Veteran’s project pins honor onto military kidsWritten by Staff Reports | | email@example.com
By Michele Jurek, Toledo Free Press Staff Writer
Every year on Veterans Day, Americans celebrate and honor veterans. But there is another group of people who have also served our country but are not typically recognized — the military “brats,” or children of service members.
This is what was going through the mind of retired Air Force pilot Robert Holliker of Whitehouse when he first read Pat Conroy’s introduction to Mary Edwards Wertsch’s book, “Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress” in the mid-1990s.
Holliker grew up as an Air Force brat from 1950-64. During that time, his family moved 12 times and Holliker attended 11 schools. He studied at four different high schools in three countries, graduating in West Germany in 1964.
After high school, Holliker returned to Whitehouse and attended Bowling Green State University. In 1968 he went on active duty himself and served 20 years in the Air Force.
In December 2009, Holliker approached Rep. Bob Latta and the two began working together to create legislation to honor military brats.
As House resolutions to create Children of Military Service Members Commemorative Lapel Pins languished “in committee,” someone asked Holliker why he couldn’t just create a pin himself. So in July 2013 he started Brat Pin.
After soliciting ideas from other brats, he settled on the dandelion — the official flower of the military child — and a dog tag chain as a border.
“The dog tag chain is symbolic in that any kid who is a brat will recognize it immediately,” he said. In addition, it symbolizes the security of the fence that encompassed the bases and posts we grew up on — giving us security and freedom that a lot of other kids don’t have. We had the run of the base to play on when I was a kid — it was magic!”
The Brat Pin is available at www.bratpin.com, along with other items such as pendants, decals, magnets, dog tags and coins.
“I never went into this venture to make money myself. I went into it to recognize and honor military brats,” Holliker said. “Once I recover my investment, I will hand it all over to the Museum of The American Military Family out in New Mexico.
“I hope to create an awareness in our country for the sacrifices and service of our military kids to our nation. They do it year after year without fanfare,” he said. “I wanted something easily recognized by brats that says, ‘We served too.’”
After launching Brat pin, Holliker came up with a spinoff idea called Cards for Vets, (www.cardsforvets.com), which offers customized trading cards and posters that feature veterans and detail their service.
“One of the things we brats grow up with is a sense of not belonging anywhere,” he said. “I thought if trading cards were created, kids could collect and trade, bonds could be formed even tighter.
“I see these cards being used at memorial services, going-away events, retirements, reunions and so forth. Can you imagine the impact of a kid approaching Grandpa or Grandma and asking him or her to sign his card? And then the realization of the vet when they see that they are on the card? The sheer delight of a vet, thinking that his or her service meant something to that kid?”