I wrote an essay for this blog a couple years ago about what it feels like to be a military brat and not have a hometown. Other military brats will understand what I mean. I was born in Turkey and lived in several places before Dad finally retired in Tampa. Dad was born and raised in Bradenton, Florida, Mom in Nederland, Colorado; they had hometowns. But my four sisters and I were born and grew up in different places. I think it was tougher on my two older sisters; they packed up and moved more often than I did, so they had more friends to say goodbye to and never see again.

I’m not complaining: I thank God I lived the life I did, traveling all over the world, experiencing other cultures, making friends with kids in other countries. I wouldn’t trade my youth for anything. In fact, if I could do it over again, I’d want to live in more places, meet more people, experience more cultures.

Still, it bugs me sometimes that I didn’t experience more of Tampa before I joined the Navy in 1977. I lived in Tampa for 12 years. I was stationed in Maine for 6 years, Hawaii for 6 years, Maryland for 9 years and other places for 7 years. I retired from the Navy in Maryland and have lived here for a total of 20 years! But Maryland isn’t “home” and never will be. My wife is Japanese and calls Hawaii home, but Hawaii will never be home for me. Maine is the place I loved most in my career – I vacation there every year – but it will never be home.

Tampa is my home. Tampa is the place I skinned my knees showing off for Francis Cooper. Tampa is the place I swung on the swings with Cindy Combs before school at Belle Witter; Tampa is the place I fell in love the first time; where I kissed my first girlfriend – Esther – in the breezeway at Ambassador Baptist School in eighth grade; where I went fishing with my buddies in the retention pond next door; where I played baseball and hotbox in the streets until Charlie White’s dad whistled for him and Danny to come home for supper; where (Dow Sherwood’s) Village Inn Pancake House was my first job; where Billy and me drove my VW through the woods; where Dennis Yost sucker-punched me (my first fight); where I was baptized at Northeast Baptist Church; where Jesse and me stole the traffic barricade and then freaked out when the yellow light wouldn’t stop flashing in the back of my VW Beetle; where my friends and I skipped school and drove to Clearwater Beach for the day; where we booed the demolition derby drivers at Golden Gate Speedway for wussying out at crashes; where Alan and me spent a hundred nights at his house falling asleep in the family room while watching Doctor Paul Bearer and the late late late late early show.

I’ve always said the world was my hometown, as it is for every military brat. But every military brat has that one place they hold dear in their heart, that one place they call home, that one place the military calls our “home of record.” For me that place is Tampa. I’m not a native of Tampa, but I am a Tampa Boy.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

21 thoughts on “Hometowns

  1. Travelling is a gift and a bit of gipsy attitude is a blessing that doesn’t mean you have no roots .Your life was a book life and now you have time to “snuggle” every evening with your Tampa😉😊

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I think most people miss it when they get out or retire. The camaraderie and shared hardship makes a special, tight bond, especially for those like your dad who went through so much. The ones who didn’t come home make the bond between the others that much stronger.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I always believe that traveling is the best education there is especially being abroad. The experience is just wonderful being exposed to different people and culture. Glad you have found your home in Tampa. Weird that after being in the states for so many years, I always called the Philippines “home”. Maybe because I spent my youth there.

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  3. I love this post. I’m happy you have so many fond memories of your childhood in Tampa. As a fellow military brat I can really relate to a lot of this. For me, there is no place from my childhood I consider home. I lived in seven different places before I graduated from high school and attended ten different schools before graduation. Before we moved into our current home of 35 years, the longest I had lived anywhere was 6 years. Where I am now is home to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A kindred spirit! Hello 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and commenting.
      Tampa will always be “Home, where I am from,” but Maryland is now home, where I am now. I know my neighbors, I’ve watched their kids grow up, I know the folks where I shop, and I can recommend roofers, plumbers, the best place to go for pizza, and things like that. I do miss all the travel, especially overseas. Fortunately, I work in an office where we have active duty Navy, and many veterans and retired Sailors like me, so there is never any shortage of people reminiscing about “the good old days.”

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      1. When someone asks me where I’m from, my answer is either “everywhere” or “I am an Air Force Brat and moved a lot.” Most people I know these days can’t relate to that. I am happy I grew up the way I did. I think that is one reason I have the wanderlust that I do.

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  4. I’m literally reading some of my students’ essays in Florida titled “What It’s Like to be a Military Kid.” Another coincidence… Had I known a few weeks ago, I would have used yours as an example! Next year, for sure. With your permission, of course. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was a army brat for several years of my childhood. It was really hard leaving a small town and living on a army base. Lived at Fort Knox ky. And fort Richardson Alaska.

    Liked by 1 person

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