Eddie, Eddie, Eddie, you are my CHS 75 classmate and a friend! Which is why I wanted to let you know that I remember—in response to your recent letter herein—that you were never a brat! You were one of the good ones!
Yes, Navy kids are not “Navy brats,” and while you may have unknowingly felt forced by nameless others to accept such an unflattering characterization, you need no longer submit! Allow me to explain…
As you know we have long had the Armed Services, traditionally the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines.
The Navy is about ships, sailors and the sea. The others have much greater ties to land-based warfare.
And consequently, there are certain proud distinctions the Navy has that separate it from the rest—distinctions that have been part and parcel of our traditions since the beginning of time.
For example, four stars in the Navy signifies an Admiral. Four stars in any of the others and you are a General. In the Navy you start out as an Ensign and hope to make Lieutenant. In any of the others you start out as a Lieutenant and hope to make Captain, whereupon you and your peers will traditionally salute Navy Captains, who may be called the same thing but vastly outrank you. In short, the Navy rank structure is completely different from all the rest.
Beyond the rank structure there are many other historic distinctions that make the Navy different; one of them is the traditional terminology used for our children.
For example, my great grandmother, the daughter of my great great grandfather—who was a Civil War era naval officer—was a Navy junior.
But when she grew up she married an Army officer, so my grandfather was an Army brat.
Since my grandfather became an Army officer himself, my father was also an Army brat.
But since my Dad joined the Navy I am a Navy junior, and since I spent a career in the Navy myself, my daughters are also Navy juniors.
(And I might say, as any proud father would, that my wonderful daughters were never in any way, shape or form deserving of a term like “brat.”)
If you dig a little deeper, apparently the term “brat” may well have come along with our British heritage, standing for “British Regiment Attached Travelers.” Obviously in establishing the British Empire the British Army brought their families all over the world, courtesy of the British government. A regiment is an Army unit typically commanded by a Colonel—nothing to do with the Navy. Thus the term “Navy brat” is as incorrect as saying “Army admiral.” I get what you’re trying to say, but it’s not right.
Why do we hear the term “Navy brat” these days? I think it may have started around World War II when the Navy grew quickly. Many of our traditions and courtesy were lost in the expediency required of war. Before World War II Navy protocol was tight, tight, tight.
And you can probably imagine how, back then, Army kids growing up in Podunkville, USA, hanging around the Army Post there and going to the “Post Exchange,” might become “brats.” They were bored! (Do you remember going to the Post Exchange in Coronado, or the Navy Exchange? That’s yet another example of a different name for the same thing depending on branch of service…)
But for us, whose Navy fathers were often long at sea, proudly carrying our nation’s flag to distant lands in the name of national defense? Compared to Army kids, with our dads so often not at home, we needed to be on our best behavior at all times. Our wonderful Coronado mothers—Navy wives—expected no less. Thus the term “Navy junior” is far more fitting for us than “Navy brat.”
So Eddie, arise! Be a “brat” no longer if you so choose. The proper term for you, for me, and for U.S. Navy children everywhere is “Navy Junior.”
And please, tell your friends, who may also have unwittingly suffered as innocent victims of the grievous misnomer!
Ex scientia tridens.