Military brats using Internet to find old pals
For Diane Atherton of Lilburn, life as a military brat meant a different school each year. Three schools in seventh grade in New York. Her senior year in Tokyo. For her, as for many military dependents, home was wherever you happened to live at the time. Friendships formed quickly, and often ended just as abruptly when families moved to other posts. Now many "military brats," like Atherton, are rekindling friendships formed decades ago by using the Internet. The Military Brats Registry, based in California, contains more than 14,400 names and claims at least one marriage from reunited high school sweethearts.
Another site, Military Brats Online, created by Vann Baker of Roswell, carries reunion notices and reminiscences of base life. Atherton, 52, has found many classmates. "People that I didn't think I would ever hear from again, like my girlfriend in Denver, people who live in Hawaii, folks who travel all over the Asian Pacific Rim, they're all being reconnected," she says. Atherton and Sharon Wolfe of Denver, a friend from Yamato High School in Japan, now e-mail each other frequently and travel together once a year. "I didn't have a big family, and my sister died about 10 or 12 years ago, so it's nice to have someone who knew the same people I did," Atherton says. "There's a piece of me that's missing, and now it's back." Others share those sentiments. Valeria Palmer, 44, of Dunwoody started reading military brat newsgroups a decade ago. Her family moved 10 times before she turned 18; on the Internet, she found community. "What has been very helpful to me is to discover that others had the same experiences and feelings that I did," she says. "To learn about how the child I was makes me the person I am." Marc Curtis of Redlands, Calif., started the Military Brats Registry site in 1997 while trying to find childhood friends.
Baker takes another approach with Military Brats Online, which lists hundreds of alumni groups for military schools. He's making new friends by organizing metro Atlanta brat reunions and meeting others through the Web site. "It's like being of a different ethnic background, but you don't really look different from anyone else," says Baker, 42. "You fit in, but you know you're not like everyone else. That's part of what fuels this desire to want to reconnect again." Maybe. For others, a little catching up goes a long way. Like a high school reunion, once you've gotten updates on jobs and families, there's not much left to talk about. "People you were friends with when you were 8, it's nice to see them, know they're still around," says Zach Fowl of DeKalb County. "But when you're 27, things change."
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