Military Kids’ Lives—a New Exhibit at the Museum of the American Military Family in Tijeras, New Mexico

By Allen Dale Olson

We are not defined by ethnicity, religion, geography, or race. You cannot spot us in a crowd. But we, the children of warriors, have been shaped by a culture so powerful we are forever different, forever proud, and forever linked to one another.     -Mary Edwards Wertsch, Reflections on an Invisible Nation

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like if you had attended five or six different schools enroute to high school graduation? Or if you had lived in a foreign country by the time you reached third grade? Or during any of your elementary or junior or senior school years?

At the Museum of the American Military,  as a civilian, you can live that kind of life vicariously because of a new exhibit – Military Kid’s Lives–  or as a former military kid, you can reminisce about those memories of packing up every two or three years to move to schools in another state or another country. You can recapture the childhood pride you once had (and still have) in being a Brat or learn what it’s like to be a child growing up in a military family by reading exhibit panels including the stories of kids from the 1930s to the present.

The exhibit is a permanent part of the Museum’s collections, and contrasts and compares the experiences of Hudson Philips, a Brat in the 1930s and 40s with those of author Bernard Lee (1950s and 60s) and Dwayne Dunn (1980s and 90s) and the more recent reflections of Janine Boldrin. 

The museum is in Tijeras, New Mexico, on Old Route 66 just seven miles east of Albuquerque and is collecting and preserving the stories, documents, photos, and artifacts of the parents, spouses, and children of those who serve and have served in America’s military. It is also home to a special gallery focusing on the history of the Defense Department world-wide school system for military children with commentary by teachers and students going back to the 1946 founding of the system.

  Military Kids’ Lives, the story of what it’s like to be a military kid, is a compilation of information not only from those who grew up military, but also from some of the nation’s leading researchers on military kid life: Marc Curtis, founder of Military Brats Registry; Mary Edwards Wertsch, author of “Military Brats: Life inside the Fortress”; Donna Musil, producer of the documentary film, “Brats – Our Journey Home”; and the museum’s artist-in-residence, Lora Beldon, founder of Military Kid Art Project.

Elva Resa Publishing House and Military Kids Lives Magazine are also featured on panels discussing their military child-centric publications. Visitors will see artifacts, clothing, and books donated by people who grew up in military families – from Thailand to Texas, Norway to Libya, all over Europe, the USA, and the Far East. They can read first-hand stories of people who spent much of their lives in service to their country.

The exhibit was sponsored, in part, by Home Depot, Daisy BB guns, GCC, Rio Grande Credit Union and Chameleon Kids.  

MAMF is at 546B State Route 333, Tijeras, NM 87059, right next to Molly’s famous bar at the interchange of I-40 and SR 14, exit 175  (the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway). 

Telephone (505) 504-6830.