Monday, June 6, 2011

Military Life....From a Brat's Perspective: Sharon of Happy Hapa

The Military Brat Team and the Homefront Team are combining efforts to share our experiences with the military lifestyle so that others can fully understand the sense of community, sacrifices, benefits, and expectations we all share as members of a truly unique group of people. Each month we will feature a story shared by a Military Brat Team member, and a story shared by a Homefront Team member.

  This Feature is written by Sharon, shop owner of Happy Hapa

Military Life….
From a Brat’s perspective
me as a kid in Japan
     The fairy tale began in the 1960’s when a young Air Force Staff Sergeant was stationed far away from home in Wakkanai, Japan.  There he met a beautiful Japanese woman working as a waitress at the NCO Club. They quickly fell in love, moved back to the United States, married and had their first child…  Me.  Yes, I am a military “brat,” and if brat translates to “spoiled” so be it. I had a glamorous childhood! While I didn’t live in a mansion, have a chauffeur, own a pony, or have a maid clean up after me I did get to do other stuff that kids only read about in books and magazines! Travel, live abroad, learn a new language and learn about a new culture all while living alongside military personnel and their families. Who gets to do that?

     While I was born in Louisiana I spent a majority of my elementary-middle school years growing up in Japan. It was an amazing experience. We had the comfort of living an American lifestyle on base but also enjoyed the freedom to safely travel off. It was exciting and I loved it!

     And I loved school. My classmates came from all over the world – some transferred from different parts of the United States, some from Europe, and some from other Asian countries. But regardless of where you were from, you were always made to feel welcome. The “new kid” was a novelty and was showered with attention.   

my husband (Eric) and I reunited in Vegas (pre-marriage)
    While living in Japan my parents were a bit strict and overprotective. To my classmates that translated to me being a “goodie-goodie.” I had a much earlier curfew than my friends and definitely didn’t have as much freedom as they did. Riding in friend’s cars, attending parties, smoking, drinking - didn’t happen! Instead I was a good girl. I listened to my parents and stayed out of trouble (for the most part). I was sweet and shy; studied hard in school; played the piano; swam on the swim team; acted in local plays and was the student government president. My parents kept me busy! So while I wasn’t part of the “cool” crowd I had a lot of fun and enjoyed my school years!  

   That was until the middle of my freshmen year. My dad came home and announced that we were being transferred. Instead of being thrilled to move to Hawaii I was devastated and cried for weeks! The move was beyond difficult and being the new kid in my new school was not the same experience as being the new kid at my old one. I missed my friends, my school and my home in Japan.

Things got better but it was never the same. Then, with the creation of the Internet, email, websites, MySpace and Facebook I began reconnecting with people I knew from as far back as first grade, even teachers!  We have continued to keep in touch and are still a tight-knit community. It’s been fun to be able to share our experiences, pictures, videos etc. from our days in Japan. We’ve also had several reunions with the first one being in Las Vegas where I ended up “meeting” my husband. Yes! The once goodie-goodie girl hooks up with the bad boy, athlete and marries! Who would’ve thought as we barely exchanged words “back in the day?”  That was over 11 years ago. We have been living “happily ever after” ever since! 

me and my kids
     But truly, the fairytale doesn’t end there. Now, as the wife of an Army Guardsman and the mother of two little girls I hope to teach my own children the same lessons I learned growing up as a “brat” – to love and respect the many cultures that surround us and to embrace and learn from our differences. Granted, my children’s experiences will be different but the lessons will remain the same. Living in Hawaii, the place that I once dreaded moving to ended up being the perfect place to do just that! Hawaii is not only known for their beautiful beaches and warm weather but it is also known as the “melting pot of the Pacific” – a place where different cultures come together as one. My life growing up as a brat in Japan prepared me for that!  I am truly grateful to my family, the military, my teachers, and friends for their role in enriching my life! I now hope to enrich others! 

Thank you so much Sharon for sharing your story! If you would like to submit a story for this series please contact us ("Contact" tab at the top of the blog) for consideration.  

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