What it means to be a friend

Webster defines a friend as a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another, or a person who is not an enemy. There are a number of different types of friends in our lives; some we call and speak to every day and share all details with, some we met in school or college, friends that we only speak and hang out with at work, and for those of us in the military we have battle buddies who can eventually turn into family. 

When I served in the military I was a 12C, that’s a bridge-crew engineer, and our unit only had four females total. When we were finally deployed in 2009 we got attached to a CAV unit where once again, each unit only had four females. You could imagine that we took the term “battle buddies” to a whole new level. Being deployed with a bunch of men naturally brought us together, despite the number of fights we had, we always knew we would have each other’s back. Once we returned home, we all went our separate ways but somehow we managed to still keep in contact and check in with each other every once in a while. In 2014, we got word that one of our battle buddies had committed suicide. I know that each of our first thoughts were “What could I have done to prevent this?”, “Could I have been a better friend?” It’s no secret that suicide is high in the military, current numbers show that in 2018 we had a total of 321 active-duty members who took their lives, including 57 Marines, 68 Sailors, 58 Airmen, and 138 Soldiers. BEING A FRIEND IS IMPORTANT!

It took me a little over four years to realize that although I am allowed to be upset at the loss of our battle buddy and my friend, that truly there was nothing more that I could have done to save her, and to be honest, I sleep a lot better knowing that I was a good friend to her. So what does being a friend look like? Friendships can look, sound and feel different but for the most part all of them have some of the same characteristics. We want our friendships to include honesty, loyalty, respect, a place where we feel taken care of, where we can build trust, be heard but also listen, share, allowed to receive space but also give space and finally, where we can apologize and forgive. We have the choice of choosing the majority of our friends, and knowing whom to choose as a friend in our personal lives is extremely important. Some military folks we’re given friends who we then choose to continue building a friendship with outside of our military duties. 

If you’re reading this and analyzing some of your relationships thinking, “How can I be a better friend?” I have a few tips for you. First, make plans and make time for others. Call, text or FaceTime more often. EXPRESS GRATITUDE. Remember the little things, be adult enough to talk through arguments, do random acts of kindness, give honest and open advice, be reliable, keep some things private, try new things together, and finally, sometimes JUST LISTEN or PHYSICALLY BE THERE. 

Author: Yulanda Jackson