'Military brat': Where did the term come from?

FILE - A 5-year-old helps his father in the U.S. Army carry a duffel after soldiers returned home from a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan in a file image dated Dec. 10, 2020, at Fort Drum, New York. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

April 30 marks Military Brats Day, which is the unofficial holiday dedicated to recognizing kids that come from military families. 

You may have heard the term "military brat" before, and while the word "brat" has a somewhat negative connotation, military brat is a term of endearment and is often worn like a badge of honor, according to the Department of Defense website. 

Military brats are considered "more resilient" because of how often they have to uproot their lives and start anew, as well as dealing with the stressors and cultural experiences that come with living a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, the DoD said. 

Take a look into the history of Military Brats Day and where the term military brat possibly originated.  

Military Brats Day history

Military Brats Day was deemed an unofficial holiday by Military Brats Inc., a nonprofit organization whose mission is "to preserve the culture and heritage of those who grew up in the military," according to the Armed Forces Benefit Association (AFBA) website. 

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"Military brat" origin theories 

British Regiment Attached Traveler

The term’s origin isn’t exactly known. However, the DoD found a blog post published in 2011 by Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Dunn, who theorized the name originated from a saying created by the British army. 

Dunn had discovered a book published in 1921 which explained that "BRAT" was considered a status which stood for British Regiment Attached Traveler. 

This status was assigned to families who could travel abroad with a soldier and was later a status that referred to military children.

The DoD noted that they were unable to locate the book Dunn referenced, but still believed the theory was worth highlighting. 

‘The Recruiting Officer’ 

One of the earliest references to brats in the military setting was found in a song which was written in 1707. 

Dr. Grace Clifton, a professor at Open University in the United Kingdom, said that the song was written for a satirical play called "The Recruiting Officer" and it described the life of a soldier and their dependents, according to the DoD website. 

During that time, married soldiers were divided into two categories: those who were allowed to have their families live in the barracks and were cared for by military funding, or those who had their families living outside the barracks. 

"The song referenced the latter as being ‘brats and wives.’ The lyrics may have been the first reference to brat in relation to military families. But it also may have referred to any children. So, that's still a bit of a mystery," the DoD said.  

Barrack + rat = Brat?

Another possible origin theory of the term military brat could have come from combining the words "barrack" and "rat," according to the Bloom Military Teens website. 

The term "barrack rat" was used at the end of the 18th century in the U.K. when referring to stories about the lives of children in army barracks. 

"Many people assume that as time progressed, people began shortening this phrase into the word ‘brat’ instead," Bloom Military Teens said. 

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This story was reported from Los Angeles.