Authors write a book to change the term “military brat” to “Little C.H.A.M.P.S.”

Two women seek to change the term “brat” but the reception has been less than enthusiastic.

As a proud Army Brat, I would like to bring your attention to a program called CHAMPS (children heroes attached to military personnel) that is run by civilians who have never even been a Brat and they are attempting to replace our Brat name & Heritage!! This organization has a song telling brats that “goodbye doesn’t mean forever” and they are taking away the true meaning of “Hero”!!! There are several Brat groups on line & we have come together to maintain our Brat name & Heritage. The stars & stripes (and a few local papers) have recognized how this affects the brat community! I encourage everyone to research Operation C.H.A.M.P.S for yourself and realize that the USO, USAA and other military organizations need to quite supporting the Finks (authors/founders of champs) agenda. Thank you!!


The Movement

In 2012, Jennifer Fink developed the idea of establishing a charity offering support services for the dependent children of military personnel and Operation CHAMPS – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel – was born.  J. Fink and her mother Debbie Fink then coauthored a book called The Little C.H.A.M.P.S. – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel, also in 2012.  The book and the mission has been endorsed by the USO and the Finks have travelled around the world, presenting the book and their charity to military families overseas.  The charity, Operation CHAMPS, consists largely of volunteer services provided to military families and the USO tours.  The Little C.H.A.M.P.S. book is available for sale in many outlets and the authors’ say that the profits will be channelled into the charity.

According to the Operation CHAMPS website, the charity has provided 13,000 hours of volunteer service.  The website does not indicate what sort of activities were provided to make up that specific number, but one can only applaud such a large donation of time in the service of helping others.  The children of military personnel and DOD employees live different lives from the majority of children in the U.S.A., and it is positive that these needs are being recognised and met by a number of institutions.

The Finks, however, have come under attack for the use of the C.H.A.M.P name to refer to military children and for their USO tours in support of the book and charity.  C.H.A.M.P.S was developed and trademarked by the Finks as an alternative to what they believed was the potentially stigmatising term brat, or BRAT.  Here the troubles begin.

The origin of the term brat to refer to the children of military personnel is obscure, as is the exact origin of the word brat to refer to a poorly behaved child.  The OED’s suggestion that it developed from a celtic word for cloak or apron is hardly convincing on its own.  I haven’t had any luck chasing down early uses of the term brat to refer to military children.  Rudyard Kipling, creator of the archetypal military brat, Kim, uses the term beggar-brat to refer to his hero with no sense that brat refers to Kim’s status as the child of soldier.  Frances Hodgson Burnett, creator of another classic bratcharacter, Mary Lennox, never refers to her as a brat in either its specific or general meaning.  The term’s application to military children may only date to the 20th century.

Whatever its origin, this term in all its implications has been widely embraced within the community of children of military and DOD personnel, particularly those stationed overseas.  Like Kipling’s Kim or Hodgson Burnett’s Mary, modern brats tend to be straight-talking and irreverent, equipped with long-range bullshit detectors. Many of us were shielded from television advertising for much of our childhoods and treated it with suspicion when we encountered its oily seductions later in life. At the same time, we were well-aquainted with the hilarious results of military-authored public-service announcements – (Love ain’t no slow motion fantasy; it’s VD baby!) as well as the power of acronyms.  The military, after all, invented SNAFU and FUBAR.  When this community encountered C.H.A.M.P.S., it was greeted in many quarters by a combination of outrage and sniggles.

The Finks (who have no family military connections), thus found themselves fumbling among a rich cultural heritage of which they really had no comprehension.  By this time, the label brat had come to be embraced by several generations of children turned adults and was considered an important part of their identity.  Remember,brats generally do not have hometowns, life-long friends next door, or old football teammates in their neighbourhoods.  For many people, the label brat acts as a unifying force.  We are not from Springfield; we are brats.

The Finks’ suggestion that modern child brats replace the stigmatising label brat withCHAMP, denies those children the connection with the multi-generational community ofbrats there to support, understand and celebrate their heritage.  Because the Finks have no personal ties to the brat community, their efforts to ‘lift up’ young brats has the slightest whiff of colonial condescension. To return to Kipling, there is a sense that the Finks have taken on a variety of the ‘the white man’s burden’ as they muck about doing charitable work among the benighted natives, ignorant of the deeper cultural importance of the practices they attempt to alter. Many in the brat community also object to being called heroes.  There is an important sense that the overuse of this term diminishes its importance.  Brats certainly served, but feel that hero should be reserved for those who truly have earned that title.

Perhaps most importantly, the Finks have trademarked the term they are trying to impose on the young brat generation. C.H.A.M.P.S. belongs to them.  In effect, their book tours represent an attempt to impose a market identity upon an entire generation of children.  These children will be encouraged to identify themselves with a brand name, rather than a tradition.  When they want to print-up a t-shirt, they will have to pay royalties.  When they develop an obscene version of the acronym (they’re brats, remember), they could be sued for copyright violations.  CHAMPS are commodities;brats are a community.

I strongly encourage the Finks to rethink what they are doing, and encourage the USO to think about their support of Little C.H.A.M.P.S.  I encourage military families to think seriously about this issue as well.  Brat children and their identities are not for sale.

Tagged #BratsnotChamps#BratsnotChamps #MilitaryBratsnotChamps


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Every year, former military brats party like it’s 1969

By Dianna Cahn

The Virginian-Pilot

Published: May 13, 2013

The wildcat is still the mascot at Naples American High School

NORFOLK, Va. — Few of these Americans graduated from Naples High School in Italy. Yet they all consider themselves Naples alumni.

Every year on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, they converge at Ray and Cindy Lee’s Suffolk home, many sleeping in campers and tents on the sprawling property, to attend his “Wildcats” reunion barbecue.

The event is open to anyone who came through the school, then known as Forrest Sherman High, though most went there during the 1970s, a time of bell-bottoms, Vietnam and Watergate.

For these baby boomers who grew up as military brats, who moved every few years with parents in the service, it’s a way to anchor their mobile childhoods by zeroing in on the most impressionable period: the high school years.

Each year, the barbecue grows, as the Internet and Facebook put more of them in touch.

“We were like a lost tribe,” said Anna Prather, one of four sisters to attend the school. Her family, like Lee’s, returned to Virginia Beach after Naples. “I feel a lot more whole now that I’ve met up with everybody again.”

“We are all scattered,” she said. “So when you are able to meet them here, it’s like a homecoming.”

Lee, 58, went to Naples from 1971 to 1973, leaving three months before graduation and returning to Bayside High School in Virginia Beach, where he graduated. He joined the Navy before becoming a civilian engineer at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth.

Lee’s years in Naples were particularly formative. He tested boundaries and stirred up trouble, he said. Then he joined the high school football team, where, he said, coach Russell Dayton turned his life around.

The team traveled around Europe, and the athletes formed strong bonds.

“I’ve had friends all over the world, but I love these guys because there’s nobody like military brats,” said Lee, who can trace his family tree back to Confederate Army commander Robert E. Lee.

“You can’t go back to your hometown because you don’t have a hometown. But when we all go to my house — you know how good it feels?”

Several years back, Lee found his old coach in Missouri and has stayed in touch. When Dayton’s daughter died, Lee drove to the funeral in Kansas City, stopping in Alabama on the way to pick up their high school quarterback.

“That was a real drag,” Lee said. “But he was so glad that some of his Wildcats showed up.”

Anna Piemontese Bonomo walked over with her cellphone, displaying a black-and-white high school yearbook photo of Lee on her screen.

Like the Prathers, Bonomo, 57, comes from a family of four sisters who attended school in Naples — from 1968 to 1973 — and all still live in Virginia Beach. Bonomo, the oldest, then went to Princess Anne High.

The two families both had Italian mothers who were the best of friends and they’ve known each other since childhood. Bonomo’s father, an American, had a civil service job in Naples. A tattoo on her wrist reads “La Bella Vita” — meaning “a beautiful life” — and she proudly displays a second on her hip that says, “Made in Italy.”

“It’s funny,” said Tammy Bristow, a graduate of Kellam High in the Beach. “I didn’t want to go, but then I didn’t want to come back because I was afraid of the culture shock.”

What they held on to was a culture all their own. And unusual memories.

“Regardless of the year we graduated, we had common stories,” said Joyce Jones, class of 1971, who drove in from Plano, Texas.

For example, “there was an infamous prostitute,” she said. “We called her Humpty Dumpty because she sat on the wall by the base and solicited.”

There was also Pozzuoli Pete — named for the town Jones lived in. He was a gay male prostitute, she said.

“Then there was Commissary Mary,” said Helen Prather, who met her husband, a Marine, when they were in Naples. She was 19; he was 22. They’ve been married 35 years. “And PX Patty.”

“I went from the airport to the base housing with my parents’ hands over my eyes,” said Bristow, who was 12 when she arrived in Naples.

The group slowly made its way to the back porch of Lee’s home — 50 baby boomers posing for photographs with friends many hadn’t seen in decades.

Then some former schoolmates kicked up their band. As Wildcats posed for class shots, the band struck up Neil Young’s “Come’s a Time.”

“Come’s a time, when we’re drifting. Comes a time when we settle down,” they sang.

ok lots of info But we are always will be BRATS…thanks DAD CSM goeltz and teacher Mrs goeltz lots of info… if a link does not work ask i’ll resend


Debbie Godwin Adams
7 hrs · Edited
I cannot begin to overstate this, Richard Atkinson has been doing a massive amount of legwork behind closed doors, part of his work is to stand up a forum board. He writes that, “we will officially be full time on the BRAT: Proud & Confident Discussion Board. Much easier to keep track of threads and find past posts, etc. because of the search feature. If you have not done so, I need you to go to the DB and sign up so we can continue to work.”

The Mission Statement – study the possibility of creating a BRAT Non-profit Organization to represent the cultural group known as BRATS to the outside world including civilian and government agencies and their dealings with BRATS. Further, this non-profit would support BRATS in regards to any possible legislation which relates favorably to BRATS.

It’s success depends on participation, sign up and let the voices of the BRAT tribe be raised to a new level! BRAT ON!

Here’s a look at the press release and links to download it. And here’s how you can do your part. 1. Print, fax, email or even hand deliver the document to your local news media… TV, Radio, Newspapers. This is a grassroots effort and will get rapid dissemination if everyone joins in. Our primary spokesperson is Donna Musil.
Click the link or right-click it to download. You can use the pdf or Word document depending on your computer capability:
thanks……Sharon Leininger Parker
Yesterday at 10:14 · College Station, TX · Edited
Please everyone create a Twitter account. It’s free and easy to create. Here are some of the people/entities we should be sending our message to. Can you imagine if Michelle and these organizations got 1,000’s of tweets saying ‪#‎MilitaryBratNotChamp‬ ? They will pay attention!
@debsdailydose Debbie Fink
@the_USO (on endorsement page)
@MichelleObama (remember she did a video endorsing the program)
@RedCross (on the endorsement page)
@militarychild (Military child education coalition on endorsement page)
@military_family (on endorsement page)
Use the #MilitaryBratnotchamp hashtag. We should all follow each other too. I am @aspendot I TRULY believe this is the only way to get the attention of people who might pay attention. FB is the ‘old’ way of taking it to the street! When you send the tweet Fink cannot delete it! Don’t be ugly just tell her no. Twitter only allows 140 characters. I’m going to save my tweet and cut and paste and keep sending it. It’s actually fun because you don’t have to be so damn PC. Also you can stalk your kids and grandkids. AND the younger BRATS (teens & 20’s) use Twitter. We could take it to Instagram too but baby steps for now.
This is the tweet I will be using. It’s just under the 140 character limit. You can send to who you want though.
Proud Military BRAT Here #MilitaryBratnotchamp @MichelleObama @the_USO @OperationCHAMPS @RedCross @militarychild @military_family @Debsdailydose I use @pgoeltz

I don’t think the creators of Champs expected that adult brats would care about their work. They didn’t anticipate that we would care. What they failed to realize that no matter how old we are (I’m 64) brathood is a hometown, a tribe, a global village. Growing up brat isn’t external, it’s internal, permanent. Being a brat gave me my morales, world view, and molded my character. It built my self image, taught me confidence, trust, loyalty and patriotism. I learned to take care of my loved ones, to protect my heart and to sacrifice to help others. I will ALWAYS be a BRAT and proud of the life that my Creator chose for me. Not a easy or soft life but an extraordinary life filled with travel, experiences, new cultures and interesting friends, unexpected challenges, struggles, laughter and sorrow, but mostly a life filled with love and joy! BRAT LOVE TO YOU ALL!!
BRATS have been in existance for over 200 years. This move by Harmony Hearth LLC and the authors of the book, Debbie & Jennifer Fink is not right. Not only do they not acknowledge or credit any information and support they received while talking to BRATS, it appears that they are purposefully blocking the BRATS along with their current organizations, clubs, Facebook Groups (which there are many) by not providing the information to their newly and incorrectly created CHAMPS. They even have a page on one of their web sites which makes it appear that the term BRATS is to no longer used. That is far from the truth.

Additionally, the book has received over 99% negative reviews from BRATS from around the world on Amazon:…/…/ref=sr_1_1……

I am sorry, but I must say that their excuse for not using BRATS and instead using The Little C.H.A.M.P.S – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel is the most lame acronym I can imagine. I honestly believe that it was the best they could come up with to block out the REAL BRATS.

Most of the ideas and initiatives used by Operation CHAMPS came from BRATS during conversations between BRATS and at least one of the authors. Then the ideas and initiatives along with the name change came about with no further consultation with any of the BRATS in an apparent attempt to block them out.

One other matter to consider is the way Operation CHAMPS, a non-profit, and the authors and the publisher, Harmony Hearth LLC are set up. From my research the officers and I think the current owners of Harmony Hearth LLC are the authors and their immediate family. Harmony Hearth LLC is NOT a non-profit yet everything being pushed by Operation CHAMPS and their other programs and initiatives are all purchased from Harmony Hearth LLC. All trademarks, etc. are owned by Harmony Hearth LLC including the ones for the non-profit.

This information is from the result of my research into this matter. It is hard to determine the actual validity of some of the information since neither orgHunter nor GuideStar have any current information on the Harmony Hearth LLC non-profit entities, but to the best of my ability and in my opinion all the information provided is true. I have done additional research if USAA wishes to discuss this matter further with me.

As a USAA member since early 1974, I have faith in USAA and that you will have due diligence in looking at this matter and coming to correct decision to remove all USAA support for Operation CHAMPS.

Richard B. Atkinson
MAJOR, US Army (ret)


Military children robbed of their identities. Not a phrase you should feel good about when you hear it, but it is true.
Deborah and Jennifer Fink have teamed up to create a book about Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel (CHAMPS) and formed a non-profit organization for the benefit of military children. The thing is, they have no connection at all with any military members or their families.

I left America in 1975, 5 years old and swept to a place where people spoke but I couldn’t understand them. Our family had to live in an off base house with local Germans while we waited for a place to open in the base housing area. Once we got a place, I met my first BRAT friend.

BRAT is not a derogatory term to us children of heroes. What is hurtful is the fact that the Finks are cheapening the title of hero. They want us to refer BRATS as heroes. We were children, kids tagging along for the ride. We were transitional friends, first kisses, sad farewells and deep understanding partners in the often mixed up life of a military child.

My first kiss was with a girl named April, I wish I could remember her last name. We were BRATS who in a brief, childhood rite of passage connected. She moved on only weeks later. During the Cold War, being stationed in Germany was to be literally cut off from mainstream America. There was no internet, phone calls were a small fortune and the only American television we had was the one channel AFN (Armed Forces Network).

The BRAT flower is the dandelion. Pick a dandelion, blow the petals off and wherever they land, they will flourish. Many consider it a weed, but to us it symbolizes the strength and resourcefulness a BRAT has. We moved at least every 3 years, changed schools countless times and made but then lost hundreds of friends.

This act means to steal honor from our true heroes, our fathers & mothers, sisters & brothers, friends & neighbors who have heroically served our country! We were not heroes, we tagged along. We thrived. This is an attempt to change the term of endearment known as “BRAT” & replace it with CHAMP is an attempt to steal the sub-cultural identity of millions of people around the world!

The Finks are sponsored by the USO and many other agencies that are supposed to be helping military families. The Finks have gone on whirlwind trips to Germany and South Korea all on the USO’s dime. In the few days we BRATS have started a grassroots uprising, the Finks have removed countless photos of them at lavish parties and pageants. Flying planes and wearing shirts with the USO’s logo. The USO has also bought their books for schools. My calls to the USO PR department, specifically Director of Public Relations Gayle Fishel, have gone unanswered or I have been suspiciously hung up on. Tweets to the USO have resulted in generic responses as pictured.

Deborah and Jennifer Fink – a mother and daughter team who have no military connections of their own, have written a book about Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel (CHAMPS) and formed a non-profit organization for the benefit of military children. They may be a nonprofit, but it seems the publisher is the husband of Deborah Fink.
They think the term BRAT is offensive to us, the children of heroes. It is NOT. I am proud to be a BRATl

Posted to USAA this evening:

A representative from USAA responded here today (paraphrased) that USAA’s endorsement/sponsorship of OperationCHAMPS (OC) was based on its (OC’s) stated mission to enhance civilian understanding of the experiences of military children.

Back to Square One, USAA: Yes, that is indeed one of the stated goals of OC. Please answer this: why are the authors of the book “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S.” currently on their second USO-sponsored tour of military schools overseas? How many schools in Germany, Italy and other countries they have visited (on USO and taxpayer funds) are civilian, with some percentage of military children in attendance, who could benefit from such information? The answer is NONE. And, by the way, the program they present is touted as “edu-tainment.” Whatever that may be, I question what part it has in a serious school curriculum.

The parent company, Harmony Hearth LLC, owns the copyright to the terms “little CHAMPS” and “little Brats.” DoDEA schools, the USO and other organizations buy thousands of copies of the book from Harmony Hearth LLC which are then distributed “free” to schools, FRGs, post/base libraries, etc. The principal officers of Harmony Hearth LLC are Debbie Fink, her husband Michael Fink and their daughter Jennifer Fink, with Debbie and Jennifer Fink as the authors of the book in question – are you starting to connect the dots?

Regarding the name change, Debbie Fink is on record in numerous interviews (print and video) and social media postings as fully intending to replace the term “Brats” with CHAMPS. This is perhaps most blatant in a poster on the official OC website depicting the seals of the five service branches followed by the text, “Yesterday’s Brats are today’s Little Champs!” Such offensive and aggressive maneuvers to eradicate a name that is not only OURS but also belongs to the military children of our closest allies – Canada and the UK – among others is breathtaking in its arrogance and audacity.

This issue is complex and challenging. At this point, I choose to give USAA, the USO and other organizations the benefit of the doubt in signing on to what was probably proffered as a gift to the military community, wholly for its benefit. However, from its financial structure to its undermining of military culture and tradition, I hope that USAA will come to understand that this particular gift is, in reality, a Trojan horse.

BRAT for 56 years so far

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