“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.”
I often say that the best thing to come out of my husband’s military career is the friendships we’ve made over the years. Military friendships are truly special. I count myself very fortunate to have these friends all over the world. In fact, sometimes I worry that I will never find friends as good as these people outside of the military.
Have my military friends ruined friendship for me?!
I have recently seen joke “dating” profiles designed to help moms find other mom friends. It’s funny because it’s true. When you start airing out your crazy, it’s hard to find other moms who share the same brand. I once saw a meme that said adult friendships are mostly just two people saying they miss each other and should catch up until one of them dies.
The reality is that developing friendships as an adult is hard. It’s even harder when you are a mom and harder still when you are the new kid in town.
In the last year, I have faced all of the above. My husband left active duty for the Guard, and for the first time in our nearly 13 years of marriage, we are living apart from the safety net of our military friends.
In the brave new world I now inhabit, it turns out you are supposed to “get to know people” in order to become their friend. There is whole courtship to it. You see if your children and spouses are compatible. You see if you live close enough or workout at the same time. In the military, you meet another spouse, size up whether she or he is a complete weirdo within a few minutes and then ask if she or he will be your child’s emergency contact at school.
Much like childhood and college friends, I believe the one reason military friendships are so enduring is that they are forged out of common experience and memory.
You are in similar stations of life, your spouses have similar schedules, and your children attend the same schools. Often, you even live in close proximity. This breeds community and a closeness that lasts. My grandmother was a military spouse and until the year she died, she exchanged Christmas cards with families she and my grandfather had been stationed with decades before.
Military friendships run deep.
You often deal with heavy stuff together—homesickness, separations, and even loss. This bonds you quickly and deeply — there is no choice but to scrape off the superficial layers. The women we were stationed with in Aviano will always hold a special place in my heart. They saw me through countless TDYs, a deployment, sickness, and great loss. Though we are all spread apart now, when we are together, it feels like no time has passed.
The military forces us to often live far away from our families. Thus, the friends we make form a surrogate family of sorts. Military friends fill in where your family would be in the “normal” world. They bring you meals when you have a baby, watch your children or your pets, and drop everything to help in times of great need. I know this to be true because I have seen it firsthand.
Military friendships are easy in the sense that you don’t have to constantly explain all the weird parts of your life to another person.
Military friends get what your spouse does and where you moved from, and where you might be going next. Maybe they have even been there, too.
You can throw around the military acronyms with them (even if neither of you actually know that they mean). Most importantly, they will offer you support and not pity, never feeling sorry for you for the life you are a part of.
Now that we are in the civilian world, I will keep chugging along making friends. I know it will be gradual, and it will take some time to build a life on this side. However, I will always cherish my military friendships and I will try to bring some of these qualities to all the friendships in my life.