I am a Better Because of My Tribe

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The New York Times times recently published a piece by Simone Gorrindo titled Story Hour, Off the Army Base, about the power of friendships in the military community. There was one line in particular that churned my stomach  – “You get through the days by force of will, by relying not on family or husbands but on friends — and often, brutally, on just yourself.” I thought back to when Clay left mere days after Weston’s birth for Afghanistan and didn’t return until the little guy was walking. That first year of motherhood was incredibly lonely because it wasn’t until near the end of the deployment that I truly made other mom friends in our non-military neighborhood. We would have playdates that involved wine and conversation that wasn’t kid-appropriate. We laughed. We shared our struggles. And then Clay came home and we moved 1800 miles away 30 days later.

Such is military life.

In last episode of the third season of The Office, David Wallace interviews Jim Halpert for a position at corporate with Dunder Mifflin. When David asks Jim what he liked best about Scranton, Jim pauses – and responds, “The friendships.”

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I feel the same way about the Army. As handsome as my husband looks in his Mess Dress, I’m not in it for the high-waisted pants or the long stretches of no communication. While moving around is exciting and the homecomings are absolutely exhilarating, what I like best about the Army has easily been the friendships I’ve made along the way. Over the years, I’ve met some pretty amazing women. They’ve inspired me. They’ve comforted me. They’ve angered me. They’ve amazed me. They’ve seen me be spiteful. They’ve seen me fail. They’ve seen me excel. They’ve even seen me peel a banana with my toes – it’s much easier than it looks…ask Allyson!

My military friends are my tribe.

Sebastian Junger is an author, journalist, and documentarian known for The Perfect Storm, War, and Restrepo. His most recent work – Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging focuses on the fact that while modern civilization gives us unbelievable freedoms, it is also depriving us of the sense of interdependence and community that we crave as human beings. Sebastian Junger argues that we actually thrive in the moments we come together to overcome adversity and that experience of fellowship can be intoxicating and  indicative of a better version of ourselves.

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I admit that I struggle at times with the us vs. them mentality that exists within the military community – the idea that civilians are unable to truly comprehend the military family experience has always settled funny in my stomach. But perhaps there is a reason why my closest friends have been fellow military wives. We support each other during deployments, separations, PCS’s, and through whatever curveballs the military may throw our way. We watch each other’s children, we’re the first to pour each other a glass of wine, and we drop everything to be there when most needed. We even list each other as local emergency contacts despite only meeting five minutes prior.

At the end of the day, I am a better person because of the women I’ve chosen to call friends. I am lucky. Like many, I have groups of friends from our various assignments. Each duty station brings new friends, new opportunities, new adventures, and eventually new see you later’s.  Some friendships have survived the test of distance and time and others have not. That doesn’t mean they were any less valuable – they served an important role in my life at that particular time. But the military friendships that stand the test of time? Those are special.

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So special that when you’re invited to a Kentucky Derby Party, you make a meatloaf in the shape of a horse head to give your friends a tangible representation of just how much they mean to you.

You’re welcome, guys. ❤

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