For most of my early life on this planet, I was the step-son of a good military man, my stepfather Vern McConnell.
Vern was the consummate father and he was the head of three households when all was said and done.
He was a good man who did things the right way.
My first memories as a “military brat” were a little frightening. I remember being driven on to Tachikawa Air Force Base and there were a lot of very angry Japanese people wearing white headbands with a red ball on them. They were climbing the twelve-foot chain link fence surrounding one of the gates to enter or exit the installation.
They were screaming at us and holding up signs and attempted to surround our car before the base police personnel came in and escorted us safely onto the base. I was to learn that we encountered such a ruckus every August 6th and 9th. Those are the two days we dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
At my age, I had no real association with either of those events, but like all students, we learned about them in class.
We travelled extensively on the rail system and as far as I ever knew, our family represented the only Americans wherever we went.
In hindsight, I wonder what the very stoic and quiet train passengers thought of us behind their sanitary masks.
This was before any pandemic mandated their use, and I could only make out their eyes as they watched me come and go.
Living in foreign countries made for an “us versus them” mentality that was both divisive and coalescing. I never knew or was taught anything other than acceptance and inclusivity.
I left East L.A. before I was exposed to any of the bad elements that, as a young boy, I was sheltered and insulated against. I joke about being a gangster because I read in some article that the city I was born in was rated one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America.
I am sure that is nothing the Chamber of Commerce is very proud about, but the truth is my big brother and family pretty much made sure I had a safe childhood, despite my own worst efforts.
When you reside on a military or government installation, you become ensconced in your own little world.
You shop at the BX (Base exchange) where you pay much less than retail and never run out of things. You have free public transportation via these big ugly blue busses that run round the clock.
Free access to gymnasium, swimming pool, and a teen club for all your social needs.
Free access to play sports. The very coolest part of that was since we were one of only 3 American high schools in England, our sports schedules were filled out with German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Belgian teams so we travelled all over Europe.
Karen insists I am spoiled rotten and have been all my life
I’m sure being a military brat helped in that regard.