The Story of Bea and a Friendship Built to Withstand the Military


This is the story of Bea and a friendship built to withstand the military. Lasting friendships can be hard to come by these days – especially in the unpredictable life of a military spouse. Luckily, though, some friendships are so strongly bonded that there is nothing on this earth that could come between them. These friendships may be scarce, but we hold on to them with everything we’ve got. This is the story of one of those friendships. It’s about a friend who has given more than I could have ever asked for and one I could not imagine my life without.

I was a bit of a nerd as a kid. Not the type of nerd that sits on a school bench with her nose in a book instead of chasing boys across the soccer field. I wasn’t much into chasing boys, but I did enjoy my time out on the playground hurling myself around and around the multi-leveled bars with fellow classmates or hanging around the tire swing with a gaggle of girls, while we eagerly waited our turn to spin until our hands hurt from gripping the chains. I was a nerd in the sense that I really liked school and all the homework, extra credit and accolades of achievement that came with it. Like a lot of things that happen somewhere in childhood, this love of learning and a drive to be number one made me different – especially when it was time for middle school. Swapping the bars and tire swing for nothing more than asphalt in a courtyard was less than desirable. The few girls I hung out with either lived on the other side of the district’s boundary lines and had to attend other schools or our hormones began to kick in and we became more selective with who hung out with who. I watched as new friendships were formed around me and the cliques of my teen years started to take shape. I found myself not really fitting in with any one particular crowd, but was not an outsider by any means. I could pretty much get along with anyone, which made me think I did not particularly need my own group of friends.

Throughout 7th-9th grade, I immersed myself in sports. Not only was I academically driven, but I was gifted with athleticism. Sports not only became an outlet, but another place to excel. I ended up playing the same sports (basketball, volleyball and softball) until my freshmen year where I swapped softball for tennis. I was “friends” with my teammates as many of us rolled together from one sport to the next, but we did not necessarily hang out. When high school came along, I made it my mission to continue to strive for that 4.0+ G.P.A. and be the best athlete I could be. I was never hurt when the entire team would attend something and I was not invited nor did I have a fear of missing out. I decided that friends, more so close friends, were just not something I was supposed to have. I filled the loneliness with extra credit and volunteering.

Bea and I as high schoolers in 2000 and aging nicely as of 2023.

Then, during my senior year of high school something (or someone rather) happened that, for the first time ever, taught me why we genuinely need friends in our lives. Her name was Bea and she travelled as an exchange student from Benissa, Spain all the way to the small town of Widefield, CO. She enrolled as a junior and, little did I know, would change my life forever. The first time I met Bea I wanted to know everything about her! She was blonde, tall and tan. She was amazingly beautiful, and her smile made everything brighter. She was intriguing and she was the first person I ever wanted to truly get to know. Bea and I became friends fast. We spent lunches together, were in the same clubs and met up during passing periods. She loved writing, journalism, and had the best sense of humor! She constantly made fun of her English skills but was still leaps and bounds ahead of my 6 years of Spanish. After spending a few months getting to know Bea, I started inviting her to do things outside of school. However, every time I asked her to go to the movies, cruise the mall or pick up some lunch, she insisted that she was not allowed to go. I started inquiring more and more about the family that Bea was staying with and after Bea declared, “Aren’t all American families like that?” I became increasingly worried that Bea was brought to the U.S. under false pretenses. Thankfully, I was not the only person who started to question some of the things Bea was sharing. A well attuned Science teacher who was providing Bea with extra academic support took note of some of the comments and stories that Bea would share about her host family, as well. The teacher approached me one day and, after realizing we shared the same concerns, she called the exchange program and had Bea removed from her host family. The teacher agreed to host Bea for the remainder of the year, which opened up the opportunity for us to spend more time together. During the little time we had left, Bea and I cemented our friendship and I finally learned what it meant to have a real Best Friend Forever (BFF). We both made a commitment to stay in touch as much as possible, even if we had no idea when or if we would ever see each other again.

After my senior year, Bea returned to Spain and I headed off to college. We made every effort to keep our promise by navigating our way through the beginning years of email and calling cards. As technology improved, so did our means of communication. Bea made her way back to the states 1-2 times while I was in college. Her sister ended up also doing and exchange year in the U.S. and was hosted by the same teacher who was Bea’s saving grace. While Bea stayed with and visited them, I would make the 3-hour trek from college to spend just a day or two with her. When together, it felt like no time had passed. We also realized that our time together would never be long enough. When I met my future husband in 2004, the only person I felt I needed to approve of him was Bea. With timing being at the mercy of the military, Bea was unable to meet my fiancé in person and would also not be able to stand with me at our wedding. I promised Bea we would make it to Europe as soon as we could.

Visiting Bea in Rome in 2014.
Rome, Italy 2014

In 2011 (4 years later), Bea and my husband met for the first time. We visited the Canary Islands and then met Bea in Madrid where she was working at the time. We spent the days touring museums and parks and taking siestas. The evenings were full of late-night dinners and meeting Bea’s friends from all walks of life. After squeezing as much sightseeing and tapas as we could into four days, my husband, Bea, her then boyfriend and I sardined ourselves into a two door, non-air conditioned, old Mercedes Benz and drove nearly 5 hours south to Bea’s hometown of La Fustera, Spain. Before we headed out, we loaded our luggage and a few bottles of half-empty liquor in the trunk. When we finally arrived dripping in sweat and more irritable than ever from the heat, we opened the trunk to find a completely empty bottle of gin! The temperature in the trunk had gotten so high that the alcohol had literally evaporated! The laughter and disbelief that ensued lasted the next three days until our tearful goodbye when we returned to Madrid for our flight “home.” We saw Bea again in 2014 when my husband and I booked a European cruise out of Venice, Italy. Bea met up with us briefly in Rome and then joined us for a day in Venice. We tremendously enjoyed each other’s company while we explored and got lost in the maze in the “City of Canals.” More memories were made, more laughter was shared and instead of a mystery of disappearing gin, there was the introduction to espresso as thick and black as tar! Our final day together included another miserably hot day that included a treacherous 2 mile walk to the cruise ship, which was then followed by another tearful goodbye. Bea and I exchanged trips twice more when she came to Delaware in 2015 to meet her “nephew” for the first time and in 2017 when I escaped to Spain desperately needing her as I fought to break through the chains of postpartum depression.

Visiting Bea at her home in La Fustera in 2017.

In 2018, we were amazingly gifted the opportunity to live near one another while stationed in Italy. Bea was working as a journalist in Rome and we were stationed outside of Naples. We got to see each other more frequently, but were also, ironically, both going through a very turbulent time personally. I had Bea’s “niece” two months after moving to Italy and I was not only once again engulfed in the darkness and bound by the walls of postpartum depression, but I was also trying to adapt to living in a new country and all the challenges that come with an overseas PCS. I was not myself and battled the perfect storm alone. Bea tried so hard to provide comfort, clarity and compassion, but I was so anxious, angry and overwhelmed that I began to push her away. Bea was also facing some significant personal battles and neither of us seemed to be able to support the other in either the way we wanted or needed. In late 2019, Bea and I had our first major “something.” I do not even know what to call it, but all I knew is that we were not “us.” A few weeks without talking turned into months and then the next thing I knew, we were in the thralls of COVID and the crippling Italian shutdown. In the midst of lockdown, we received early orders and were to return stateside in July of 2020. I had to leave Italy without ever reconciling my friendship with Bea. There was no long tearful goodbye or one last memory to laugh about for years to come. There was pain, tears of regret and a massive hole in my heart.

Tia Bea soaking up her time with her niece and nephew.

A few months after returning stateside, I finally swallowed my pride, mustered up the courage and reached out to Bea. I desperately missed her and deeply regretted the way things ended. I sent her a WhatsApp message and apologized profusely. She responded within minutes with a simple, “No apology needed.” I balled more than ever and knew everything would be ok. We picked up right where we left off and, three years and another PCS later, Bea was able to visit us in May and September of 2023. I would have never believed that when Bea and I first met, she would be my constant in the years to come. In all of the inconsistencies of this military life, Bea has remained consistent. She is still one of the funniest people I have ever met, she knows exactly what to say even when she knows I do not want to hear it and she is more beautiful than ever. Our friendship was meant to have distance, which means our time together is never taken for granted – especially now that we know what life would be like if the other wasn’t in it. She is “Tia Bea” to my kids and someone my husband looks forward to spending time with almost as much as me. Through all of the reasons and seasons that we have friends, I am forever grateful that I get the privilege of having Bea for a lifetime. Lifetime friends provide safety, hope and a promise that there is nothing the military can do to separate us no matter where our orders take us. Plans may be cancelled and visits may be few and far between, but until God calls one of us home, Bea and I are inseparable. I am convinced that the only reason why Bea was sent to that small town in Colorado 23 years ago was because God knew we needed each other. If you are lucky enough to have a “Bea” in your life, thank them. Take the time to really let them know how much they mean to you. I cannot thank you enough, Bea, and cannot wait to see you again. The best is yet to come!


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Erin Stock
Erin grew up in Widefield, a small town just south of Colorado Springs, CO. Although she was surrounded by the military, she did not meet her husband, an Air Force Pilot, until they had both graduated from college. Erin has spent almost 20 years in education working as a classroom teacher, Literacy Specialist and Coach. Although Erin holds a MA in Educational Leadership and is also a National Board Certified Teacher, the best education Erin has ever received has been the gift of teaching across the nation. She credits the military with providing her the opportunity to learn more about education than she ever could have throughout her college years. Erin is a woman of faith and a mom to two young children. She is passionate about mental health support for spouses and also raises awareness regarding the dangers of Fentanyl. Erin and her family are currently serving their 7 th assignment in New Hampshire. She enjoys reading personal growth books and researching educational topics, but ends up spending the majority of her time playing with her kids, creating systems in her household, building a supportive community for spouses and dreaming of her forever home. She is also an occasional podcaster.


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