Where Everybody Knows Your Name: The Importance of Community for Military Families

Some years ago the theme song of the television show “Cheers!” struck a chord with people, because it expressed the desire of many people.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

We live in an increasingly disconnected world despite the proliferation of devices designed to make communication easier. Our dependence on these devices often serves to disconnect us from community because we use them to accomplish things without any human contact.  I mean really, what percentage of our Facebook “friends” really know us and how many can we go to when the chips are down.

We shop in massive stores, attend mega-churches, exist on fast food bought at a drive through and we don’t know our neighbors. To most organizations we are not real life human beings but statistics whose only value is in profit and market share.  And we wonder why so many people are depressed, lonely and even despair of life.

Sometimes you want to go, Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows Your name.

Having a place where people know you and care about you matters. It is important to us as individuals and it is important to the people that come to us for their medical care. Cheers was a neighborhood bar where people from all walks of life knew and cared for each other. We miss that a lot and we often suffer because of it, especially those that go to war and their families.

You wanna go where people know, people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

In our military communities be they Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force we have shared hardships and culture but even with that it is a difficult life. The military does its best to provide a multitude of support services including unit based Family Support Groups, family service centers as well as centers and associations for single servicemen and women.

But even still those support structures often are insufficient due to the transitory nature of military life, changing and sometimes uneven leadership of these organizations. Add to this the unrelenting demands of the wars and deployments and the wounds of war brought home which affect even the most resilient families.  PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, traumatic amputations, substance abuse, domestic violence, high divorce rates and suicide are everyday parts of the military family and community life.

One of the other aspects not directly attributable to the wars is how the communities around the bases treat the military.  In some major metropolitan areas the military simply blends in to the civilian community, even where there are large bases such as in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.  In such places there may be a large military footprint but it is easy to blend in.  In other areas where the military installations are the sole reason that the areas have large populations such as Killeen Texas, the home of Fort Hood, Jacksonville North Carolina the home of Camp LeJeune and Fayetteville the home of Fort Bragg the military presence is loved and loathed. There are many retired military in these areas as well as many veterans and often they are supportive. However in each of these cities there exists a large contingent of individuals and businesses who take advantage of military personnel and their families and some of these are former military personnel. Sometimes people in these communities despite their outward show of support for the troops do all they can to make the military personnel unwelcome.  Now this is not helped by the bad behavior of some military personnel and their family members which is then used to discriminate against good and law abiding military personnel.

But there are good people, organizations and businesses which do their best to help make these “strangers in a strange land” welcome.  For me that welcome has been often linked to people that I know at minor league ballparks such as Harbor Park in Norfolk and Grainger Stadium in Kinston. There is a special church, Saint James Episcopal in Portsmouth Virginia that I enjoy on the rare times that I have to visit it is a place I can call home and my friends at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Virginia Beach.

Community really matters because as Americans we are all in this together.  While I have focused on military communities large numbers of American cities and towns are enduring great hardship, and this disconnect between people, evidenced by the fact that we often don’t even know our neighbors has created a social isolation that only breeds hatred and discontent.  With this true lack of community we should be surprised with increasing crime, violence, discrimination and prejudice.

Community doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes illusion of perpetual prosperity only serves to drive us apart.  However, sometimes communities are reborn when facing crisis, people begin to look out for one another again and the welcome sign means that you really are.

But, what is neat is when we do find that special place for ourselves and when we can provide that kind of home to others we can really understand the last stanza of the song from Cheers which never aired on television.

Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy

3 responses to “Where Everybody Knows Your Name: The Importance of Community for Military Families

  1. John Erickson

    The disconnect of people from each other is really sad, especially in small towns like the one where we currently live. There are less than 3 dozen houses in the “downtown”, yet people rarely gather just to talk. Church is the last “connective tissue”, and around 2/3 of the 60 or so regular families at the Methodist church travel from areas well outside our little cluster of homes. I came from the big city suburbs, where people were naturally insular, and expected the prototypical small town where people talk over back fences, but have found the same stand-offishness – despite numerous efforts on my behalf. Heck, I was the first person to talk to the new Methodist pastor – two weeks before ANY of her parishioners approached her!
    Though some good came of the insularity around here – I turned to the Net, and found some wonderful friends. While all have been verbally supportive, some have actually offered me support offline as well as online, and have become people I would count as friends. And among them, I am very glad to count you.
    Thanks for sharing, Padre.

  2. John Erickson

    Padre- Here’s a link you might want to check out, from NBC’s Nightly News:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43155385/ns/nightly_news/
    It’s the story of retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs, a Medal of Honor recipient for “conspicuous gallantry” during the Vietnam War, who returned to Vietnam for the first time in over 40 years and met his former adversary, retired Colonel Pham Phi Hung of the NVA. It’s an interesting and touching story of comradeship between two former enemies. Much in the line of World War One’s 1914 “Christmas Truce”, it shows a common bond between all soldiers, even those who once faced each other from opposite sides of a brutal and emotional conflict. I think it will “speak” to you.

    • padresteve

      John
      I saw that article, very interesting. Posted it to my Facebook page yesterday.
      Blessings
      Steve+

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