Finding a Friend That's "Normal"

Operation In Touch is proud to partner with Army Wife Network. We thank them for passing on their valuable advice, reprinted here.

Loving A Soldier Battle Buddies Series

I distinctly remember when Kevin took me on Fort Hood, TX (our first non-training duty station) for the first time. I was scared to death. He got assigned to a unit and consequently shortly thereafter the Family Readiness Group (FRG) called me for the first time. I didn’t have a clue who she was or what she wanted. I was nervous. It was all just so incredibly foreign and intimidating. Until I met Birgit. Birgit was the wife of then LTC Silvers, our unit Commander, and she had invited me to a Battalion coffee. I went, though I am not really sure how I was convinced. At that coffee she shared information about military life, she told us about Army Family Team Building (AFTB), and she introduced me to my first  friend – Erin.  Erin’s husband worked with Kevin. Then, I had a friend. Life became so much easier. I had someone to bond with, someone to attend these classes with, and someone with which to commiserate and navigate this journey.

Let’s face it – all we really want on this journey is someone to connect with, someone to understand, and someone to say “you’re normal.” Don’t act like you don’t do it. You know you do! I know you do because every time I tell this story at a speaking engagement or a Field Exercise(tm) everyone laughs, then hangs or shakes their head, laughs again, and finally admits the truth – all they’re looking for is their “normal”.

My first true “normal” was my friend Cindy. If you’ve heard me tell this story then please put on these sunglasses and let me zap it from your memory. [zzzzzzzap!] Ok, all better now. I met my friend Cindy when we were newly stationed at Fort Stewart, GA. I was at the Hinesville, GA Wal-Mart while standing in line to pick up pictures. Ya, I’m old. So what? This was long before or Stop laughing – back to the story!

Cindy was with her sister and I was with my husband. She had her two-year old son in the cart, I had my two-year old daughter. The line was long, the wait was longer. We were both about ready to pull our hair out. The kids started eyeing one another we pushed them together to play, and we started talking. As they played, we learned that she and her husband were from the Midwest, just like Kevin and me. She liked to cook, was a big OSU fan, and had bought a house in Allenhurst. I could care less about football but I was all about cooking/eating and ironically we had found this horrible little rental while we looked for a permanent place to live that was in Allenhurst not even five minutes from her house.

The picture line grew shorter and it was finally her turn. She got her pictures, paid, we said our “nice to meet yous” and she left. I turned to my husband and said, “I should have gotten her phone number, she seems normal.” My husband actually laughed at me and said, “Who says these things, Tara?” About five minutes into my turn to get my pictures Cindy comes running around the corner and says to me, “I know you’ll think I”m strange but I couldn’t leave here without getting your phone number. I need a friend and you, well, you seem so normal.” I think my husband just about passed out. Match. Made. In. Heaven.

There is no better feeling than the feeling of “normal” - the feeling of knowing you have someone to reach out to, to laugh with, to cry with, and to count on. I call those people, my battle buddies. My chosen family. I have added many to our family throughout the years. I couldn’t possibly list them all. These people, they really are my family only they’re more special because I personally hand-picked them.

Finding friends takes effort, time, and it’s like dating – necessary but not always something you look forward to doing. Yes, I know, you have a life to live and the Army is a whole new world with plenty of red tape and complications of its own. Putting yourself out into the mix of the social scene of your post does take some guts, even for the most outgoing and seasoned spouse. The good news is that you can learn to put yourself out there. You might not believe me now, but I guarantee once you find your battle buddy – you’re “normal” –  life will seem so much easier and you’ll wonder how you ever made it on your own without someone who understands this crazy life we lead.


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