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Life as a military brat

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County woman shares her story

By John Barnhart

    “I am proud I am an Army brat,” said Anita Beard as she opened her talk before the New Beginnings support group recently.

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    Beard, who now lives in Bedford County, is the daughter of Col. James E. Foster, a career Army officer.
    Military brats are what the children of career members of the armed forces call themselves. They often use the more specific designation of Army brat, Navy brat, and so forth, indicating their father’s specific branch of service.
    Beard said military brats have to be adaptable.
    “Our families moved around a lot,” she said.
    Beard has moved 25 times in her life, living in places ranging from Guam to Germany. She attended 10 different schools from first grade through high school.
    This means military brats make friends fast, but often don’t form strong bonds. However, the shared experience created bonds among the military brats.
    “I did live in some interesting places,” she said.

Moving around
    One of these was Guam, an island in the Pacific Ocean. Beard said Guam is 30 miles long and has an average width of eight miles.
    “My father created our home out of a quonset hut,” she said.
    This effort was facilitated by the fact that her father was in the Army Corps of Engineers.
    Life on Guam in the early 1950s had one especially interesting aspect.
    “We were told there was a possibility that there could be Japanese soldiers in the mountains,” Beard said.
    This wasn’t just a possibility. She said a Japanese soldier was captured shortly after the family got there.
    “He had no idea the war was over,” Beard said.
    Beard went to a military high school when her father was stationed in Germany, and this was an advantage.
    “It meant all the kids in school were just like me,” she said.
    She got to see a lot of Europe while there. Her sophomore class trip  was a Rhine River Cruise. Beard also got to see a lot of other places in Europe.
    “Rome was my favorite city,” she said.
    She also got to see East Berlin. Germany was still divided into West Germany and East Germany at the time. East Germany was a Communist state and Soviet satellite. Berlin was split into East and West with the East portion controlled by the Communists.
    In order to get to West Berlin, her family had to travel through a portion of East Germany.
    “We had to travel by night,” she said.
    Beard said that was because the East German government didn’t want the passengers on the train to be able to see the country.
    Once in West Berlin, she and her mother took a bus tour that went through East Berlin. Beard said after crossing through the Brandenburg Gate, they found themselves going down a street with nice buildings and flowers on both sides. This, however, turned out to be a Potemkin village. As they passed places where Beard could look between the buildings, she discovered that the buildings weren’t buildings at all. They were just façades. Behind them was rubble left over from World War II. This was 15 years after the war had ended.
    She graduated from a military high school at Ft. Knox and the table favors at her graduation dinner were little metal tanks. Tanks featured prominently in the high school yearbook.

A special bond
    During those two years she met somebody with whom she formed a bond. That was Thomas McAdams, who she ended up marrying. The marriage lasted six-and-a-half years, and produced two daughters. It ended when McAdams was killed in Vietnam. McAdams was awarded the Silver Star, posthumously, for the action that resulted in his death.
    That action occurred on Feb. 28, 1969, and Capt. McAdams was in command of Troop F, 2D Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. According to the citation for the medal, Capt. McAdams had boarded a helicopter to locate an enemy bunker complex and then direct his company’s attack on it. He made multiple low passes over the complex and, after his troops overran and destroyed the complex, continued to direct his troops' action against enemy troops in the surrounding area. It was during a low level pass, while doing this, that McAdams was mortally wounded.
    He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Patton Drive. That’s an appropriate place as the commanding officer of his regiment in Vietnam was Colonel George S. Patton Jr., son of the famous World War II general. Col. Patton wrote a lengthy, emotional, letter of condolence to the young widow after McAdams’ death.
    A few years later, Beard married Alan Beard, a Coast Guard veteran and a military brat, himself — his father had made a career of the Coast Guard. That marriage lasted nearly 40 years, until he was claimed by a heart attack.