Cherie Avila, Museum Storyteller
I grew up in a military family. Both of my older brothers attended a military school for part of their schooling. Upon graduation, all three of us kids served in the military. Although I only served for four years, both of my brothers retired from the military. Most of my high school years were in Korea. When I was a senior year in high school, my dad was transferred stateside. I spent my senior year in Maryland longing to be back with my friends in Korea. When it was time for college, I applied to one university. The one university that I knew a friend from Korea was attending. When I left the Army and chose the civilian career of a teacher, I did not initially realize the uniqueness of being an Army Brat. Over the years I have told friends about being raised in a military family, moving every few years, living in different countries and many states, and attending school in Korea. I couldn’t tell if my civilian friends didn’t believe me, or my story was just so different from their experience that they couldn’t relate. Either way, I often thought of my other “brat” friends and how I would like to reconnect with them.
As my own children started school and I was considering which schools they would attend, I began to think of my own school experience and what has happened to my classmates from Korea. I knew very little about social media at the time and had no idea where to begin to find them. One day I noticed that the public library was going to be showing the documentary, Brats: Our Journey Home. I went to the library, sat in a dark room with a handful of others, and the documentary began. It was about ten minutes into the documentary that I started bawling. I was crying and was not sure why this film was having such an emotional impact on me. At one point in the documentary, I saw the sign in front of my old high school in Korea, I realized why I was so moved. I said to myself, “Oh my gosh! It was real.” It existed. This school that I had been talking about for 30 years actually existed. My memories were real. The documentary validated my experience and my memories of my experience.
As members of military families, we are in a subculture of America that few others experience. Living on a military base is similar to a small town where everybody knows everybody, but unlike a small town, we rarely get the opportunity to go “home.” What does home even mean to military kids? For the few of us that do get the opportunity to return to where we attended school, all the people are different, so it is not the same. There may be some buildings that are recognizable, but it is never the same, and to me does not feel like “home”. Soon after I saw the documentary, a friend asked me to join Facebook to see a photo of her new puppies. Once I joined Facebook, I began searching for friends from my high school in Korea. Once we connected, and began sharing photos and stories, it was if no time had passed. I felt more at home, than I had in a long time. In fact, one friend from high school and I were living in the same town for six years and had no idea the other was living there.
I believe that it is through our stories that we make connections with other members of military families, often finding similarities with which we can relate. Although we may share some similar experiences, there is no one stereotypical military family. Being a part of a military family, we all have very different stories, but once we share our stories we can begin to relate, to make connections, and perhaps find that sense of home you may be longing for. I believe it is through storytelling that we find the common thread that binds us together. The Museum of American Military Families can be that venue for thread-finding, but it does require you to be willing to share your story. I ask you to be brave and share a story from your life in a military family. You can start by visiting the the museum’s Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/MuseumoftheAmericanMilitaryFamily . You can scroll on the side of this webpage and find a blog or podcast that reminds you of an event or episode you would be willing to share.
Together, let’s make 2021 the year of connections and start by telling your story.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
The Kroger Co. Family of Stores is committed to bringing hope and help to local neighborhoods and organizations through their Inspiring Donations program. New Mexico’s Smith’s Food & Drug participates to give customers the opportunity to donate to local causes.
When you to link your Rewards card to the Museum of the American Military Family (Organization IA946), Smith’s Food & Drug donates .5% of every eligible purchase. The more you shop, the more money the museum will earn!
Here’s how it works:
- Create a digital account.
A digital account is needed to participate in Smith’s Inspiring Donations. If you already have a digital account, simply link your Shopper’s Card to your account so that all transactions apply toward the organization you choose.
- Link your Card to an organization. The Museum of the American Military Family is IA946
Select the organization that you wish to support. Here’s how:
- Sign in to your digital account.
- Search for your organization. (The museum is IA946)
- Enter the name or organization number.
- Select the Museum of the American Military Family from the list and click “Save”.
- Your choice will also display in the Smith’s Inspiring Donations section of your account. If you need to review or revisit your organization, you can always do so under your Account details.
- The museum earns. (Thank you!)
Note, if you are a customer, make sure you have a preferred store selected to view participating organizations. Any transactions moving forward using the Shopper’s Card number associated with your digital account will be applied to the program, at no added cost to you. This is a very easy way to support the Museum of the American Military Family.
Shanon Hyde, Student Liaison, is a Marine Corp brat and a student at Pennsylvania State University, majoring in Aerospace Engineering. From 2016-2019 he attended Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan and was the President of his Junior class. While living in Okinawa, he had the opportunity to travel to several different countries, learning about different cultures and worldviews. In May of 2020 he graduated from Mooresville High School in Mooresville, North Carolina. In August of 2020, he started The Shanon Show podcast, which allows him to connect with military brats and share their stories on the internet. Shanon is committed to shedding a light on the issues that student brats face when transitioning to college, career, and life. In his free time, Shanon loves to make homemade sausage and watch Adam Sandler movies.
Check out MAMF Media online at militaryfamilymuseum.podbean.com
In a year that has been full of change and challenges, I’d like to share with you some of the successes that the museum has had, despite having been closed for nine months.
- We received a generous grant from the Griffinhart Foundation to develop a curriculum to accompany SHOUT! The curriculum was developed by professors from San Francisco State University and Truman College, Chicago, and will “go live” in 2021. (SHOUT! is a play, an anthology—and soon to be a full-length film.)
- We published two anthologies: Brat Time Stories: A Book for Nocturnal Brats and On Freedom’s Frontier: Life on the Fulda Gap.
- We created personalized video tours of Operation Footlocker-one for a public school district in Illinois; the other for the Defense Department Schools. We also developed some virtual curriculum for DoDEA 4thgraders, using stories submitted by generations of military “brats.”
- We created a virtual exhibit about the University of Maryland Munich Campus which opened in late September.
- We started audio and video podcasting on our MAMF Media podcast, and offer a wide variety of programs. We presented several virtual poetry workshops with Tacoma Poet Laureate Abby Murray.
- Our East Mountain Collaborative partnered with many entities to provide relevant programming on suicide prevention, addiction resources, stress management and home-schooling tips. We also explored news sources and discussed how to recognize “fake” and trusted sources. All of these are viewable at militaryfamilymuseum.podbean.com
- We received an Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History. It is our second such award in as many years. In 2018, we also received the AASLH prestigious Albert B. Corey prize for our innovativeness.
- We were careful stewards of our resources, and through the generosity of our community and some CARES Act funding, we have made it through this year and are optimistic that next year will be better. We will restart our capital campaign towards a building purchase.
- Through the year, our collections have continued to grow with new artifacts acquisition, so we have purchased museum cataloging software. Once we get the “go-ahead” to reopen, we will begin to inventory and catalog our collection.
So, while 2020 has pushed all of to our limits, it has made us, as an organization, learn to be more flexible, run leaner, and think way out of the box.
So, What’s the plan for 2021?
- Our collaborative is planning several video programs—in January we will present “So You Want to Write a Book—Now What?”
- We are collecting stories for a special anthology celebrating 75 years of DoDEA—if you have a memory or two about attending DoD schools, we’d like to include it in the book.
- We will be reworking a 30-year-old original children’s book manuscript, “My Momma Wears Army Boots”
- SHOUT is slated to be performed in Los Angeles and Providence and will be made into a full-length film.
- We will begin a very comprehensive project looking at gender, race, identity, religion and culture in military/families.
- Our podcast will continue to grow and evolve as we add more interviews, stories and programs.
- We may even unveil a new exhibit!
We hope that these programs are of interest to you, and you participate as applicable.
Also: Our museum is looking for several volunteer board members/liaisons to join our team. If you’d like to help grow our award-winning museum, further its mission of preserving and curating military family history, please email us at email@example.com. Please tell us why you’d like to serve on the board, your skill sets and what you envision your role as a team member could be. Even though we are in New Mexico, several of our board members live elsewhere.
When we are permitted to reopen, please know that our board/docents have taken the New Mexico Covid Certification training so that our visitors and volunteers are as safe as possible.
We look forward to hosting you-virtually and in person!
Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, Founder & Director MAMF