I have been lucky to make a lot of friends over the years. Some close. Most not. The close ones have stayed close no matter the time or distance apart. Many are veterans I served with or met since I joined VFW Post 246. Quite a few I’ve never even met in person, interacting only via Facebook. My friends span all ages, identities, races and sexes. I consider myself a wealthy man because of the relationships I’ve been able to form and maintain over the years despite the many character defects I boasted when we met. I’ll never be able to apologize to everyone, so I’ll have to be satisfied doing so by way of this post. Mea culpa.
My oldest friends date back to my earliest years in the Navy. I met Mikah on my first ship in Norfolk, Virginia, while “cranking” in the scullery. Washing dishes leaves a lot of room for getting to know you activities. Turns out we had a ton in common, not an uncommon occurrence in the all-volunteer military. Most of us were smart, damaged kids looking for a way out of whatever shitty circumstances birthed us. We were reborn in uniform. Structure. Discipline. Order. With just enough chaos and dysfunction to make us feel at home. I found a kindred spirit in Mikah that I’d not really felt before. Tight from word one. It wasn’t long before the two of us were envisioning the ass-kicking we’d put on the world. We even teamed up a time or two since leaving active duty. We’re still figuring out the nature and nurture of our friendship, but we’ve never lost touch no matter the challenges we overcame. He’s been central to my life for decades. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
My second oldest friend I met at Defense Information School in Indianapolis, Indiana. DINFOS has since moved to Fort Meade, Maryland, but in 1993 it was still at its original home of Fort Benjamin Harrison. Roy was technically a “boot” but he’d been to college for a couple years before joining and seemed terribly experienced to me. He made friends much easier than I did and took me under his wing even though I was the “salty” squid who’d spent two years on a ship and faced down the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew on behalf of the USS Hunley (AS 31) as the assistant ship’s journalist. A legend in my own mind already. The success I found at DINFOS did little to ease that growing ego, but I found just enough trouble to learn a couple important lessons before going to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for my first job as a newly-minted Journalist Third Class for the Navy Broadcasting Service. Roy and I hooked up again in GITMO when his ship the USNS Comfort steamed into port to deliver a hold full of Haitian migrants – men, women and children – to detainment camps for processing. He heard me talking on the radio and called to request a song. We ended up hanging out for his entire visit. Good times.
My friendship with Mikah has been quite a trip. Unlike Roy who stayed in the Navy to fly F18s and still hasn’t left uniform, Mikah bounced after a single enlistment and proceeded to go wild until he got married in 1996 and flew me to Altoona, Pennsylvania, to be his best man. I’d drop into his life from time-to-time, but we stayed out-of-sync until I was ready to leave the Navy. He was living with his wife and newborn son in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington DC. We’d been talking about starting a business together for the year leading up to my departure from active duty in April of 2001. That business venture (and several that followed it) didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. The biggest of which was our two egos bumping heads on a frequent basis. That was never going to be an environment that fostered success. Hell, we’re pushing 50 now and it probably wouldn’t be a good idea for us to work together. Who knows? We’re still friends. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s always been worth it.
The contrast to my friendship with Roy couldn’t be more different. We’ve been in touch off and on over the years. Lived across the street from each other for a while in San Diego. The tempo has been a long phone call followed by a disconnect of years followed by another long phone call as if we just said goodbye the week before. The arrival of Facebook and other social media has kept staying in touch much easier and more immediate, but even that wasn’t a foolproof device when it came to my ego. I’m not sure when it happened, but several months ago Roy and I butted heads over some political post or another. He cautioned probity and reason when it came to convincing others of the “error” of their ways. I cautioned others to not be so fucking braindead. He pushed back gently at first and then with more force until I likely said something devastatingly clever with “unassailable” logic. I didn’t count on him simply giving up and unfriending me. It was brutal and abrupt, like when H did the same thing three weeks ago. Radio silence.
I reached out to Roy after this whole thing started. I wanted to continue healing all my relationships, and ours was a huge unknown for me. We had a long phone call yesterday afternoon. As I suspected, there was nothing to worry about. It was more of the military’s Tough Love that I’ve come to expect and require. He was tired of having the same old discussions with me that led to the same dead ends. Social media was part of the problem but an inability to adjust my sails when presented “new” evidence by someone I care about was the main issue. It all sounded terribly familiar, but a message I am only recently open to receiving. We then talked about my dreams to rediscover love with H and bring my family back to life. He was hopeful and considered it a worthy goal, but cautioned it might not end the way I wanted. I knew (know) that, of course, but I am not ready to lean into the idea yet. Almost but not yet.
There are too many friends to thank directly and indirectly on this post. You know who you are. I know who you are. Whether “real” or “virtual” I love you all for always having my back when I needed it most. Please don’t hesitate to reach out should you need me to get yours. Namaste.