If I’m in a room full if civilian women for a weekend, chances are that there will be a handful who will approach me, make small talk and move on. I would eventually approach a few of them to try to carry on a conversation. I may attempt a joke or two. At the end of the weekend though, I would leave there feeling no closer to any of those women and I had on the very first day. You would think that sharing a gender would be enough of a commonality to enable us to bond with each other. It isn’t though.
In the years which I have lived in Jackson I have met many wonderful ladies. I have had people come to my house and help me paint, help me organize my bedroom, and help me just get through some hard times. I do not intend to bring any less value to those friendships. I do believe though, that the degree of friendship and kinship that you develop with another veteran is at another level that civilians will never understand. You literally have to trust your brothers and sisters in the military with your life. And they have to trust you with theirs. You have people coming and going constantly in your workplace. Every couple of months or years someone new is coming in and you immediately or at least within a short period of time are expected to trust them with your life.
Once you leave military service, what do you do? Who do you call? Do you go back home? What if it has been years since you have been home? All of your friends have moved on. Everybody has changed and everybody is different. You have changed. What if you move somewhere you have never been before? And everybody you meet is a stranger? Where you once were people saw you as a hero, someone who deployed three times and sacrificed for your country…sacrificed a marriage that couldn’t survive the deployments. And now all you are seen as is that crazy lady who doesn’t leave her house… That lady who married someone who lets her just stay home and have kids…
I struggle to make friends. I’ve never been around civilians really. Not this many for this long!!! There’s a disconnect. A gap. I don’t know if it’s my winning personality ( 🙂 ) that scares them off or that they don’t know what to say to me? Or maybe they don’t think at all? Maybe this is how civilians have friendships and I was just spoiled where I worked in Georgia? Lol! We worked together, played together! We babysat kids (I was childless) and has cook outs, we just hung out a lot in our off time. We were really close. I miss having that closeness with my friends. We bonded. That was even before we started deploying or people started getting killed from our base. We were just a tight group. I miss that closeness of being able to call a friend at any time if I needed help. I remember being sick and sleeping on my supervisors couch (I was living alone and really needed someone to take care of me!).
I don’t know how to reach out. I’ve tried. I went to Nashville to connect with other Women Veterans and I found a few I bonded with really well! I’m trying to get a few to join the Women Veterans if America with me (we we can make that Nashville drive together!). I think it would be helpful to meet with women I feel a bond with right out the gates. I’m also headed to Project Odyssey Hosted by wounded warrior Project. I’m sure I will gain more perspective there.