REDSTONE ARSENAL – I’m an Army brat, which makes me see the world in a unique way. Brats don’t choose military service or the lifestyle that comes with it, but we embrace our experiences as they shape who we grow up to be.Sept. 11, 2001, is one of my earliest memories and remains incredibly vivid in my mind. At 5 years old, I hugged my dad goodbye as he headed to the airport. He was an Army officer headed to Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, for routine temporary duty.While I learned my ABCs and practiced counting in school that day, terrorist attacks shook our nation to the core. My kindergarten teacher explained to us that planes had been crashing into important buildings, lots of people had died and everyone was scared. As she described the events, all I could do was replay the image of my dad leaving for the airport that morning.My world shattered. I had never experienced grief before. I was scared and broken hearted, and I was convinced I would never see my dad again. He had been on a plane and all the planes were crashing, right? I was inconsolable, even after my mom brought me home from school. I sobbed for hours trying to understand why people did horrible things and how there could be a world without my dad in it.I was lucky though. My dad was safe in Dallas, Texas, where he had a layover. In my moments of fear and misunderstanding though, I suddenly understood why my dad put on his green Army uniform every day. Army brats may not be the ones serving, but we understand why our parents do, even from an early age.Deployments are difficult, and I understood at a young age there was no guarantee of tomorrow. Brats miss their parents and wish they could be home for birthdays and holidays, but brats also know the dangers involved in deployment. According to Stars and Stripe’s “Afghanistan: Remember the Fallen 2019,” 2,400 service members were killed in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2019, and more than 20,000 were wounded. I knew the risks of deployment, so I held my dad closer when he was home and leaned on my family when he was away. “I’m off to do battle and slay dragons,” he’d say. My mom, sister and I would hold each other close and rely on our family to help us through the tough times.Family means something different to brats though. Family of course can mean your parents, siblings and extended family, but military families don’t typically have the luxury of living close to extended family. It’s no secret that military families move often. My family was no different, and I attended five different elementary schools growing up. We never lived near my grandparents or cousins, so we made our own family. I have military “aunts,” “uncles” and “cousins” who became family because we were brought together by service and shared understanding of the military lifestyle. Military families take care of each other, especially during the hard times, because we understand the hardships and obstacles attached to service.That sense of finding family and camaraderie everywhere you go has stayed with me my entire life. I still have military brat “cousins” spread across the country on whom I can rely. In college I found family in friends and I’ve found family in every job I’ve had. Brats don’t see family as people who share DNA; we see it as people who ban together and take care of each other.Growing up, I definitely thought I’d take after my dad. I didn’t know exactly what he did at work, but he wore a cool uniform and people thanked him for his service, so I thought whatever he did must have been important. When my sister and I played dress up, my go-to outfit was a princess dress, doctor’s white coat, dad’s old black combat boots and his cap, if I could steal it when he wasn’t looking. I’d stomp around in his old boots that fit like clown shoes and announce that I was going to be a princess Army girl doctor (yes, that’s totally a real job). My dad fully supported this, and luckily didn’t make me eat meals ready to eat, better known as MREs, or do physical training to practice for this future career.I didn’t become a princess, doctor or an Army officer like my dad, but I did grow up to become a Department of the Army civilian. I recognize that I didn’t have the most traditional childhood, but it made me who I am today. After being raised by a community of warfighters and their families, I now use my understanding and respect for military service to support the current warfighters and their families. As a DA civilian I will always be proud to say I’m a brat.April is Month of the Military Child, and today, April 30, is Military Brats Day. According to https://militarybenefits.info/military-brats-day/, there are an estimated 15 million military brats in the U.S. As we close out this month of celebration, I’m yelling an Army “Hooah” to my brat tribe! So to all my brat sisters and brothers: I see you; I understand you; and I’m rooting for you.