I’m a member of the LinkedIn Military Employment group (http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/LinkedinMilitaryVeteransEmployment/). Frequently, I can sense the frustration of a veteran who is trying to figure out how to navigate the civilian world. In a recent column, Matt Liptak identified six differences between Civilian Friends and Veteran Friends.
Here’s my point of view on two of them.
1) Civilian friends get upset if you’re too busy to talk to them for a week. Veteran friends are glad to see you after years and will happily carry on the same conversation you were having the last time you met. Few civilians have had the life-changing experiences that are an integral part of the military experience. Their point of reference is different. I remember how I would talk to anyone who “looked” like a round-eye when I lived in Korea. Why? Because in 1966, there were only a few hundred Americans living in Seoul, Korea and anyone who looked American was worth taking a chance on. If I’d seen them in the U S - - probably walked right by them. Translation? Civilian friends may come and go more easily than the friends you make in the military because the circumstances around that friendship are just different. Many words can be used to describe it - - but the key word is “different”. It isn’t better or worse, just different.
2) Civilian friends have never seen you cry. Veteran friends have cried with you. Sad, but true in too many instances. Again, it is because the experiences are so different. When you see a buddy wounded; you are in combat with friends; you’re assigned to a remote location - - there aren’t too many points-of-reference in the civilian world. The exceptions are the medical/EMT/Firefighter/Policeman. Translation? The world where most people work is driven by profit. It can be bad or good, but it is different and ever changing. Only occasionally will you forge a deep friendship reminiscent of your days in the military.