Saturday, August 04, 2007

the curse of military friends

(cross-posted from my myspace blog. originally posted on Sunday, July 15th.)

the older i get, the harder i find it is to make friends. without the mandatory social settings of school, youth group and the like, it's difficult to connect with people on anything other than a superficial level.

and yet, i've found myself really blessed to have found some fun people here in the UK early in our tour. naturally, the first couple tommy and i became friends with left this month. i miss josh and michelle and eflie! but i've been able to hang out with some coworkers that are really fun. and even more exciting is discovering old friends in new places.

recently i found an old friend of mine on myspace. kristy was one of my closest friends in jr. high, back when my dad was stationed at Tinker AFB in OKC. we kept in touch for years after we left OK, but lost touch about the time i graduated high school. i was thrilled to find her on myspace, and even more excited to discover that she and her husband are stationed right here in the UK, on the same base where i work!

and while it's great to rediscover old friends and start the process of making new ones, there's a nagging feeling in the back of my mind which has never been there before.

i've heard non-military members discuss why they don't want to become friends with military members and dependents, "because they are just going to leave!" but i've never been bitten by that bug. inevitable PCS's (permanent change of stations - mil speak for moving) have never really been a thought in my mind when getting to know people in the military.

but when you live overseas, if there is one date you know, it's your DEROS (Date Eligible for Return From Overseas – the date you're schedule to head back to the states.) unlike CONUS (continental US) assignments, OCONUS (overseas) assignments have tour lengths. our tour is four years. of course things can change, and people can extend. but most people live by that DEROS. I know people who have countdowns to their DEROS on their myspace profiles!

as exciting as it is when you first find out you're coming to the UK, it's just as exciting to think about returning to the states and seeing your family and eating a giant Joey Bag of Doughnuts burrito at Moe's. no matter how cosmopolitan and worldly you pretend to be, the bottom line is, you're still American, and you miss the convenience of a 24 hour Wal-Mart, no matter how much you hate to shop there.

so when you make military friends in the states, a part of you hopes they'll be around a long time, even though it's highly unlikely. but when you make friends overseas, you have that firm deadline when you know they'll be leaving. its a dark cloud on the horizon you pretend to ignore. having just recently arrive in the UK, i haven't met anyone with a DEROS later than ours yet. we'll be the last ones standing. and while i know there will be more people to come and fill the ranks, a small piece of me can't help but already mourn the loss of people i've just met.

of course, if I let each and every DEROS prevent me from making friends and living life, i'll just become a hermit whose only friends are my husband (whose gone most of the time anyway) and my dogs (who are very friendly and comforting, but aren't very good conversationalists.) it's an unfortunate but very real part of military life: people will leave. you will leave.

fortunately, we live in a comfortable time where the internet and places like myspace make it much easier to stay in touch with our friends and acquaintances, but that doesn't really lessen the initial sting of departure. all you can do is make the most of the time you have and hope to run into them sooner our later.

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