Published: July 28, 2021
Friend: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.
It’s a simple definition for a word that carries so much weight. Military families, maybe more than any other group of people, know the immeasurable value of a friend. With service members leaving frequently for deployments and training, and without family close by to lean on when things get tough, friends quickly become family. They’re the life raft that keeps us afloat — a survival tool that military spouses learn fast.
When Trish married her husband, she knew their newly blended family would be in for a crash course in military life.
Her husband served in the Marine Corps for nearly 11 years when they met. Now, they’ve been married for four years and, while her husband had previously endured several deployments, their family was set to experience their first deployment together in 2020. “Seeing the seabag being dragged out of the closet, knowing my first deployment as a military spouse in a new place was approaching, was overwhelming,” Trish shared. “I knew what was coming, whether any of us were ready for it or not, and I was feeling all the things. Pride, terror, sadness, impatience. I just wanted it to hurry up to be over, but to also have time to slow down, so I could stare at his green eyes just a little longer and take in the calm presence he brings to me.”
Trish did her best to prepare. She joined the squadron Facebook group, and other military support pages, to connect and seek advice when needed. But not much can really prepare you for your loved one boarding a plane and leaving for a year or more. Let alone, for your children to ask why mommy or daddy had to go. Plus, Trish and her family were new to the community and squadron. So, she hadn’t met anyone yet whom she could lean on. It’s a position so many military families find themselves in. In fact, according to the 2019 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, more than a third of active-duty military family respondents reported having no one to ask for a favor.
When the day arrived for Trish’s husband to ship out, she found herself struggling in a major way. “Dropping him off was one of the hardest things I think I have ever had to do,” Trish said. “I thought to myself ‘How do people do this? Why did I sign up for this when I agreed to marry him?’ Then I remembered. He took me into his arms almost knowing what I was thinking and said, ‘I know, me too.’ Before we knew it, the seabag was loaded, and we walked him to the gate. We shared our last kiss as if it was the last kiss I’d ever have, and then he was gone. We watched the glue that held us all together board a bus to be deployed another world away. I turned with our kids and we walked to the car. I didn’t know what to say, all I knew was I should say something. I told them, more so trying to convince myself, ‘It’ll be okay. He will be back with us before you know it.’”
It was a heartbreaking moment military spouses can empathize with, and a moment when, more than ever, Trish needed a friend — someone to assure her that things really would be okay. As Trish made her way to her car, doing her best to hold it together for her kids, she saw Jamie. They knew of each other from the squadron Facebook group, but they’d never met in person. The fact that they were essentially strangers didn’t stop Jamie. “She just knew,” Trish explained. “She had this warm and understanding smile, and she just knew. She knew this was a moment where I needed a lifeline and someone to reassure me it was going to be alright. She asked: ‘Can I give you a hug?’ If you know anything about me, I am by no means an affectionate person, but I was so defeated and I couldn’t get any words out, so I just nodded. She hugged me – the kind of hug you get from a family member you hadn’t seen in years. And I cried … a lot. She said nothing, she didn’t step back in shock or disgust. She just held me and, at that moment, I didn’t feel so alone. I know she probably doesn’t remember it quite like that because that’s Jamie. She will always give you a helping hand and her kindness just surrounds you, leaving those she encounters with such a warmness.”
That day was the start of a one-of-a-kind friendship. “Friendships in general are important because they not only hold you through the best of times, like celebrating and preparing for homecomings, but they also get you through those hard times,” Trish said. “We celebrate birthdays, graduations, milestones, and become emergency contacts when our families are spread far and wide. It’s that ideology that you will always create a family no matter where you go. That is the best part of the military spouse community. A meshing of people from all walks of life with one common thread of being a military spouse that binds us all together. Jamie was the thread that day that kept me together.”
We want all military family members to have a Jamie — someone who shows up for you when you need it most. So today, in celebration of International Friendship Day, we’re honoring friends like Trish and Jamie. And we’re reminding military and civilian neighbors alike to show up for each other. It doesn’t take much to change the trajectory of someone’s day. Drop off a meal, invite someone new out for a cup of coffee, or just say hello. It’s the little things that often mean the most.
If you’re having trouble finding a Jamie, or just don’t feel very connected to your new community, Blue Star Families is here for you. Reach out to us, learn about your local Chapter, or volunteer at an upcoming event — we’ll be the thread that ties you to your neighbors and helps you find where you belong. Connect with us today by visiting www.bluestarfam.org.