USAA members on Facebook who are also the children of current or former servicemembers may recognize this as a currently controversial topic. A mother-daughter duo (Deborah and Jennifer Fink) - who have no military connections of their own, by heritage, service or marriage - have written a book (in the title of this post) and formed a non-profit organization (more on that later) held out to be for the benefit of military children. The group has received the endorsement of Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden (neither one a military child). A current tour by Deb Fink to installations in the Far East, including Korea and Japan, has been endorsed or sponsored by groups such as the USO and USAA. Programs presented to military children as "edu-tainment" (their word, not mine) are best characterized, in my opinion, as smarmy and condescending - akin to awarding trophies for mere participation - conferring the status of "special" on ordinary children. (There are few military children who misuse the word "hero" as has become common. When it is used, it refers to the family's servicemember/s - not the children.)
Among the stated goals of this organization is to replace the "objectionable" or "offensive" term "Brats" with "C.H.A.M.P.S" - Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel. This comes as a great surprise to many military Brats who have worked for years for military children and families - and whose input was solicited and then claimed as their own by the Finks. Furthermore, the use of CHAMPS in this context has been copyrighted by the parent company of Operation Little CHAMPS - meaning that any use of it is subject to whatever service charges may be part of its legal structure. NONE of it goes directly towards military children or families, and is hardly "non-profit."
My Dad was a career Army officer, and from 1946-1966 I was a proud Army Brat, living in the US and overseas, moving multiple times and attending a score of schools. At that point, I became military myself. In my own career - spanning from 1966-2012 with two retirements - I raised three Army Brats of my own. My older son, who retired this past summer after 24 years in the Army, along with his wife, is raising four more Army Brats. None of us, from me through my grandchildren, would think of referring to ourselves as anything but Brats.
Among four of us - my father, my two sons and me - we have nearly 100 years of membership in USAA. I am appalled that USAA would support or endorse any enterprise, non-profit or otherwise, that would seek to undermine the strong, determined, resilient and adaptive culture that is that of military BRATS. We are proud of the identity, status and name, and need no outsider to "fix" it for us, especially by slapping such a ridiculously PC acronym on us to make it all better.
Please, USAA, reconsider your association with or sponsorship/endorsement of this organization.
Sharon L. Stanley-Alden
LTC, USA (Ret.)
I forgot to mention. I joined USAA in 1966. My father was a USAA member and my son is also. I'm a retired field artillery LTC. My family has been loyal to USAA since the 1940s. Can USAA not help the brats it has surronded for years?
And as my family has reminded me, I forgot to mention that my oldest granddaughter is also now a USAA member - the fourth generation of USAA members in our family. She considers herself an Army Brat - not a lame "champ." Despite our long and satisfactory relationship with USAA, I am seriously considering whether or not I want to remain part of an organization that turns its back on its own members. What YOU do next will determine what WE do next.
Sharon L. Stanley-Alden
LTC, USA (Ret.)
USAA Member since 1967, under maiden and two married names
LeRoy S. Stanley (deceased)
COL, USA (Ret.)
USAA Member 1942 (approx.) - 1996
Michael E. Alden
1SG, USA (Ret.)
USAA Member since1991
Mariah L. Alden
USAA Member since 2013
I fully support the information provided by LTC Sharon L. Stanley-Alden. I personally am not a BRAT, but I have four kids who are and I am writing this in support of their positions on the matter. The people who put out The Little C.H.A.M.P.S seem to have no connection with the military and none are or have been BRATS.
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:
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)
Last year I contacted USAA and asked if you would support "The BratPin." The "BratPin" is an initiative to recognize and honor Military Brats for their sacrifices and service to our nation. (Once I recover my investment, the whole shootin' match will be handed over to The Museum of American Military Families to provide services for militay kids.)
The BratPin was created by Military Brats after legislation introduced to the Congress of the United States sat 'in committee' for over three and a half years. (The bill, HR 1889: Children of Military Service Members Commemorative Lapel Pin Act - "they have a problem with the term "Brats" also) is just a 6-page, double-spaced bill. When I was doing a You Tube video to promote the bill, the civilian interviewer asked, "Three and a half years, isn't this a bit disrespectful to our military kids?" So, like a typical Brat, I decided to go it alone.
When USAA decided they weren't going to support the BratPin I asked if they would at least feature the initiative in their printed and/or on line magazine. Again, no interest. So, I let it go...
And now I see where they have a 2-part article on the C.H.A.M.P.S. organization in their Family Matters magazine. And now I know why we do not have the suppport from USAA.
We have been known as "Brats" for years, upon years - and most of us have not even given it a second thought. It IS a trerm of endearment to us. I have lost friends from my childhood. I have lost schools, homes and two bases (Chambley AFB, France and Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico). And now, with your support of C.H.A.M.P.S. you, USAA, want to take my identity, as a Brat?
And, by the way, without your support or endorsement, over $38,000 of BratPin products have sold in this, our first year - primarily through Facebook, and word-of-mouth. I began the venture last September with 2 items, the BratPin, and a BratPin pendant. Today we offer over 70 items! Brats are PROUD of being Brats!
Robert F. Holliker Jr.
Lt. Col./USAF (Ret.)
USAA Valued Member since 1967, as you keep telling me
AIR FORCE BRAT!
I am a second generation USAA member. I find it disturbing that USAA has not realized how much the BRAT designation means to those whose parents have served.
The Operation CHAMP has "borrowed" much of their program from other BRAT organizations. Where is the integrity that we expect from USAA.