A Military Brat is exactly what the name implies: someone who grew up with at least one parent in the military. Sometimes both parents. Tends to crop up a lot in American series and works of fiction, particularly in times of Real Life conflicts when it can potentially make for a Reality Subtext, dealing with issues than many military brats might be experiencing in Real Life when their parents deploy.
In fiction, if a character has this as a backstory, you can expect at least one of the following to have affected him or her in some way:
Having a very tough, conservative or strict upbringing;
Sometimes a parent (often the father) will have died in some war.
Lived on a base in a foreign country during their formative years, giving them an excuse for knowing an obscure foreign language or local custom.
Or alternatively, having lived in a part of the U.S. where there is a lot of military infrastructure/installations - which almost invariably means the Deep South, Texas or Washington, DC.
While there is definitely a Truth in Television aspect to this trope, it's important to note that:
The US military contains several million people at any given time.
The four branches each have their own unique cultures.
Being the child of an officer is different from being the son/daughter of a non-com or an ordinary enlisted man or woman.
Military culture changes over time. The US military today is not like it was during Vietnam, which was nothing like it was before World War IInote Not least because the USA only had a skeleton-army up until 1940, with less than a hundred thousand troops available defend a country of 150 million. This would've been unimaginable for a country with enemies - 1913 Russia had maintained a standing army of a million, for instance. The tiny size and low mobility of the USA's army actually made Canada's defense plan in the event of a US invasion of Canada - a rapid motorised-cavalry offensive to take key transport hubs like Seattle, Chicago, New York, etc - workable. .
Despite the super-conformity image the military has, the people who serve in the military (and their families) still remain individuals with distinctive personalities.
Used often in war movies to explain why a character enlisted; the most common sub-explanation of this is that he wants to makehis mother/father proud.
See also Circus Brat, which is sort of the opposite. Preacher's Kid often share features with this trope.
A related but markedly less Bad Ass version of this (which rarely appears in fiction) are the Foreign Service brats, whose childhoods were generally twisted by hopping around the world behind their parents. The same holds true for children of spies (said children, however, usually think that the parent is actually in the Foreign Service, some other government department, or occasionally some international corporation).
Naturally comes equipped with Dad the Veteran, even if it was Mom.
In many countries this trope interlopes heavily with Blue Blood. Armed forces are the traditional career choice of aristocracy, and even today the children of old families of nobility are grossly over-represented in European and Asian forces.
A very common background in most Mecha Anime. In many cases, it reflects on their character's personality and career choices. An example of this would be Ryoko Subaru and her heavy focus on a military career.
In a rare Magical Girl example, many from Nanoha, especially the younger Harlaowns, the Nakajima sisters, Vivio Takamachi, etc.
Misaki from Divergence Eve. After her father dies in battle she joins to find out what he found in the military.
Suzanna also joins to follow the family tradition.
Sailor Moon: Rio Urawa, Ami's temporary love interest And the human reincarnation of one of the Seven Great Yoma is one of these, hence why he's not around for long.
The modern Batwoman, Kate Kane is one. Her mother was a Intel officer and her father was a Special Forces operator. She planned to follow in their foot-steps, and was a rising star at West Point, being groomed for a leadership position when...
Vima Sunrider from Tales of the Jedi. Both her parents were Jedi; her mother Nomi was a hero of the Great Sith Wars and is current Grand Master of the Order. Vima herself grew up during the wars, surrounded by knights and masters.
It was the reason Rachel and Patton got along so well. Few people at school understood the life. Their childhoods spent moving from place to place, their fathers being away for long periods of time, having to readjust when their fathers, men they didn't really know, were at home.
On the Shoulders of Giants picks this origin story for Commander Shepard, though her circumstances are only superficially similar to canon Mass Effect. There are also many, many forks of the source code of famous military AI Petan around, some of whom have gone into the family business and others who... Well, suffice it to say that early experiments with AIs reproducing went very, very badly.
The Translation in Blood is told from the viewpoint of Commander Shepard's mother Hannah Shepard, an infantryman during the First Contact War and a rear admiral by the time of Mass Effect 3, which makes Shepard one of these.
Lieutenant Commander Reshek Gaarra of Bait and Switch says in chapter eight that his father's in the Bajoran Militia, and is currently the garrison commander on New Bajor.
Films — Live-Action
Stepanek, the "dedicated pain-in-the-butt" character, from Down Periscope was the son of Admiral Winslow, and was rebelling... trying to get dismissed from sub duty. No one realizes the connection until it's openly stated at the end of the film, because the son is using his mom's maiden name.
Actually, the connection becomes obvious just before it's stated. This is the first time we actually see Stepanek salute, albeit reluctantly. And the uncomfortable way he's standing there is another obvious clue.
O-Ren Ishii of Kill Bill was the daughter of a Chinese-American military guy and a Japanese mother. The Bride even refers to her as an "army brat" before going into her story, which had O-Ren's parents killed by Boss Matsumoto and his Yakuza gangsters.
Janey Glenn in Girls Just Want to Have Fun is the daughter of Colonel Glenn.
The Belmont Sisters from Night of the Comet. Mainly invoked as a Hand Wave as to why two valley girls would know anything about assault rifles.
Many of the students in Taps, which makes sense as the film involves the cadet corps of a Military Academy taking over their school. This is played for several dramatic moments as at least one parent, an Army NCO who harbors more than a bit of the Shell-Shocked Veteran, tries desperately to convince his son that his schoolboy version of duty and honor may be slightly misguided. It doesn't end well.
Lt. Dan Taylor of Forrest Gump. Notable for his family having served continuously since the American Revolution, and having the patriarch of the family get killed in every major war the United States had fought. He doesn't take it well when Forrest breaks the line by saving his life in Vietnam.
In In Harm's Way, admiral Rockwell Torrey is third generation Navy.
Maverick aka Lt. Pete Mitchell in Top Gun. His father was also a navy pilot, who died during the Vietnam War.
Topper Harley in Hot Shots!. Naturally, as this was a parody of Top Gun.
The protagonist's Black Best Friend in the Disney Channel Original Movie Johnny Tsunami. Part of the friend's problem is his father constantly being reassigned, meaning the guy never feels at home and hesitates to make friends that he's just going to lose during the next move. This serves as a point of commonality between the characters, as Johnny himself has just moved from Hawaii and his surfing grandfather (the titular character). Another problem for the friend is that his father is constantly assigned to cold places, and, at the end of the film, is sent to Iceland.
Cadet Kelly involves a typical teenage girl's mother re-marrying. The girl is happy, until she finds out that her new stepfather is the head of a military school, and she is a new cadet. In this case, she's being turned into this trope (kicking and screaming). Her rival (and commander) Jennifer is a more clearcut example and reveals at the end that she's moving because of her father's reassignment.
In Harm's Way, a 1965 World War IIJohn Wayne drama, features the tensions between Rear Admiral Rock Torrey and his son, Ensign Jeremiah Torrey, as one of the running plots of the film.
Remember the Titans: Two of the Titan players, Louie Lastik and Ronnie "Sunshine" Bass, are from naval and army families, respectively.
The Great Santini is the Trope Codifier. Since author Pat Conroy was himself was the son of a Marine colonel, the book is an accurate depiction of what many military brats go through, but it's worth reiterating that the military is large and varied and the book presents only one aspect of brat life.
Kids of older cast members in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. When Han and Leia's three were really young they were kept in an undisclosed location to be safe, and naturally they followed their parents' and grandparents' courses to various degrees. Of course, neither of their parents were precisely military, but they did tend to be busy a lot. Wedge Antilles's two girls are a better example of the trope. One became an Ace Pilot like her father, the other an Intelligence operative like her mother. Aww.
The Reacher brothers followed their Marine father from base to base.
Several examples in the Honor Harrington series of books, most notably including Admiral Harrington herself (her father being a retired Navy surgeon).
Ensign Helen Zilwicki is the daughter of two Naval officers. Her father retired from Naval Intelligence as a Captain and now works for his second (adoptive) daughter, Queen Berry of Torch, as a spymaster. Her mother was a starship captain, who in The Short Victorious Wargave her life in battle against a larger force protecting a convoy whose passengers included her husband and daughter.
The Whistler family of A Brother's Price is descended from soldiers-turned-thieves-turned-spies. The original Whistlers involved in the War of the False Eldest numbered thirty, but only ten survived to marry and become the grandmothers of the current crop. They passed a lot on to their children. Eldest Whistler, their oldest grandchild, expresses an interest in helping the Queens' Justice, a kind of army branch, due to her upbringing.
The Yokota Officers Club by Sarah Bird is in the same vein as The Great Santini, as a semi-autobiographical story about the child of a military officer (in this case, an Air Force fighter pilot) and the life she lives.
Possibly one of the reasons Dr. Watson and Mary Morstan hit it off so fast in The Sign Of The Four - Watson, an ex-soldier, is exceptionally impressed with Mary's no-nonsense, stiff upper lip demeanor that she acquired from her way of life.
Henry Reed from the Henry Reed, Inc. series is a Foreign Service Brat spending summers in the US with relatives.
Babylon 5. Jeffrey Sinclair. According to his backstory, he comes from a family of them: The tradition of Military Brats started with pilots in the Battle of Britain, making that family tradition 318 years old.
Michael Garibaldi, the chief of security, is the son of Alfredo Garibaldi, an Earth Force Marine who served under General Richard Franklin, the father of Babylon 5's chief medical officer Doctor Stephen Franklin.
The Closer: Brenda Leigh Johnson is the daughter of a military man. In an early episode of the first season, her lifelong conditioning to follow orders given by this type of man leads to her losing the case.
Fringe: Olivia Dunham's stepfather was in the Army. On at least one occasion she had to defend her mother from him at gunpoint, which shows how early the toughening up started.
House being a Jerk Ass: His strict upbringing at the hands of his father (baths in icewater, having to sleep outside of the house, not being allowed to eat dinner if he was so much as a few seconds late) had a definite bad effect on his attitude. It also gave House his issues with authority.
House becoming a doctor: While his father was stationed in Japan, he saw a man at a hospital he thought was a janitor. Then he saw the doctors hanging on his every word when they were faced with a difficult case. Turns out, he was a buraku, and was listened to because he was right. This made it much easier for House to justify being a Dr. Jerk.
House's distrust of claimed sexual fidelity: He figured out that he wasn't John House's biological son when he was twelve.
The real problem was not that House's father was a Marine, it was that he treated his son like a recruit instead of a son. The fact that House wasn't his biological son doesn't excuse that.
iCarly: Carly and Spencer. They seem to avert every single stereotype, whether on purpose or the submarine being a good way of getting the parents out of the picture.
Harmon Rabb is a Generation Xerox example (right down to his dad looking identical to him in flashbacks, plus a mustache). His dad being shot down during The Vietnam War and declared MIA forms a central part of Rabb's character arc as he tries to find out what happened to him. This culiminates in this trope being played again when Harm discovers that his father escaped captivity in Russia, fell in love with a Roma woman, and fathered a son who later joined the Russian military as a pilot.
Also the case with most of the rest of the cast - Mac's biggest influence was her Medal of Honor recipient Marine uncle, Bud's father was a Master Chief (and he himself fathers four kids of his own with Harriet, also a naval officer), Sturgis' father is a retired Navy Chaplain, and Maj. Gen. Cresswell's daughter is attending the Academy by the time the series ends. Of the main cast members, Chegwidden is the only one who isn't stated to be a military brat or the parent of one.
In one episode, JAG also had to locate a former soldier who apparently kidnapped his son. According to the son, the son was a military brat. It gets a bit convoluted when the ending heavily implies that the son was actually the reincarnation of his father's best friend who was killed in action back in The Vietnam War.
Sesame Street: Believe it or not, Elmo qualifies as "Military Kid"
''Smallville: Lois Lane, in keeping with the tradition from the Post-Crisis comics, is the daughter of US Army General Sam Lane, and it is evident that her military upbringing had a big impact on her personality and on the show's plot, as the skills she learned and connections she made often help to move the plot forward.
Stargate SG-1: Samantha Carter, daughter of Major General Jacob Carter.
This is lampshaded in an episode where alternate Carter and Kowalski arrive from another reality. This Carter never joined the military (and was able to marry Jack). Dr. Carter mentions how she can't imagine joining the military. Capt. Carter mentions how she can't imagine not joining the military, clearly referring to her father.
Star Trek features several. Most obviously, there are the "kid characters" Wesley Crusher and Jake Sisko; the latter defies the Generation Xerox tendency by becoming a journalist and novelist instead of joining Starfleet.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Geordi LaForge is explicitly described as a "Starfleet brat", with both parents in the service, who rather enjoyed his wandering childhood. (Actor Allusion: Le Var Burton was a real-life Army brat, so LaForge's Starfleet Brat childhood may have been a character aspect addition by the character's actor.)
Likewise, Worf's adopted human father was a Starfleet enlisted man, who is very proud of his officer son.
His biological father served in the Klingon Defense Force.
Background material and the new movie put James Kirk's father and mother in Starfleet as well.
Lots of characters in Star Trek: Voyager. Among the main cast, we have Tom Paris, a less than ideal admiral's son. Likewise Kathryn Janeway, also an admiral's daughter, though considerably less rebellious. Tie-in novels state that B'Elanna Torres' father was a human Starfleet engineer (thus partially invoking Generation Xerox), who fell in love with her Klingon mother while deployed on space duty. Recurring characters with the Brat background include Naomi Wildman, the daughter of one of the Science Department ensigns, who is actually born aboard Voyager.
Then there's Malcolm Reed whose family has been in the Royal Navy for three generations.
Interestingly, his father is disappointed in Malcolm choosing Starfleet instead of the Royal Navy.
Invoked by accident during a game on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, when Ryan claims to be of Dutch origin in a skit, then slips acccidentally into an Irish accent. "We did a lot of moving around, my father was a military man..."
The X-Files. Dana Scully is a self-described Navy brat; likewise her three siblings, Bill Jr., Charlie and Melissa. However, they don't fit any of the typical stereotypes of being military brats. It isn't implied that Scully's upbringing was especially strict, though perhaps morally so as she was raised a devout Catholic. It's inferred that she moved around a lot as a child, though the only place we know her father was stationed was at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego—the same place her older brother Bill Jr. is stationed in "Emily." It's also known that the Scully family was in Japan in 1966, but it's unclear whether it was a visit or they were stationed there.
As mentioned above, Dana's older brother Bill Jr. was also in the navy, making her nephew Matthew a military brat as well.
Captain Parminter in F Troop and Ensign Parker in McHale's Navy: both are hopeless schlubs from illustrious military families who are nevertheless bound and determined to somehow carry on their families' tradition of service.
Gabriel Vaughn of Intelligence mentions in an early episode that he's the fifth generation of Vaughns to go off to fight for his country, but the first one to come back.
Nicole in FlashForward (2009), which explains her plot-convenient knowledge of the Japanese language.
Poussey from Orange Is The New Black is a daughter of a soldier, and the constant moving has destroyed her relationships. When we see her backstory in Season 2, she is busted for having a lesbian affair with the daughter of a German officer while her father was stationed in Europe. In a Bait and Switch moment, it appears as if she is going to murder the officer for forcing her dad to transfer home to the US, but her father intervenes.
The Finnish military march Sotilaspoika (Soldier Boy) whose lyrics describe the protagonist's father who was killed in action. The lyrics reveal that his forefathers have been soldiers in four generations. The last verse implies when the boy makes 15, he too will enlist.
In The Wall Pink is a Military Brat. Which is not surprising as Pink is largely based on band member Roger Waters, whose father died as a soldier in World War II.
The protagonist of Sentimental Graffiti met the girls he did because his father was in the military and moved him around a lot as a result.
In Mass Effect, one may choose this background for the player's character, Commander Shepard. Not only is it the only background choice where Shepard isn't an outright orphan, but the background specific sidequest involves making a call to Shepard's mother, who is still active-duty and the XO aboard an Alliance capital ship. By the second game, she's a captain, having turned down a promotion to Admiral that she dismissed as a political ploy. In the third, she's promoted to Rear-Admiral and is serving under Hackett. "I figured having another Shepard around couldn't hurt."
To boot, both of your human companions had a father in the Alliance military. Kaidan only mentions his briefly, but Ash talks about her family extensively, both because it's a tradition stretching back several generations...and because they were unfairly blacklisted during the First Contact War.
Garrus is also one, his father being a military man and a distinguished member of the Citadel police. Of course, this is nothing exceptional for the turians as they're Space Romans with significant emphasis on merit and duty. Nearly every capable individual is conscripted for 15 years of military service.
A tie-in comic shows that Garrus learned to shoot well from his father as a boy (in a typical "shoot a can from far away" scenario). He actually calls his father while defending his base on Omega to say goodbye, only for the father to brush away the sentimentality and go straight to business ("How many targets?"). The conversation ends when Garrus spots the N7 armor and smiles.
Also Olga Gurlukovich from the same game, and similar to the LET children, she was probably closer to a literal one (its hinted a few times in the game that she participated in various conflicts as a Child Soldier with her father's unit).
Don't forget Ocelot, who is the son of two legendary soldiers, The Boss and The Sorrow.
Solid, Liquid, and Solidus Snake were also military brats in the most literal sense (They were the clones of the legendary soldier, Big Boss, and as stated in the Novelization (as well as implied in the source material and in Peace Walker), they were also raised by the military from a very early age).
Kazuhira/McDonnel Benedict Miller was also revealed to be one (well, kind of. He was basically conceived when his father, a GHQ officer under Whitney, ended up sleeping with a Japanese woman who had to undergo prostitution in order to survive, and his father left before he was even born.)
The Sims 2 features a pre-made playable family called Grunt, which has not only three Military Brats (two teen and one elementary-school-age) but a training facility in the backyard. They definitely have a strict father, but don't fit the "moving around" as the Sim military never seems to go much of anywhere.
Star Trek Online has a number of background characters who are the children of Starfleet officers from the various live-action series.
Lieutenant Kirayoshi O'Brien, chief engineer of the USS Enterprise-F, is the son of SCPO. Miles O'Brien, former chief of operations at Deep Space 9.
Commander Naomi Wildman, C.O. of Deep Space K-7, is the grown-up version of the same Naomi Wildman who was a little kid born to a crew member of USS Voyager in VOY's second season.
Lieutenant Miral Paris, security chief of the USS Kirk, is the daughter of Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres, both part of USS Voyager's command crew and born in the last episode of VOY.
In anti-HEROES, the backstory of Aldran, one of the main characters, is revealed in a strip entitled... Military Brat.
Miko Miyazaki has been mentioned by Burlew to be a product of her upbringing, which was a paladin-flavored variant on this trope. We can probably infer that her parents weren't a great deal better than she was, because even the other paladins can't stand her.
In the Modern Arc of Arthur, King of Time and Space, Arthur's foster-father Ector is an ex-serviceman (who gets called back up for Iraq), and both his son Kay and other foster-child Bedivere follow in his footsteps. Arthur doesn't, possibly because he's been influenced just as much by his Hippy Teacher, Merlin (and also because Ector knows he has a Destiny). (Although Ector doesn't appear to be unusually strict or conservative, it's implied Uther was, and the only Flash Back to Contemporary!Uther shows him in military uniform, making Arthur an Army Brat twice.)
In v2-v4 of Open Blue, freshly graduatedEspartanos are frequently assigned to a "parent", and pretend to be Military Brats accompanying said "parents" on a tour of duty in the New World. As of v5, the tykebomb concept has been recycled and they now accompany corporate executives instead.
Off The Page And Into Life is about the reincarnations of literary characters in a Wacky Homeroom. So instead of having John Watson, ex-Afghanistan soldier, they have John Williams, son of an Afghanistan casualty.
Gus Griswald in Recess. Secondary character "Corn Chip Girl" LaMaize is a Navy brat. Griswold and Corn Chip Girl's respective fathers apparently had a bitter rivalry that almost prevented the two from becoming friends before TJ convinced them into putting aside their feud so they could allow Gus and Corn Chip Girl to be friends, although its hinted afterwards that even with their children becoming friends, they still retained a slight rivalry (they were seen arguing about whose children should visit whose house for playtime).
Spinelli's mother was also implied to be a military brat (Spinelli, when learning that her parents also embarrassed her all the time, expressed shock because her maternal grandpa was a Navy SEAL).
Actually it's pretty much considered a lie. Spinelli confesses that she lied about her parents being secret agents to the gang to make them seem more impressive. Her mother then says she did the same thing with her father. Spinelli had been told he was a navy seal but her mother's reaction makes it clear that this was a lie that she'd told Spinelli to make him seem cooler.
General Douglas MacArthur, son of General Arthur MacArthur, veteran of the Philippine-American War, Spanish-American War, and the American Civil War, as well as being an early Military Governor of the Philippines.
By the same token, John McCain, who is actually John Sidney McCain III—John S. McCain I and II were both four-star Admirals in the US Navy, and he followed them into a naval career as a naval pilot.
His son John Sidney "Jack" McCain IV graduated from the Naval Academy in 2009, making for four generations of naval officers in the McCain family. That said, Jack doesn't quite qualify as a Navy Brat, as his father had been a Congressman for four years by the time he was born, and took his current seat in the Senate before Jack's first birthday.
Robert Griffin III (born on Okinawa). Bonus points in that both of his parents were in the US Army.
Norman Schwarzkopf. Although born in New Jersey, he spent much of his youth in Iran, where his father, Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr., was a senior military advisor to the Iranian government and the CIA.note One of the elder Schwarzkopf's last acts in Tehran was assisting the CIA and MI6 in Operation Ajax—a.k.a. the coup that removed the democratically-elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and replaced him with the absolute rule of the Shah—which ended up biting the United States in the ass mightily when the Iranian Revolution toppled the Shah in 1979. This emboldened Saddam Hussein, so he started the Iran Iraq War; his losses in that war led to his invasion of Kuwait, which led to the very war that the younger Schwarzkopf had to fight. Nice job helping breaking it, Dad! Can you say "Irony"?
Robin Olds, son of Major General Robert Olds. Somewhat ironically, Robert Olds was a strong proponent of bomber doctrine as the cornerstone of Air Force strategy, while his son would achieve fame as a fighter ace (both of them served in World War II).
Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Beckley and Dan Peek of America. All three were the sons of American soldiers based in England.
Queensr˙che's long-time singer, Geoff Tate. Talking to his father about his experiences serving in World War II and Korea led to the making of the band's critically-acclaimed album, An American Soldier.
Doug Walker calls himself a navy brat in a video where he shared a story about losing his passport. He was born in Naples, Italy.
Common in Europe. For the matter of that Military Brat is almost the definition of "aristocrat".
Theodore Roosevelt III, son of Theodore Roosevelt, served in World War I and World War II. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on Utah Beach with the first wave of troops on D-Day, but died of a heart attack a month later before the medal was presented.
In turn, all three of his sons served in the armed forces. Quentin Roosevelt II died in World War One, and Theodore Roosevelt IV and Cornelius V.S. Roosevelt III both served in World War II.
Ken Shamrock was born at Robins Air Force Base in Macon, GA.
Children brought up in British military garrisons are known by the not-wholly-derogatory nickname of barracks rats. There is a difference in culture between children of private soldiers, NCO's and officers. When the British armed forces were much larger than they are now, whole public schools note to Americans, private schools remained solvent purely by accepting as boarders the sons and daughters of military officers stationed outside the UK. Famous former barracks-rats include:
Miranda Hart: (Royal Navy), whose father survived the sinking of his ship in the Falklands War;
Bob Marley: his father served in the Royal Marines prior to Jamaican independence;
Spike Milligan, brought up in an oddly privileged way, as one of two sons of the Regimental Sergeant-Major of a Royal Artillery unit based in India: local conditions meant on an RSM's salary, his parents could afford servants and a large house and live in some luxury.