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.
Oh my, how well I remember the closeness and feeling of family from the military community in times past.
It almost bring tears to my eyes to think that this wonderful tradition of oneness is almost a thing of the past.
To the young recruits and spouses, rekindle the joy of bonding with friends who will become like family for a lifetime. There’s nothing better than HUMAN contact
I am so blessed that my children experienced community and trust as they were growing up…,they are better people for it today.
First, I see the community you are talking about everywhere I have been on bases around the world. I think the difference now is whether it really is needed in the same way. Spouses are not isolated from family and far away friends as they once were, not to mention all the official and factual information that can be found online. And so we now have more choices – we don’t have to depend on the gossip of the day, we can choose to go to socials or not because we have our own friendships, and we can get vital information without being in the “inner circle” hierarchy that spouses’ clubs seem to cultivate.
Also, there is a change in demographic, in that so many spouses now have their own career, family, schooling, hobbies, finances, etc to manage, and we are not the little housewives that know nothing and can’t survive without their man. We are grown adults who know when and how to seek help, and in my experience that help is *always* there.
I think the military community is just fine. If anything, it is better because it recognizes our different needs while knowing what we all have in common.
K.D. I understand and also respect a lot of the points that you made, however, the writer was talking about a time when military families banded together. Not so much in the sense to gossip or feel dependent on their spouses for everything. Many military spouses held down jobs and raised their kids, all the while providing a family environment that today is sometimes not readily seen.
We too were “grown adults” back then who left home to be with the men we loved….some of us were just barely out of high school or college, but we managed without whimpering and whining. We could be likened to a soldier because we fought for what we believed in……country and family.
In closing, I will say that friendship is a beautiful thing, that can’t be replaced by social media. I’m glad that I experienced a different community, I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world.
I wish you all the best in your sojourn.
Stanley J Klein Sr says
I am a retired First Sergeant, been out 26 years now. I belong to a First Sergeant’s Forum where I have seen that the units have what is called a “Key Spouse” within the unit that coordinates with the First Sergeant on family matters. That “Key Spouse” would be the person to connect with for the kinds of community information that is being talked about.