Thursday, April 26, 2007

Good morning all, and welcome to a very special issue of Reading Rucker. Today I am so very pleased to host author Marilyn Celeste Morris.
Marilyn is the author of the best selling book, "Once a Brat" her memoirs of life growing up as an army brat. Marilyn's memoirs span the war years from 1938 to the Korean conflict, and is a fascinating read.
Marilyn is among the very few members of one of the last "We" generations and her stories of life as a military dependent are funny, heartwarming and all too oftn, frightening, but always entertaining.

So Marilyn, welcome to Reading Rucker. Tell me, when you were growing up an Army brat, was your father one of those strict disciplinarians that we hear so much about?

Terrific question, Linda! Never been asked that before. Yes, my father expected and got strict adherence to his dictates. Sit at the family dinner table, ask to be excused, don’t put more on your plate than you can eat, etc. I was halfway afraid of my father; don’t get me wrong, because he never physically punished me (except once, when I sassed my mother in front of him – ooops! I’ll never do that again.) but because we dependents were indoctrinated that if we did something wrong, it would reflect on our father’s rank. My mother once received a speeding ticket in downtown Seoul, Korea, and I thought she would never hear the end of it. So if I misbehaved, word would get back to my father’s commander, then my father, and I would certainly be disciplined for it. But I never was.
I can imagine. My own father was a former soldier and although he wasn't a lifer, he carried a lot of the Army's discipline with him into his civilian life. We missed out a on all the travel. As a part of the life of an Army brat, what was your favorite duty station?

Austria was my favorite. I had visions of living in a castle, waited upon by butlers and maids, and you know what? I wasn’t far from that dream. Our first quarters (house) was a big two-story house on a hillside overlooking the Danube River in Linz, Austria. There was a genuine honest to-goodness Spanish Guard Tower nearby, where I could climb up into the turret and look out over the land for my Prince Charming. A close second favorite duty station was Fort Sill, OK. (I can hear everybody gasping in disbelief!) But my dad was stationed there twice; once when I was in the third grade and again when I began high school. I was fortunate enough to graduate from the same high school I began with and remain friends with my classmates to this day.

How lucky for you. You got to see places and experience things most of us never will. I was somewhat surprised to learn that the upsurge of patriotism after 9-11 was surprising to you. I know that as a military brat, patriotism was never far from your mind. So, how did you react when the U.S. was attacked on 9-11? Were you angry?

I was working in the legal department of a hospital corporation where I had once been a full-time employee, so I knew all the people in that department. It was the last day of my assignment that day, and when I arrived at my office, I heard the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I mentioned it to the security guards as I signed in to the secured building. After I got off the elevator and to my desk, I heard someone down the hall saying a second plane had crashed into the towers. We dragged the television out of the conference room and turned it on to verify what we were hearing was true. By the time we got news that the Pentagon had been hit, I confirmed the feeling I had had all along and said once "We are at war, folks.” I based my assumption on the fact that on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea, my father said, “I knew it. I knew that would happen.” Our concern right then was that we were in Paris, on leave, away from my dad’s unit, and we were scared to death that war might break out simultaneously in Europe. Fortunately, that did not happen, but after checking in with his unit, Dad suggested we return to base as soon as possible. Thoughts of war were never far from my mind, as the Russians were our enemies during that time, and their zone of occupation was right across the Danube River, practically in our back yard. Every so often, we would have practice evacuation drills so we would be prepared if war ever came. But I knew I would be safe.
Was I angry about the attacks on 9-11? Definitely. How dare any foreign country attack us so cruelly? When I returned to the States after an overseas assignment, I appreciated our country even more. Until you have lived in a foreign land, you don’t know how great this country really is.

That sentiment is something I hear a lot from the veteran's of WWll, and Korea, and surprisingly, from a great many Viet Nam vets. For them, there was never a doubt about whether they were doing the right thing, it was more a question of their responsibility to their homes and families. Does it surprise you when you hear today’s young men flatly refusing to join the military? Is their lack of patriotism a surprise for you?

I am always disappointed to hear the protests and the negativity that surrounds supporting our troops. But again, I have to realize this army is not my father’s army, nor this war my father’s war. The lines have blurred over who is the enemy, why are we there, and I am saddened over that. For those bleeding hearts who believe we are killing women and children along with the enemy, I say, “Can you spell collateral damage?” It has always been this way, a sad fact of war throughout history.

I completely agree with you. I wonder which of those bleeding hearts would scream the loudest for blood if it was their son or daughter who was killed on 9-11. War is not a pretty thing; it never has been and it never will be. More often than not those soldiers are scared stiff, and why wouldn't they be. I know I would be if bullets were whizzing passed my head. Looking back, what would you say was the most frightening moment of your life as the child of an Army officer?

There were several instances of extreme apprehension when I lived overseas. In Austria, our school was evacuated because of a Communist demonstration and we were put on buses to be sent to our quarters. Along the way, I hear what sounded like rocks hitting the sides of the bus. I learned later they may have been bullets. This has been discounted as some kids’ overactive imaginations, but I’m not so sure. But the most frightening thing was finding out North Korea had invaded South Korea and we were in Europe, wondering if war would break out at any moment there.

Marilyn, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Reading Rucker. I wish all the best with "Once a Brat".
Readers, you can get your copy of Marilyn Celeste Morris's "Once a Brat" online at, and at book retailers nationwide.
Marilyn, again, thanks so much for stopping by.


Dorothy said...

Excellent interview, both of you!

Sandy Lender said...

Nice discussion, Ladies!
Sandy L.
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

Jeni said...

Very good interview -kudos to both you and Marilyn. Also, I read your interview on Sandy's blog and have to say you did a great job there too!