A story of a boy who would become a teenage acne-riddled social outcast, and his coming-of-age within the unique subculture of an Army family.
“What I really loved most was the journey back in time. I love history, and I especially love the validation of my father’s stories about his time. I would recommend this book for Baby Boomers that want to take a look back and have a shared experience with the author. I would also recommend this book for college (or high school) students that are interested in the American experience and history. I taught an American Studies class in college about Post WWII popular culture and history. I wish that I had this book for the class’s reading list!” – Belle
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“As a military family, we respect and appreciate the stories of children who grew up with an active duty parent. John Wagner was one of those children whose childhood was shaped by the people, places, and cultures they found themselves in. Join John as he retells the stories of his life that shaped him into the man he became. The author is an excellent storyteller who makes you feel like you are sitting in the front row of an easy to read recap of his life.” – PME Lander
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About The Book Baby Boomer Army Brat
Baby Boomer Army Brat is the penetrating story of a boy who would become a teenage acne-riddled social outcast, and his coming-of-age within the unique subculture of an Army family. With warmth and energy, John shows a vivid slice of Americana foreshadowing the dramatic changes about to hit the baby-boomers and all of American society: the new civil rights laws, the psychedelic era, and above all the searing division of the Vietnam War.
John details many of the cruel, yet often hilarious, struggles of adolescence, from which he emerges with a core inner strength, although also full of doubts. John must try to forge his own values and beliefs in the midst of a constant inability to do anything right and ongoing criticism from his no-nonsense Army father. Baby Boomer Army Brat shows John trying to survive within the military culture, including sexual abuse from a predatory soldier. John must find his way through a minefield of: an ever-changing identity, overwhelming anxieties, seeking a spiritual path, and above all struggling to become authentic.
John was born shortly after World War II, when his dad was an officer in the Army Military Police. As an infant, his parents moved to many military bases across the US for a few months each, as his dad presented training courses for military corrections officials. The family then moved to bombed-out postwar Germany, where his dad was in charge of three Displaced Persons camps. His dad saw inhumane treatment of some DPs and had the courage to report it. In typical army fashion however, reminiscent of Abu Ghraib, the Army disciplined his father for communicating about the abuse, rather than the soldiers who were the abusers.
After the family returned from Germany, they lived for several years in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the family hometown, while John’s dad served as an MP unit commander in Korea during that conflict. Then the family moved to army bases across the US: Fort Knox, Kentucky, Camp Chaffee, Arkansas (where Elvis Presley was inducted), and Fitzsimons Army Hospital, Colorado, until his dad retired. After retirement, they moved for the promised better life all retirees thought would exist in Florida but it didn’t work out that way. They returned to Aurora, Colorado, home of Fitzsimons Hospital, where the family would live for over 30 years.
Shortly after the war began, John’s mother became the first woman federal parole officer in the US. After the war, typical of many American women who had established careers on their own during the war, she gave up her independence to become a full-time mother. In this case, she became an “Army Wife,” raising six children, John being the eldest. Baby Boomer Army Brat not only is the story of John and his family but through his eyes we see the changes in society, including this change in the role of women.
With breathtaking immediacy, Baby Boomer Army Brat brings us right into the times of which he writes, through family stories and vignettes. We can see and fee, little by little, the times were indeed about to be a’ changin’.
Written with a confident hand, not only does Baby Boomer Army Brat foreshadow major societal changes, but John writes with courage and thoughtfulness about himself and his struggles without a touch of self-pity. He digs deep to reveal his own part in creating his own problems and shows he is not the “good kid” everyone imagines him to be.
This is the story of innocence and dreams, and of how that innocence and those dreams get changed or put away, little by little, as the society at large, and the military subculture, wears John and his family down. This story is for anyone, from a military family or otherwise, who dreamt good dreams. It is the story of all of us, the story of what happened and the story of how we perceive what happened. We see the threads of what would become the narratives of our lives. John’s voice is strong, clear, introspective, and passionate without ever being dogmatic. He definitely “has a take,” but he is the first to admit how off-base he might be.