As Military Families we tend to gravitate towards our own and with multiple deployments and the stress of military life sometimes our military friends are the only ones that can understand what you are going through but having civilian friends are important too. They are often a source of information that your military friends may not know about the local area and having a civilian friend can just feel normal and get you away from talking about military life.
My friend Kim has been that friend for me. She is the one that knows all the cool things like the bakery that sells this unique cinnamon bread which is so tightly swirled it looks like the rings on a tree trunk. Kim knows all the locals go to a certain marina to get the best deal on crab. She is my go-to source of information for my local area. I love that she knows about the warehouse coat sale and so many other things.
Meeting civilian friends can be a challenge as many already have friends from 1st grade or plenty of family in the area and just don’t have room for a new friend in their lives. Don’t get discouraged, there is always someone who will be open to a military friendship. So how do you meet new civilian friends? My top three places: church, school and the gym.
Church is a great place to meet people. We have always chosen to attend a church off the military installation. Sundays to me means getting away from the military culture even if it just an hour. Most church communities no matter what your faith have a variety of groups you can join. This is an easy way to meet new people as organizations always need volunteers. For families with small children many churches have a Mom’s Money Out for a small fee or a co-op where you volunteer in exchange for childcare. Working with other Moms gives you a chance to get to know each other and you have children in common.
Another way to meet friends is through your children’s school or sports team. We always sent our children to Catholic schools which had mandatory volunteer hours. I can remember working on the teacher appreciation luncheon and I met so many nice people. Volunteering at your PTA will help you meet other parents who care about education.
Over the years I’ve met lots of friends over shared workouts. Although I appreciate being able to use the gyms on post for free, sometimes it is just too much testosterone for me. Some workouts are more geared to meeting people than others, so you need to find what works for you. A fitness facility located near a coffee shop makes it easy to interact with people. “Oh, I saw you at the gym, how do you like Missy’s class”. It is a natural opening that elicits a response and maybe even a “Would you like to join us?”
Don’t be afraid to say, “I just moved here.” Asking advice on local things is an easy opener to get a conversation going. My friend, Kim and I started as casual acquaintances as she worked at my children’s school. After working with her on a volunteer project we became friends. The most recent thing I learned from her is the best neighborhood in the area. We both bought homes there and now walk in the mornings. Since we decided to retire I now have what I hope to be a lifetime friendship.
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.WanderWordsWine.com