Military as family

You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your relations

We have all heard that saying. Mostly said in disgust when dealing with something uncomprehenislble with parents or siblings or offspring, but also in those cases where you shake your head at the behavior of some distant aunt, uncle or cousin.

Or, you are leaning back smug in your knowledge that your family is fine, normal and will not cause you major embarresment in front of your friends. Of course, these are famous last words. In contrast – you pick your friends, or perhaps they pick you. In either case, there is a certain amount of choice in the matter.

And then there is the military. More so in the reserve or National Guard, your fellow unit members become family. Working, training and potentially deploying together, the relationships last years.

Deploying with others, you eat, work and live closely for months on end. You see each other at best and worst. As I mentioned yesterday, you may well be sharing a tent with 11 of your “best friends/assigned siblings” for months on end – if not a warehouse or B-hut. If you are Air Force, then it might just be called a dorm, but it all amounts to the same thing. These are team mates who know you perhaps better than you would wish; roomies who you also know quite well.

So well in fact that when you and your family make a visit to one of them and their family it smacks you in the face. There I am, standing in a kitchen in Oslo fixing coffee for the four adults and I draw a blank. Carrying out three cups, I put down mine then hand a cup to my husband and my Norwegian friend. Turning to his wife, I appologize for not knowing how she takes her coffee. She looks at me and asks how I know her husband’s preferences.

Astonished, I look at her. I had breakfast with him almost every morning for six months, of course I know how he takes his coffee….

With having more rank, I don’t usually share living quarters except while on the road, like here in Kandahar. But I am getting to know my office mates more than well. There are several with whom I have deployed before. There maybe one or two who will become family over the long term.

Right now, I am just hoping that none of my “new cousins” snore.

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4 Responses to Military as family

  1. Carmen says:

    Pleasant dreams!

  2. Alison says:

    I wasn’t expecting that laugh at the end!

  3. Ron says:

    you are so correct. I have lost touch with many of the people I deployed with over the years. On returning home I would often have very strange sensations of loss and separation anxiety. My wife would frequently accuse me of wanting to return to my field peers rather than be with her for the first weeks after returning. People who have not deployed will not understand the bond that forms under those conditions.

    Isolation, a few near death experiences, some common successes and you are forever bonded with those who surrounded you on those days. Those people even return as characters in my dreams. Forever locked in that context, age and maturity to appear as actors in my little sleeping mind plays. Those are some of the most vivid dreams, smells, tastes, sounds and emotional content I do not get from most dreams I can recall.

    One of the things I miss about active duty life is the community and my peers. Does not exist in civilian life outside of collage, incarceration, summer camp or sports teams.

    Hope your new year is a good one.

  4. Helen says:

    Oh how true… ‘out – laws’….oops I mean ‘in- laws’ drive us insane at times. But one should remember that your partner – in this case my husband, has a very close genetic link to those whom you may occassionally complain about. This is why, despite both our short comings, My husband and I are best friends. We can rely on each other and if need be , die for each other.

    We must be thankful for any relationship that we can pick up at any time and under any conditions.

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