised they got as far as they did.

The post on Military.com was written by Amy Bushatz, who apparently didn't take the time to get both sides of the story.  While she does concede a bit to "brats", she also implies that the folks who had a problem with the Finks' mission are a bunch of whiney, abusive, old farts who grew up in the Vietnam era and can't get with the program.  Based on my admittedly limited interaction with these folks, I don't think that impression is accurate.  Plenty of younger people who grew up with a parent in the military identify as "brats".  That term is old and established and it won't die easily.  It's not just aging adults throwing a tantrum.  It's about people in a tribe feeling like outsiders are trying to destroy and profit from their cultural identity.

Jacey Eckhart, a writer on SpouseBuzz, also posted an article about brats "destroying" the military nonprofit Operation CHAMPS.  Frankly, I was surprised by the tone of her piece, which even more pointedly made the adult children of service members seem ungrateful, immature, and misguided.  Eckhart identifies herself as an Air Force brat, Navy wife, and Army mom and calls the attack against Operation CHAMPS "ugly".  I'm sure the negative backlash felt ugly and ungrateful to the Finks.  If they haven't been a part of the military community, they may not have realized how passionate the people within it can be about some things.  Hell, I hate the term "dependent", but God help me if I say that out loud in certain circles.    

I don't condone abusive or threatening behavior.  It wouldn't surprise me if the Finks and their volunteers did experience actual threats and abuse from a few folks in the military brat community, but I doubt the vast majority of people who took on this cause did so in a threatening way.  My feeling is that the heat got to be too much for the Finks as they watched support for their project start to collapse.  And given how vocal military brats can be, they may have determined it was no longer worth the effort.  On the other hand, they may come back to fight some more.  It'll be interesting to see what else develops in the coming weeks.  I have a feeling this may not be as "over" as it seems.


  

15 comments:

  1. Thank you for your article, but I do need to point out that you are citing an urban legend for your origin story.

    While the phrase "British Regiment Attached Traveler" has been around for a while, the story 'declaring it to be the origins' originated in 2011 when a story started circulating that the dean of the National Defense University challenged his library to find the origin to the term. The story goes that they found an unnamed book written in 1921 that declared the term to be British Regiment Attached Travelers.

    The problem with this story is that it is almost undoubtedly fictional. But let's assume it actually happened and a 1921 book was found with that definition, does it prove the origin of the term? Not hardly. The term brat in reference to military children dates back to at least 1707---or 214 years before the 'authoritative source.'

    The reality is that nobody knows for certain. The odds are, as Brat Scholar Morton Ender hypothesizes, that it originated from camp followers that included the children of soldiers. Those soldiers would be asked who the kid is and respond, "That's my brat."

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    1. That's interesting, Max. Thanks for the background on the term, "brat". I actually grew up very close to where the Revolutionary War was won, so this type of history is fascinating to me.

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  2. You are n doubt correct. It is not over. They may be beating a strategic retreat to the rear, but they are not finished. They are regrouping.

    The way they chose to "close up shop" so to speak was also very lacking in class. Rather than admit where they had failed, and they did make some very poor decisions, and take the opportunities which were offered to them for discussions, they chose to ignore, ban, delete any communication from BRATs. They did not want to communicate with us in any way, shape or form. This has been apparent since the beginning. That door was open to them.

    Instead, they chose to portray themselves as victims of a bunch of bullies who were picking on them because they're civilians...outsiders. Actually, they got picked on because they did attack our identity... for profit. They tried to change the name of our culture and they trademarked it to boot. What kind of an honest person tries to trademark a culture?

    Their attack on our community has been just that... an attack , from the beginning. Was it any wonder we fought back?

    The thing that irritates me is how many people are willing to sell out their children's heritage for free babysitting. Babysitting, by the way, while a great service to provide for our wounded and deployed soldiers' families, is a service for the parents, to offer them some aid. And it was the one part of their organization we COMMENDED them on. (interesting that that is the only part they shut down....isn't it)

    Many military spouses and personnel simply do not realize that while they have made the choice to serve this country, it is just that -- a choice. I thank them for doing so. Their kids do not make that choice. They are drafted from their first breath. When service members retire, they (and spouse) will always have access to the bases/posts. They will be referred to as a veteran, a retiree, always a member of the Armed Forces -- and they should be. However, they have not stopped for one moment to recognize that their children WILL be exiled from their "hometown", the only way of life they have known. Every base is different, but every base is the same. It is the only 'hometown' a BRAT has.

    Imagine growing up in a place and spending your whole life there, only to be exiled at a certain age ... with no warning and no idea of how the world outside works. Sure, you know it is coming...but until you hand over that ID card, it does not really sink in. Then it kicks you in the stomach as you realize you've been thrown away like unwanted garbage.

    Tell me how taking their legacy and heritage away is going to help them? Please tell me why the Finks did not think it was advisable to actually put a few people who grew up as military dependents on their board. Can someone please explain to me why they feel they are more qualified to work with these kids than the "whiney Vietnam era Brats".... who did not have the comfort of a grateful nation to support them while their fathers were deployed? Does it not seem reasonable that these people would be a good group to advise on some of the things the BRATs need ?

    And I wonder if these same people would be SO quick to jump in to support a CIVILIAN who decided they were better at speaking about what military service personnel need....and then decided to denigrate all veterans who spoke up and said "hey, we served. Don't you think perhaps we might be a good resource?"

    Thank you for your calm perspective on this subject. You are right. This is not over. They have absolutely declared war on our culture. And we know they are not going to leave the military child alone -- we've already seen their future plans.

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    1. You're preaching to the choir! I totally empathize, even though my experience as a "brat" wasn't the same as so many others out there. And I agree, someone who didn't actually grow up in the military lifestyle lacks the necessary perspective to understand what it's like to grow up a brat.

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    2. This is Also how I felt....thrown away like garbage, I believe we should be able to go back on base go to the PX/BX commissary etc....especially if your father or mother were "lifers"...it is all we knew, they are our "home towns". I feel out of place, as I live no where near military...While growing up age 3 till 20 I was always on a base.....seeing G.I's everyday was awesome, a security that I felt with in the community...I don't get the same feeling anywhere else and now if I go onto a base I must be signed in as I'm not good enough to belong to the community (family) I know and loved so much, any more. ..what sets us apart as BRATS the military is my family Aunts, Uncles, cousins I know who they are but I don't belong and they don't "know" me, as I was never around, Gma and Gpa...the same....I can count on my fingers and toes the times I saw any of them while growing up. ...We sacrificed as well we are by no means a CHAMP...we are BRATS and a BRAT card would be nice just to visit what we know as "OUR Home" The Military Base/post.....I hate the civie..world its not right. ..Sure I could of joined the military if I didn't have scoliosis, a rare bleeding disorder, a history of seizures and a few other medical issues that I inherited from Dad being a Vietnam Vet before I was born..but we all know "Red Tape" can't be seen through.... I would just like to belong again like many of us have a BRATS day picnic something. ....

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  3. I appreciate this. It is written objectively, and is a good 10,000 foot view of what took place. Thank you!

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    1. You're welcome! Thanks for reading!

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  4. I think it is important to point out that this was just not about a name change. Yes, we BRATS are very sentimental about our name. But this is about more. This is about people who have no experience with a subculture, coming in and making changes for that subculture. Without knowing anything, they come in and want to change things and tell us what is good for us. How do they know? Their book is in accurate and poorly written and gives a false view of military life.

    This is about people with no military ties, hiding a for profit company behind a non-profit and exploiting the BRATs to line their pockets. This is about people with no military ties using USO funds to go on overseas vacations, staying at expensive hotels and eating at lavish restaurants. They admitted this and even bragged about it. Tell me, couldn't that money have been used to really help military families?

    This is about two people with no ties to the military desecrating the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for self promotion. Their book was advertised within a wreath put at the tomb. And they talked about how honored they were to have that done. No. Just no. This is not about YOU. No one is honoring you. This is about military sacrifice and the Finks turned that around to be about them? That was the breaking point for me. That is just so wrong and from that act alone, I can't understand why anyone within the military community would offer them support.

    But the crux of this issue is that the Finks are completely self serving under the guise of wanting to help military families. They don't want to help us. They want to line their own pockets. That is their true motivation.

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    1. I do get it and I understand the outrage, though I am probably less upset about it than many people are. To me, the idea was just idiotic and pointless. There are so many other things they could have focused on. And I also agree that it was really tacky for the Finks to use the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to promote their book. I'm surprised that was authorized.

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  5. I am a little suspicious of the letter posted on Facebook. If you go to thier website, nothing has changed. They are still advertising the sitting service and asking for car donations. I think they got mad because the Military Trademark infringement department took down one of their pages. They used the military emblems without permission. Every other psrt of thier operationchamps.org site work. The Brat community will continue to be vigilant. When every part of the nonprofit feed back into a for profit owned for them, nothing seems innocent.

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    1. Well, like I said, this may not be over. They might just be trying to lay low until the heat blows over. And personally, I think they were doing some good things. They just need to be a lot more considerate and respectful toward the brat community and stop trying to change the culture, particularly since they are not actually a part of it.

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  6. This is a great entry to your blog. Also, Misty Corrales, your points are all valid and address concerns most of us Brats have. Thank you all for showing the brat side.

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  7. "Military BRATS = Bright. Resilient. Active. Talented. Successful."

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bj-gallagher/we-are-military-brats-we-_b_6242090.html

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  8. I am an Air Force brat. I am also an organizational consultant who works with government groups, non-profit organizations, businesses, and corporations. Sometimes I play the role of change agent – sometimes I asked to help other be change agents. One of the most basic principles of human behavior is that people don't like to be told what to do – especially by an outsider, someone who has no experience or track record with the group. The Finks clearly know little or nothing about psychology, either individual or groups.

    Of course they got push-back from the brat community. How insulting to be told that the name you have called yourself for many years (the American military brat community is over 200 years old) is "wrong" and that you need to change! How arrogant! The Finks' program was doomed from the start.

    Their intentions may have been good, I don't know. Or perhaps their intention was purely selfish – to sell a lot of books and land some lucrative grants and contracts to build a nice business for themselves. We'll never know.

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