One of the things I remember most about growing up a military brat was the overwhelming sense of community that surrounded us, no matter where we lived.
If someone went TDY or was lucky enough to take leave to go home, we always made sure to keep an eye on their house or even mow their lawn if necessary.
If I got home from school and couldn’t find my key, there was always a neighbor willing to let me use their phone or hang out until my parents got home.
When I headed out into the world on my own, it was that very same sense of community I found lacking in the civilian world. It is one of the reasons why I eventually decided to join the military. But I have to say, things have changed a lot since I was a military kid.
With the rare exception, gone are the days of the welcome wagon. You know, that group of people, usually military spouses, who stopped by your house after you had a few days to settle in. They’d bring a plate of cookies or a pie and introduce themselves so you would know at least one person on your street. Then they’d share all the insider info you needed, like the best days to shop at the commissary or which primary care doctor to ask for.
Community is the best part of military life. How can we work together to bring it back?
But nowadays, we’ve given up extending a hand to those who might need a little help because it’s too much of a hassle.
We swear off spouses groups because we swear we just can’t handle all the drama.
It seems like we have given up the idea of actually meeting our neighbors and instead just focusing on how many friends we have on Facebook or how many times we get retweeted. And while I wouldn’t give up my social media accounts for anything, I really wish we could, as a community, remember that face-to-face conversations are as important, maybe more so than a text or instant message.
We need to make developing a sense of community and service to each other a priority.
Military unit success often depends on being tuned in, not only to an assigned task, but to the well-being of those around you. It creates a sense of team and comradely that binds a unit together.
It is an idea that I wish permeated beyond the boundaries of the FOB and into the greater military community.
It is all too easy to stay focused on your own lane, keep blinders on and just trudge forward.
But when one member of our community struggles, it creates ripples that impact us all.
A “hi” on Facebook or a follow on Instagram is a great way to break the ice, but when emergencies arise, we need to know that there is someone we can reach out to and lean on.
Over the course of my husband’s career, I can think of only one deployment where anyone from my military community, other than my husband, ever called or stopped by to check on me. And I know I’m not the only one.
There are no regulations that require this kind of community awareness, but we should take it upon ourselves to make sure that no matter the unit or location, no member of our community ever feels isolated or alone.
I say bring back the welcome wagon and the dinner brigade. Go out and meet your neighbors, organize a neighborhood potluck or cul-de-sac barbecue. Start caring about the well-being of those you pass on the street everyday. Be the kind face they need when the challenges of this life get to be too much. Be the resource they need when they don’t know who else to turn to.
Be as engaged and involved as you can be because a hug can never be replaced by a “like.”
Laughter shared over a cup of coffee will always be better than tweeting.
Make time and be open to cultivating relationships with the flesh and blood people in your community.
You may be just the friend they need to get through a tough time. And they end up doing the same for you.