Finding My Roots · 3/17/2009

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At our 2007 Yamato Reunion, Kay Dawson, Class of 1968, read “Finding My Roots” by Mike Skidmore with such emotion that it brought tears to our eyes.  In her own words, "My high school years were the greatest years!"

As for me, many of my NOW friends didn’t know that I went to school in Japan.....until I attended my first Yamato reunion in 1999. When my friends found out, they would say with surprise, “I didn’t know you went to school in Japan!”

Like Mike, spending four years in Japan during my formative years, left me with a strong emotional connection to those days....from long ago. When I found my classmates 40 years later, it felt like I had found my long-lost family. That is when I knew that these were my roots....

Below are the reflections of Mike Skidmore.

by Vonnie




Finding My Roots

     All of my life, I never knew what to say when people asked, “Where are you from?” I usually smiled and gave a simple answer that I figured would not be further pursued, but I also knew that wasn’t where I was from. The truth is, I didn’t know the answer to that question, because I am part of an American subculture that seems to have no roots and we call ourselves "military brats”. For us, the need to belong to community, friends, and family can go unanswered until we find our roots.  

     My experience as a military brat all started in Hutchinson Kansas where I was born. My father was an Air Force recruiter assigned to Hutchinson but within 6 months was reassigned to Topeka Kansas. Over the next 18 years, I would live in 10 different places and attend 8 different schools.  

The department of defense ran most of the schools I attended. I started first grade elementary school at Tachikawa Air Base Japan and graduated from High School at Yamato High School located at Yamato Air Station Japan.  

     In contrast, most people in civilian life fulfill their need to belong through their communities. They often live all their lives in or near the same communities where they grew up and went to school with the same people.

     Another thing that gives someone a sense of belonging is having friends. Generally, active duty military families are rotated to new locations every two to four years. This meant that friend-ships had to be formed very fast, because we all knew we didn’t have time to waste. I couldn’t afford to hesitate if someone was going to be leaving again within a couple of years, but I knew that, when they moved on, I would never hear from them again. One of the most difficult things for a military brat is dealing with moving yet again, always leaving behind not only close relationships but also treasured possessions and even pets. To make it easier to cope, most military brats simply cut all ties and remade themselves in their new locations, starting the whole process over again.

     One of the strongest things that make people know they belong somewhere is family. As a military brat, I didn’t have many relatives around me while I was growing up. Usually I saw my grandparents, or aunt and uncle during the summer or short visits. The only real family I knew was my father, mother, brother, and sisters.

     As I met new people, I was finding that the most awkward question that I was being asked was, “Where are you from?” I was never sure what they were asking. Were they asking where I was born? I was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, but I had not lived there within my memory. Were they asking where I grew up? I grew up in a lot of places, mainly military bases. Were they asking where I live now? I live in Tulsa Oklahoma, but I live here due to happenstance; I moved to Oklahoma just to be near 2 brothers that I had attended high school with in Japan.

     As years passed and I would hear people talk about their school and class reunions, I always listened to them with the sadness of knowing it was something I would never experience. I would listen to them tell about the excitement of spending time with old friends and hear them complain about “the same old cliques acting the same way as they had in high school.”

  I attended my wife’s high school reunion and watched the interaction between people who had known each other all of their lives.  As the music started to play and people got up to dance I found myself sitting alone at this large dining table, I thought to myself, I wonder where all of my friends from Yamato High School are? With a sad heart, I envied them.

     In 1998, while on the Internet, I decided to put the word’s Yamato High School into a search engine as I had done hundreds of times before. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the words, Yamato High School home of the Warriors, Join the association.” Those had to be my schoolmates! I clicked on the link, and the first thing I spotted was my schools crest and a section for senior yearbook photos.

    As I investigated the site, I started by posting a note in the Guestbook hoping to find information on my old friends whom I had tried to find for years. These were the people who “knew me when....” I nervously wrote emails to the people I remembered. After I sent the emails, I wondered if they would even remember me. As it turned out, these particular friends were all waiting for me to show up, and some had even been looking for me. Through our continued contact, we’ve come to realize that these were friendships that went beyond the normal definition of friendship. We had formed a bond that transcended the decades of being apart.

     July of 1999 would finally give me an experience I never dreamed I would have. I got to attend the big Yamato High All School reunion in Las Vegas. I had a certain nervousness about finally meeting these people face to face. Would it be what I had hoped for, or would I be disappointed?

     That long awaited weekend finally arrived. As I mingled with people I had known so long ago, as well as people I had only known through our alumni site, I discovered we were really a family of friends. These were the people who really were my oldest, dearest friends; people who could relate to my old stories and memories as well as I could relate to theirs. I even found that the new friends were more like old friends than any friendships I had formed elsewhere. They are people who know who I really am through our shared experience.  

     There was so much love and mutual understanding at the reunion that it was almost unbelievable. We were discovering that even military brats have roots. We grew up without long lasting ties to our communities, friendships, or even relatives, but we’ve discovered that our roots are in the fact that we have no roots. That was something unspoken but under- stood by each of us. These were people with whom I share a special bond that is as strong as any bond imaginable. With this, I now know where I am from. I have a home that we all affectionately call the “Yamato – Tachi Experience.”

Mike Skidmore

 Class of 1969

Yamato High School


[View Guestbook ] [Sign Guestbook ]

Vonnie Hoops-Beattie

Class of 1960

Yamato High School

Air Force Japan Dependents School

Yamato Air Station, Japan


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"My Yamato High School Website"




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