Sunday, December 1, 2013

FAMILIES | CHAMPs vs. BRATs

The book that caused distress.
A week or two ago I had the pleasure of meeting Debbie Fink, one of the authors of a book for the children of military families.

She wrote a book that is intended to support these children.

(I wrote the following supportive post about the book without realizing that it is controversial in the community of military families. I am not changing the post based on the comments after it–otherwise the comments won't make sense. The large number of negative comments about the book following the post stem from pride in the traditional term "BRATs"–and a reluctance to give it up.)

I know what it's like for a child when one parent has to be away from home as part of a job. My Dad was in the United Nations -- literally from its formation -- he was in San Francisco for the U.S. Government delegation in 1945. He traveled all over the world for the next 20 years, after having been away in Europe for the OSS during World War II. So he was away from home more of the year than he was home. We all missed him. His six kids were UN brats. We were very proud of what he did for the world but on the whole we would have preferred he had a job closer to home.

The Little CHAMPS (Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel) have an additional burden besides a missing parent and the fear that some harm might come to the parent while away. The parent who is away for the military is at a war or conflict or is preparing to go to one. Children have to get used to the idea that someone, somewhere is an enemy of the United States and their parent is in the front line, ready to take a bullet or a bomb for the rest of the country. The Little CHAMPS book (Fink, Fink, and Blackwell, 2012) is written as a tribute to these kids, to honor their service-by-proxy to their country and to offer constructive coping tools for their inherent challenges.

It is also written for civilian children, to give them a window of understanding into the world and challenges faced by their military-connected peers. In this way, the book is a bridge of understanding between the disconnected military and civilian worlds.

The book is promoted by Operation CHAMPs and is supported by the USO, American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the Military Child Education Coalition, National Military Family Association, United Through Reading, Armed Services YMCA and Blue Star Families. All five military branches' NGOs are also on board: AUSA Family Readiness, Air Force Association, Navy League, Marine Corps League, and the Coast Guard Foundation.

An estimated 600,000+ 5-12 year old Champs are the target audience. This is a public health and education initiative. Individual copies of The Little CHAMPS are available for purchase for $10 each. This is a useful book and a good cause.

26 comments:

  1. Useful book? Maybe. Good cause? Maybe. Rebranding of a tradition? YES. We are BRATS, NOT CHAMPS. Our service parent/sponsor are the heroes. Funny, that the Finks and their LLC have tradmarked CHAMPS (Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel)! Non-profit organization? Nope.

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  2. I am honored to be an Army BRAT. The Fink’s are not military brats, nor are they affiliated with the military service in any way.

    While we support the idea that military children need a strong support system and more understanding, to completely change what we are called (into a name the publishing company they own holds the registered trademark on and profit off of) is not okay. Perhaps what the Fink's should have done was focus on educating through their book about the honor, integrity and values that we as BRAT's are taught and what the title BRAT really stands for.

    BRATs know it as:
    ~ Boldness - To bravely go where others dare not.
    ~ Responsibility - to live in service and honor of God, Family and Country.
    ~ Adaptability - to be at home anywhere.
    ~ Tolerance - to love and respect all mankind.

    We are not Heroes...our parents who serve are the heroes. We are united by our upbringing and we are a family that shares a bond that no one that has not experienced living this life could fathom. We bleed RED, WHITE & BLUE...and we love this country and all that it stands for. Being a hero is something that one earns. It is a title of respect and honor.

    To label a child who is a military dependent a hero, has the potential of a two- fold repercussion. The first being that it dilutes and makes the word Hero something that is common place instead of someone to be respected, revered and looked up to. The second is that it fosters yet another layer of entitlement and ego driven separation.

    Please support us in bringing more awareness to this issue and help us to insure that all BRAT’s understand that they are part of an extended family that has a legacy and heritage that is 100’s of years strong.

    Cynthia Ross ~ Proud BRAT & FAHS Class of '85

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  3. I am so sorry that you have had so little support from the BRAT community that you felt you had to support an exclusive and derogatory community instead of being part of a huge, inclusive bunch of BRATS. Would you care to join us - we'd love to have you. Besides using names like Gonzo in her book guarantee the very bullying that she claims to be trying to change. Shame on her.

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    1. Never mind the bed-wetting incident.

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  4. Thank you to the three commentators for educating me. It didn't occur to me that there was anything controversial about the CHAMPs, but I see now what the issue is. I don't know enough about it to do more than provide a forum! They also serve who provide a venue for others to air their views.

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    1. John, I thank you for providing a forum. I'll comment further below. I also love your attitude!

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    2. Thank you for being open to listening Mr. Marlin.

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    3. I am a PROUD ARMY BRAT! I run several Military groups and BRAT groups on Facebook. In these, there are over 40,000 BRATS in them and you will not find 1 BRAT that is happy about this book or Fink's a non-military CIVI, making money on it. What makes it worse is that the organizations we THOUGHT had our backs and that WE support, are supporting this book! It is an outrage of disrespect to us as Military BRATS. It isnt just a title, it is WHO WE ARE. By allowing her to change our name, you take who we are away. I can assure you, we have been brought up BRAT STRONG and from the BEST the Military has made and we will NOT back down. We will NOT stand at easy. We consider this a threat to WHO we are and will stand united and together, BRAT STRONG, in this fight. WE ARE THE PROUD MILITARY BRATS! We have a LOT of passion in this as this is a fight for our very existence.

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    4. A little background: I am a military brat, my two children are military brats and my two grandchildren are military brats. I was just telling my daughter about the whole BRATS vs. CHAMPS debate. She was irate. Something she said really struck a cord with me. She said, "Do NOT make BRATS weak. They are inherently strong. They get through so much that civilian kids can't even comprehend. They do it because they are strong and have a strong support system. Changing them to CHAMPS will weaken them and take something away from them."

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    5. I never felt anything negative about calling myself a Brat - which is a sign that there is nothing wrong with the label. To me, it said - my Dad was away, and we missed him, and yet we knew what he was doing was important and so we didn't spend our time feeling sorry for ourselves.

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  5. One other important point to make is that not all BRATs are affiliated with the military and BRAT is a term that is international in scope. It is not a term that is limited only to the children of our US Armed Forces. My high school had BRATs that were the kids of those who served at our local embassy and our teachers as well as others who provided support to our armed services overseas, just as a small example. In addition we had BRAT kids that were other nationalities that attended our school.

    In the process of labeling this next generation as “CHAMPs”, how many children being exposed to this program will grow up feeling ostracized, that they no longer fit in because they don’t fit the definition? How many will grow up wondering “Where do I fit in?” BRAT is an all-encompassing term that we've earned that covers both military dependents and third culture children as well.

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  6. I feel that I am a voice crying out in the wilderness. The word "brat" is an old word which means "child of." It may come from a kind of coarse cloth that formed children's clothing. Military brats, embassy brats, campus brats, overseas brats, even religious brats are unique amongst their peers in what our parents do. But all of us are fired by that uniqueness - unique even amongst ourselves.

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  7. To think someone who didn't live our life thinks they can come along and try to change something that isn't broken is beyond ludicrous. We will not let some "civilian" take away the badge of honor that has been worn by BRATs for more than 263 years. We are fighting for what we have rightfully earned. We are fighting for past, present and future military children - better known as BRATs.

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  8. On the surface, Ms. and Mrs. Fink seem to want to work with military children; however, their first misstep came when they elected to rename our culture....with their trademarked name to boot. They were well aware of who we are and what we called ourselves, so their choice was not founded in ignorance.

    CHAMPs causes problems on a couple of levels. First: what it stands for: Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel. Let's break that down.

    1. The meaning is pretty much "baggage"
    2. The children are not the heroes.
    3. Children grow up. What will they be when they are no longer a child? when they are no longer "attached" because their sponsor has separated? AHSMP?
    4. Not all BRATs are "attached" to military personnel. You mentioned you were a UN BRAT. BRATS come from the military, the diplomatic corps, the state department, the DoDDs teachers, the civilian personnel who work to support the military. How does this book address these other BRATs? And why should the military BRAT be segregated from them?
    5. BRATs are also not just from America -- we have international siblings in our BRAThood. Relabeling us a s CHAMPS cuts us off from them.

    BRAT is a name that grows with you and stays with you. CHAMPS is temporary.

    They claim they understand the issues associated with growing up BRAT, but they also seem to believe that we're broken. We're not. We have a different childhood that has different stressors than most -- but we also have opportunities that most kids do not have. But we're not broken; we're not victims; we're not damaged goods. We don't need a rescue.

    We do have some pretty unique needs -- but these needs cannot be addressed by a children's book. How can a children's book address the difficulties which are imposed by transferring school systems .... and I'm not talking about friendships. How can a children's book address the very real feelings of being exiled from our home when we reach a certain age? Children ages 5-12 are not at the point where that is even a consideration.

    The book, in many ways, sets BRATS up for problems -- both in relating to civilian peers and down the road in life. From a public health point of view, this is an epidemic waiting to happen.

    BRATs were not in crisis -- but I can see a future where they are, thanks to this book.

    Educating civilians about BRATs is not a bad goal -- but renaming a culture is not the way to do it, especially when you are not a member of that community. She did not consult with us to find out we'd feel about this.

    Our name is our heritage. It is their heritage too. If we don't defend it now, what will they have?

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    1. Many good answers on here - I'll just add that to me, being a Brat isn't just a heritage, it's actually part of my identity. "Where where you born?" "Friedberg, W Germany ... I'm an Army Brat." "Where are you from?" "Well, all over - I'm a Brat." Just about any question pertaining to a period of time in my life has that addendum to whatever answer is pertinent. It's absolutely integral. People who are not Brats just cannot understand - no matter what training/college degrees they have. Just my 2 cents to add to all of my more eloquent Brat family's answers.

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  9. This book trivializes military children, from the use of the word Little, to the illustrations showing the children as very small compared to adults, to the glib conclusion. Here is my Amazon review. I wrote this as a person who has studied and taught the evaluation of children's literature at a graduate school level for more than five years. I strongly dislike writing negative reviews and I rarely review vanity-published books (this book was published by a company owned by the Finks, which publishes only the Finks' work, and which Mrs. Fink is the Product Manager of, although she removed that information from her Linked In profile when it became known in the Brat community.) Despite the fact that I avoid reviewing books of this kind, it is very important to me that people are aware of the mediocrity of this book before they recommend it to military children. Military children deserve better than this.

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    1. Just a little add-on, I just want to mention that A Day on Skates was a favorite book of mine when I was a kid. I'm so happy it's still available!

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    2. Thanks - and I don't mind being called a U.N. brat, which is what I was. My Dad worked for the OSS in World War II and after the war he thought the UN would bring world peace. He worked at it for 20 years, on airline safety and then on refugees, and wasn't home much... Luckily we had an engaged Mom... All six of us kids are still alive.

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  10. I have several issues with the Finks book and intentions. The acronym contains the word hero applied to a child that has no idea what that means nor deserves the designation. Hero defined in this manner takes away from all the men and women that actually earned that title by dying or getting maimed in the course of their enlistment. Even if they came away unscathed, they put themselves on the line and calling children heros for the mere fact they are the children of a military family does real harm in my opinion.

    Secondly, denigrating the BRATS name by saying using it implies we are still under British rule, smacks of a culture imperialist deciding how the natives are going to be indoctrinated into the white man's world. That may sound extreme to you perhaps, but over and over again in the Finks literature, promotion, and public education materials, they are trying to change the BRAT name to their new acronym. They are trying to deny that and have tried to delete their trail, but there are plenty of us who have kept track of this and you can't scrub the internet entirely.

    I can't fault them entirely for wanting to help people in general, but everything they do seems to smack of indoctrination and self promotion, all at the expense of organizations whose money would be better spent elsewhere. All this is not entirely non-profit although it is brandished as such. At $10 a book, 6,000 that the USO purchased brings a tidy profit the their publishing company which owns the book and is not non-profit.

    I'm

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  11. While I do not believe I can add to the eloquent comments already given, I wanted youto know iI was here and that these comments are mine as well. Thank you so much for checking into this and listening to us. There are so many reasons this topic should be discussed. My Dad was the hero, not me. Children already have a sense of entitlement. Teaching them falsely that they arebheros is harmful to them and their future. Please help us reach families so they do not fall into this trap that has not be thought thru and from the outside appears as if it is for personal gain. It is ashamed the USO did not think about the long term effects of the Little CHAMPS book. There are so many books out there written by real BRATS that can help others. Thank you for listening.

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  12. Sir I was conceived a BRAT,born a BRAT,raised a BRAT,lived a BRAT and will die a BRAT.Both my parents are no longer alive as well as 4 out of the 5 Bases or housing areas are not there anymore.My only connection to my past now is within my brothers and sisters known as BRATS.My dad was in WW2 and Korea and I wasn't born until 50 so you can see who the hero was. It wasn't me for i didn't follow his footsteps. I lived the life and Proudly wear the badge BRAT.

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  13. Sir, Flying jets in my life is "what" I did; being a Brat is "who" I am. It's in my Soul, and no one will ever take that from me. Thank you for allowing me to comment...

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  14. I can think of no better way to destroy a community than what these Finks have done; rebrand as a commodity, divide the ranks, teach falsehoods to the most vulnerable and sow the seeds of insecurity.
    BRATS are proud of their BRAThood. We earned it through our lifestyle. Trademarking a moniker then brainwashing children into self labeling as that moniker is foul play at best. BRATS are a community with a bond that is very strong, unlike any other and bring instant camaraderie even to new found BRATS.

    Dividing the ranks. They are targeting our younger and most impressionable members and brainwashing them with the New label. What happens to the child hero once they are 18? There's a division. What happens when their parent is no longer active duty? Another division, and separation. why the targeting of that age ggroup, to divide it's members from the current legion of BRAT members? That's the beauty of being a BRAT, once a BRAT always a BRAT. We protect our own fiercely.

    Teaching falsehoods; in their slideshow, they teach Anchors Aweigh as the Navy hymn. Even an ARMY BRAT such as myself knows that's wrong. We are steeped in military culture. This civilian shows her ignorance and indifference to our heritage by not bothering to do her homework on such a simple thing and then presenting it as truth. The ONLY bright side is the children this fink has presented to ought to know better, at least she hasn't tried to teach it to civilians, who wouldn't know better. (Which brings up the point that she is trying to bridge the gap between civilians and military by teaching the military kids? Failure. I believe that's called preaching to the choir. BRATS live their hardships, they don't really need them pointed out)
    Sowing the seeds of insecurity; most BRATS don't realize we are any different from other kids, until we encounter civilians. Why on earth would you point this out to them at such a young age?
    Teaching a child they are a hero by being born is a disservice and contrary to what BRATS are raised to know; if you want an honor, go and earn it. Nothing is given but opportunity, the rest is up to the individual. Teaching them they have to do something other than be themself to fit in is a dangerous concept. BRATS accept members as they are without exception and reservation, it's part of the lifestyle. BRATS know being different is not better or worse, it just is and it's fine, it's part of living in different cultures.

    BRATS also know that divide and conquer works in conquest, and we will NOT allow these links to divide us from our upcoming BRAT sister and brethren for the sake of her 15 minutes of fame and to make an easy buck at our expense.

    Go peddle this CHAMP nonsense somewhere else, we aren't buying it.

    BRAT ON!

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  15. People are surprised at our (Brat) response. Well, to be honest, I think we were too. But if you know anything about culture and values, and obviously the Finks don't, this was a direct frontal assault on a group identity. The Finks, MCEC, USO, USAA, and others, have completely underestimated the nature of the beast. Brats have always been the silent support group for the military. When Dad (or these days Mom too) deployed, we were there. When it was time to move to another installation, we were there. Always in the background, supporting our heroes. And in return, we expected that someone would have our backs when needed. The first betrayal is turning 18 (maybe 22 if you go to college). We lose our ID card that gives us access to a huge part of our lives - the base our parent is attached to. But no mind. We were taught that as Brats, life hands you lemons at times. Suck it up and deal. And we do. We remain proud of the fact that we, too, have served our country, and in our way, we remain ready in the background. Support. Now we have our second betrayal. The people we relied on to be at our backs when needed, have decided that we are expendable. They have forgotten us. So now we are stepping forward and saying NO. As a Brat recently put it, "We did not realize that the status quo of "ignore the Brat" had been altered. We were ok with being ignored - heck, we kind of expected it. We never expected them to go after our identity."

    Whatever you want to call it, the Finks et al threw down the gauntlet and they are finding BRATs are a force to be reckoned with. After all, we had the best teacher - the military.

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  16. BRATS = Brats United!

    ~ Boldness - to daringly choose to do what is right.
    ~ Responsibility - to live in service of God, Family and Country.
    ~ Adaptability - to be at home wherever you are.
    ~ Tolerance - to enduringly love and respect everyone.
    ~ Spunk - to live as a courageously and determined spirit.

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  17. There are excellent comments have been posted that covered the bases as far as the program is concerned as well as the back-story to the issue. What I'd like to address is your statement: "The complaints start with pride in the traditional term "BRATs" - and a reluctance to give it up..."

    Let's talk about our reluctance to give up a heritage that is rich in tradition, earned by supporting our parent in this nation's military forces. Let's talk about tradition. Respect. Responsibilities. Honor. Let's talk about all of it.

    What does the sound of TAPS mean to you? Is it just a melody played at the end of the day? Was it played at the burial of your parent as a tribute to their service to America? I can't listen to it without getting tears -- it is such a representative tune from the battlefield to the hallowed grounds of this nation's cemeteries. I will not give that up.

    Do the sounds of freedom, as the aircraft fly overhead, stir your soul? Do you look up to see it? My eyes tear up with the sound of freedom. It means that we are being protected by the real heroes, by those who put their lives on the line in the defense of this nation. I will not give that up.

    We’ve been told that the child of the military family needs to be shown that they are Americans. The child who stands at attention when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited…the child who stops and respects the lowering of the flag each night as TAPS is played…the child who watches their parent, in full uniform march off to their duty station each day (unless they are serving their duty away from home)? That child needs to be assured they are Americans? Don’t ask us to give up our American BRAT pride.

    When you see a man or woman in uniform, does it cut right to your heart? I assure you that it cuts to the heart of every BRAT, including the adult BRAT. Pride. Honor. Respect. We won't give that up.

    When the average child becomes an adult, their past remains a tangible part of their life. They visit their old school and have class reunions, gather with childhood friends to remember the good old days and often go back to their childhood home to see if it is as they remembered it. My children will never see where I grew up. I’ve had to give that up. Don’t expect me to give up any more of my heritage and past.

    Only a fool would dare to make sweeping changes to that of which they have no knowledge or would challenge the heritage and tradition that keeps this nation strong. I know of no one more loving of this nation than one who has the colors infused into their bloodline in such a personal, meaningful way. To challenge that is to challenge more than mere words. To not even try to understand the issue is an insult to those who carry their history proudly.

    This issue goes well beyond an acronym or a mistaken sense of identity to be attached to a person. It goes to someone, no matter what their intentions were, trying to strip one segment of society of their history and instill a new heritage that is unjust. The lack of an ability to understand that is a glimpse into those who can’t fathom what they have done. It reflects on a disregard for all that is right and proper. It is a heritage that we will not give up.

    The term BRAT means many things. Brave. Bold. Bright. Resilient. Responsible. Adaptable. Accepting. Tolerant. Tenacious. All good, strong words that reflect on generations of young and adult BRATs -- words that should be continue to be applied to today’s BRATs as a reflection of who they truly are at their core. We should never be expected to give that up.

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