Over the past almost half a dozen years in the military, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to forge friendships with people from all walks of life.
The only downfall is that while the friendships are strong, lasting ones, we have for the most part been scattered to the wind as the military and transitioning back to the civilian world has caused us to relocate to other states and countries.
There is no denying that the bond between fellow comrades is often a friendship that lasts a lifetime.
In the military, we’re side-by-side, literally, sometimes night and day, working together as a unit to get the job done.
So it’s only natural to gravitate toward spending one’s down time with people whom you consider to be more of a brother or sister than a friend.
But how do you preserve that bond when you are both moved hundreds or thousands of miles away?
The promises to call and visit each other wane away until two, three, 10 months have passed since you’ve last spoken.
Now that I look back on it, the friends I’ve made over the last almost six years in the military have all moved away except for a couple of remaining friends who have stayed in the area.
Now comes the task of not only adjusting to a civilian work environment, but civilian friendship as well.
Civilian friends take their time.
They take their time letting down their guards and forming new friendships, and they take their time initiating hangouts with someone they are just getting to know.
But that’s a good thing, in a sense.
It may feel like you’re forging a friendship at a snail’s pace compared to the lightning-fast pace of bunking with a room full of complete strangers in the Army, or sharing every meal with them whether you like them or not.
And because of this, you get to choose your friendships more carefully in the civilian world.
I wonder how many of the people in the Army I chose to form friendships with would have been people I would have chosen to associate with if we hadn’t shared every waking minute together in training and deployment settings.
With my civilian friends, I spend far less time with them, unless they’re people I choose to spend a lot of time with.
Now if I share a meal with them or travel somewhere with them, it’s because I chose to, and not because we had to and formed a friendship along the way out of necessity.
I’m the type of person who forms a friendship for a lifetime.
My best friend has been my BFF since we were 8.
And my college buddies still stay in touch. When we talk, it feels like not a day has passed since our graduation day.
So this is why it’s especially difficult for me to know that I have friends now scattered around the globe. The very same friends I used to talk and see daily.
How’s Joe’s wife? Don’t know. Haven’t seen them in years. How’s Amanda’s new baby? Not sure. They moved cross-country and kind of fell by the wayside since.
Why is it with the military life, it’s so common to let past friendships wane in favor of the convenience of plugging in new friends at your next duty station until the friends at the former installations become a fond memory?
It’s now my goal to continue building lasting friendships in the civilian world while working harder to reach out and re-strengthen the friendships with friends I’ve made over the years.
Because a good friendship isn’t hard to find, but it’s important to maintain.
Jacqueline Dowland is editor of the Copperas Cove Herald. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org|254-501-7464.