Family Redefined by the Red, White, and Blue

A guest blog article by Claire Doane (parent, veteran, world citizen)

I am a veteran.

I was deployed overseas at the young age of 19, away from the biological family that had raised me.  When born, we rely on our parents for everything. They provide food, clothing, shelter, and love. As we grow and mature, we begin to rely less and less on them for our needs – but they are still there for us.

Or they should be.

That matter aside, eventually, we are all put into a situation where we are distanced from our family. It is then that we must rely on others to provide for us the same way our biological family would. My temporary family – those I served with – have definitely shown how it is more than possible to have people in your life that you consider family that actually are not blood related.

Fact is, the definition and realization of family changes as society does. It will be different for each person and vary greatly from the old school traditional family or two fathers. Or even just close friends. In this day and age, there is no “wrong” type of family. And honestly, I simply cannot understand people who do not agree with the idea of having friends that are family. Some individuals don’t have a choice to build a new family, whether due to death or some other altogether personal matter.

For me – my family grew the moment I joined the military.

At 19, I still needed a lot of guidance in life, not only as a woman but also as a soldier. I didn’t have my family with me. My parents couldn’t follow me around on deployment.  I wasn’t able to talk to them every day.  Sometimes, I was out of contact with the world back home for weeks.

I learned to rely on the individuals in my platoon for support and guidance.

When I was feeling rough, I had many people who would spend time listening to me and giving me advice. These people in my team were always there for me. I spent the majority of my time with them. I worked with them and when we weren’t working, we ate together and went to the gym together. I felt that I could go to them for anything. They picked me up when I was down and I tried to do the same for them.

We were family, right down to the arguments, which family sometimes does.

When I returned home to my biological family, I was happy to see them, but at times I felt the same way that I did during the first weeks of my deployment. I felt like I was missing my family. My parents couldn’t relate to my stories. They didn’t understand me anymore and how could they?  I had experienced things I could not talk to them about.  And even if I could, they would not get it – but my military family, we had experienced the same things.  We were all on the same page.  They are important and essential to my life – and they always will be.

We are there for each other, sharing a common bond as strong as blood – but rooted in the red, the white, and the blue.

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26 thoughts on “Family Redefined by the Red, White, and Blue

  1. This really spoke to me. I can’t personally relate, because I have never served in the military, let alone been deployed overseas. I have seen a couple close friends join, and I can see that they consider their fellow soldiers family. Personally, I think it is impossible for that not to happen. They are in the same position as you are: away from their biological family and in a foreign place. All you have is each other. The bonds you make can be just as strong as they would be to your biological family. If the time ever came, where you were in peril, they would do everything to save you. That is what any family would do.

    1. It’s not that you are in the same position as them that makes you relate and feel the bond of being family. It is the quality that someone can bring into your life that makes you realize how important they are there is a saying “I have blood that ain’t family, and family who ain’t blood”. It is about the connection you have with someone that can make you realize how much they mean to you maybe you just haven’t found that friend that you see more then a friend more like a family member you cant live without.

  2. I completely agree with this article. I have always had a strong family bond, with my parents, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncle, and grandparents. I have also always had a strong bond with my close friend’s families. Not all my friends were as close as others, but growing up I have had some, best friends, as they say. Someone that I was able to fully relate to, someone who loved me and cared for me as much as I did for them. The definition of family shouldn’t be cut off at the bloodline, it should include anyone who has been a major part of your success, and has been there by your side for your failures. I agree that the meaning of family changes as society does, and in todays society it is acceptable to consider our best friends part of our family.

  3. Also being a veteran I totally agree with all this, leaving for boot camp at the age of 18, I was lost and scared, and expected my parents to bail me out if anything happened. I was put with 60 other men from all over the world and expected to work together and bond right away. Just like other friends and family you begin to know people that would eventually earn your trust. These soldiers were going through tough times with me, and doing things that civilians will never experience. I would come home to visit friends and family though to get a break from military life, I think keeping them separate, we can get the best of both worlds.

    1. Thank you for your service :). It is relieving to read experiences like this. I will be enlisting soon and I am a little nervous about the whole bonding part. What people will think of me, and what it will be like to adapt to military life, and having to leave the civilian life I have been so used to behind at home. And since you were with those 60 other men and expected to bond, how long did it take for you all to trust each other?

      1. Nervous, scared, excited, ready! I remember feeling all of them weeks before leaving for boot camp, all the way until the day I left, then it was mostly just fear. From what I remember there isn’t much time to worry about how others see you, it will be more on what you bring to the group. Teamwork will be one of the main things you will learn when in the service. It is scary to leave your family, but it is a part of life, we can’t expect to stay in our comfort zone our whole lives. You will find people just like you from all over and those will be some of the best people in your life. Then you can come home during break and pick up with your friends right away like you never left.

      2. How long were you in for, which branch? Did you end up getting out once your contracted ended, or did you like it so much where you decided to reenlist? I see how friends and family back home may not understand the experiences you have while in the service. It is probably comforting having the other servicemembers by your side feeling and experiencing the same thing. I love coming together with people and working as a team. I look forward to that!

      3. I was in for 4 years years in the Air Force. I didn’t want to reenlist because I wanted to start college, not that I didn’t want to but I had different priorities in my life. Definitely a life experience that I would never take back. Plus being able to travel and see how different other states and countries are. You learn about other cultures first hand, and sometimes the places are fun, sometimes they aren’t. And when they aren’t, you’ll appreciate where you are from even more. It’s such a different way of life in the military but at the same time, it very adaptable.

      4. Oh wow, I bet seeing all different parts of the world is eye opening. The photos probably do not compare to actually seeing it through your own eyes. Makes you thankful for what you have, or even see how different things are. That’s kind of how sociology was for me; especially with the visit to the mosque. Different, but it was cool to learn more about other religions and cultures.

      5. We live in a world where the media influences the way we live and the way we see the world. I think that if we took that away, we can have those experiences where like the mosque visit, and go in without our prejudgements and going through it with innocence, like with a clean slate. I believe that at the core, all the religions will be very similar, just be good in life, and good will come to you.

    2. Even with being in the military, going to the Hindu Temple and the mosque was still out of my comfort zone. Religion in general is out of my comfort zone, but I was glad that we spent a section on in this class, help me understand how different people live and pray. If I know more about why people do things the way they do, I will be able to be less judgmental, to be honest. I feel like many people in this world are very judgmental, due to the fact that they do not understand what is going on.

      1. I agree with you on that. Visiting a mosque  widened my horizons. I believe it was good to add to this course because of how the Islamic religion and Muslims are portrayed by the media. Not all Muslims are bad. I grew up Lutheran (more on the agnostic/believer side now) and I wasn’t sure how to feel when I walked into a different religion’s place if worship. And it was very cool to see how similar the Islamic faith is to Christianity.

  4. I can relate to this article from a slightly different angle. I’m a proud member of Alcoholics Anonymous, where I have found my other family as well. Having survived a common peril, we came together in 1935 and have been helping each other stay sober ever since. You can most definitely form family-like bonds with people you otherwise wouldn’t have met. AA brings people together that would never have crossed paths; we are one of the most diverse organizations on the planet, and we work together perfectly. We are absolutely a family.

    1. Wow, so I am also in AA, been sober for almost a year, and totally agree with all this. I was actually just thinking about this earlier this week, how you can meet a group of strangers and totally feel comfortable telling them your true feelings, and secrets without having to worry about what they would think. It a sense it is like family, they weren’t there for you when you were at your low, but most of them have had similar events occur in their lives, and are able to relate to us way more than any of my friend could. You can also go to any meeting, in any state, even any country, and feel welcome right away. It works if you work it.

  5. As a 20 year old female who is a Future Soldier, this speaks to me. One of the reasons I will be serving is to get that feeling of belonging and the support from the family I never really had. My cousin is a 1LT and she always tells me about her adventures and how the Army has changed her life; she has a whole different life away from home. The things she does with her platoon are things she knows that the rest of our family wouldn’t understand. It is awesome to hear from a female how the military changed her life!

  6. This really spoke to me because every soldier needs a family to be there for them when they get home. Our biological family should also be there for you even though they don’t understand what you went through. They should still listen to your stories when you come just so they know what you are doing. I had a family friend who went into service and he came back with so many stories. Even though I didn’t know what impact that had on him I still listened to them and they still were very interesting to hear.

  7. Growing up in a tradition/old school Italian American family, I was taught from a very young age that family is the most important thing in life and that nobody will ever be there for you in the way that your family will. I have to admit that I agree this is true, but I believe it also differs with each family. Some families simply are just not close and do not have those values. We cannot help what we are born into. The most important thing is that we all have a support system we can turn to, whether they are family or not. We need this assurance as human beings. I have only about two friends that I can say I know I can truly rely on if I ever needed them. However, for me, that is enough. My boyfriend is in the military and I have realized that there is a commodity there that I will never fully be a part of. That is ok to me though. They are his family outside of his family because of the experiences they have shared together. When you are put in positions where your lives are in danger or you are going overseas to strange locations you have never been to, you need to be able to trust each other and lean on each other. Your lives are literally being put on the line for each other and complete strangers. There is so much beauty in that and all of these factors have allowed me to adjust my beliefs into believing that maybe family is not so black and white. Maybe, it is not as simple as that old adage we have all heard, “blood is thicker than water.”

  8. This really hit home to me because both my cousins are in the army and I barely get to see them. Everyone who serves for our country needs a family their for them whenever they return home. My two cousins are coming home for christmas for the first time in 2 years and I know I am going to be one of the first ones to hug them and squeeze them and never let them go. They are like my second brothers I always had. I can tell them everything. I understand when they tell us stories about what happened over seas that we can’t really relate to but its always cool and interesting hearing about what they do to serve our country.

  9. First off, I would like to thank you for your service. I myself made a few personal failed attempts at enlistment, as well as losing candidacy as an ROTC scholar due to medical disqualifications. That being said I wish I could directly refer to what you are talking about, but unfortunately I can only connect adjacently to this situation. But, I have seen this from the outside looking in. From being at community college, not going away to a four year University, you tend to notice the ones who do, sometimes out of jealousy, sometimes just out of curiosity. Sometimes those people come back home much differently than they had left. Separation changes people, they connect with the people they meet with, or live with, separation allows them to grow and form new bonds away from their biological family, to those with whom they share life. Luckily for me, I have very strong family values, which have always guided me, and have always sought refuge in my best friends, who never went away to school. I think your absolutely right that we all need someone.

  10. Through reading this entry I understood every word! I have always been the person to see my friends as more then just friends. They are my family sometimes more then my biological family. I’m not saying my biological family has anything wrong, it’s just I couldn’t have the same connection with my family that I do my friends. So the author states “My parents couldn’t relate to my stories. They didn’t understand me anymore and how could they? I had experienced things I could not talk to them about.” This line alone screamed how I felt about my family and my biological family. I can tell my family (friends) anything. I could always trust them and I feel the author shared that connection with me which was very comforting to know that someone has the same views as I do. I loved this entry and stand by everything that was said 100 percent. I couldn’t have written it better myself.

  11. I agree with this, I don’t believe that family doesn’t only have to be blood related. I feel that as long as you can have a deep personal relation between others such as friends, classmates, and co-workers, they can be family. blood does not define necessarily what family really is. For example, I am not necessarily close with my family, yet I would say that I have build great bonds with others that I would maybe consider family.

    1. This anecdote is touching and provokes curiosity to my mind. We all can relate to having that best friend or group of people that have treated us like family and/or are family. I did find it interesting that you said family changes along with society and I think that is a great way to put it. I’ve never thought about it that way but I can now see how family can relate to social change. Obviously most bonds between groups of people will be stronger; for example like you said, you relied on many individuals in your platoon. Now a group of people such as that would build a stronger bond than a high school football team, where a brotherhood is bonded through the love of sports rather than bonding through real life situations, just like in your story. I Loved the way you displayed family is more than just blood and flesh.

  12. First and foremost, thank you for your service and defending this country we call home. But I can relate to what you are saying tremendously as a blue-collar worker. I have become very close with my guys and I consider them family, we get each other Christmas presents we go to each other’s parties or family barbeques, we are extremely close. As an 18-year-old in the blue-collar industry they look out for me and they are my role models. And like you said a lot of times my biological family cannot relate to anything I talk about when it comes to my line of work. I come from a family where they all work behind desks, they can get around with doing some things around the house and understand the basics but nothing like what I do. So, it is hard to stay close with them because as you may know from being in the service your career becomes your life. I am sort of distant from my family as is because they do not support what I do as I said they all have desk jobs. My guys have taken me in as family and I have learned too that family doesn’t always have to be blood.

  13. Family is an unbreakable bond, whether it is your blood relatives, military family or fraternity brothers. Life is made up of not just living with one another but supporting, encouraging and providing a sense of security for your brothers and sisters. My brother left for the Navy, at home we think of him everyday and hope that the sailors he is with will have his back no matter what, just like we would have it here at home. It can be difficult to learn to trust a stranger, but once you do and that person proves him or herself to never let you down, it is a life long bond. We were always taught “it takes a village.”, this is true in all aspects of our lives, “it takes a family” to keep you moving forward, safe, laughing and believing.

  14. Before I comment, thank you so much for your service and protecting our country. My brother is a US Marine and this article gave me comfort knowing that he may experience this connection when he is away from home. I totally agree with everything that is said in this article. For me, my parents instilled in me from an early age that family is not restricted to blood relation. There are people in my life that I consider to be my family more than some people that I know are actually related to me. Just because you’re related, doesn’t mean you relate to each other (see what I did there). I think that every person we come in contact with has the potential to become family. It’s all about the people that support you and keep you going when things get tough.

  15. I totally agree that family can be represented in various ways but still mean the same thing, a bond united by shared experiences that holds everything together. Family does not necessarily have to be blood related and in today’s society we see more of these families that support each other and represent our country. My family consists of people that are not blood related to me, because my blood relatives are strangers to me. I believe we meet certain people that become our family for a reason. Thank you for your service and for sharing your story.

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