Friendship within the ranks is the glue that holds a unit together. It doesn't matter who a person is, where they're from, or what their personal hobbies are, friendships forged in the suck become stronger than anyone can imagine.
It isn't much of a stretch to say that troops in the same unit become closer than family — but all good things must come to an end. Contracts expire, retirement ceremonies are held, and DD-214s are filled out. Those veterans then go forth to find their new family — which is no easy task.
These are troops who spent years of their lives knowing that even the guys they were only kind of close to were willing to die for them — and vice versa. It's a lifestyle that makes loyalty a top-shelf virtue. So, if you're a part of the civilian world and you've managed to fill the role of a veteran's "good friend," know that they've got your back.
It should be noted that, of course, every veteran is different — and it really depends on how close you are with your veteran friend. But, generally, they'll offer to help you out in these ways:
Or you could buy them a beer. That always works.
They don't care about the majority's opinion — just the trust of a few
Social norms are laughable to most veterans. As long as something doesn't put anyone in serious danger (other than the veteran if it means there's a laugh or two to be had, of course), they'll most likely do it.
If you're too scared to go talk to that someone who's grabbed your eye at the bar, veterans really don't give a sh*t about being embarrassed. They'll make sure you get their number as long as you make them proud by having a good night.
Don't play with their emotions about free beer, though.
They'll always be willing to hang out
This is a bit tricky. Most veterans aren't outgoing or social to the point that they want to be friends with everyone, but if you're in their close circle, they'll treat that call like it's from blood family.
If your veteran friend is on the fence about a social event, just toss in the phrase, "first beer is on me" and they're already ordering a taxi.
Just don't ask for their woobie. That's about the only thing they won't give up.
They will (sometimes literally) give you the shirt off their back
Worldly possessions and money mean something else to veterans. Of course, just like anyone else, they need money to buy whatever they need to get by. But, for the most part, they can do without when it comes to frivolities. They probably managed to sleep just fine underneath a HUMVEE for months at a time with nothing but a woobie and their rifle.
If you find yourself a few bucks short for a meal, your veteran pal will more than likely help you out without giving it a second thought — it's for the greater good.
But if you were to ask them to help dig a hole in the middle of the desert for no reason... Well, that's almost literally all we did while deployed.
They'll offer to help with things that may not be exactly legal
Veterans also tend to have an alternate perspective on the law. This mentality probably comes from the days when one guy getting caught doing something bad meant equal punishment for everyone in the platoon. Unless that guy did something so heinous that just associating with them was a crime, they looked after their own.
If you've ever heard your veteran friend joke about, "burying a body with you. No questions asked.," just take it as a compliment — we recommend against putting that loyalty to the test.
If it's an emergency, don't worry about waking us up. We probably weren't sleeping anyway.
They'll always answer the phone at 4am
No good news comes over the phone at 4 am. It likely means one of three things have happened: Someone is hurt, someone is in danger, or someone needs a shoulder to lean on. Veterans have first-hand experiences with all three — and they know when it's time to pick up the phone.
You might be surprised to learn that your veteran buddy — the guy that's normally the crudest of the group — is actually a great freelance psychiatrist when the circumstance calls for it.
Every vet just wants to unleash their inner cage fighter every now and then.
They will put themselves in harm's way for you
There's an old saying that's been modified by pretty much everyone: "Pain is temporary, but pride is forever."
Blood drys. Broken noses mend. Bloody knuckles heal. These mean nothing so long as everyone's safe now.
Some vets may hold true to the "sheepdog mentality." They'll never let anyone harm the ones they love. But to be completely honest... many veterans are half-way hoping someone runs their mouth or gets a bit handsy so they have a legally valid reason to feed someone their teeth.
We are perfectly content with chilling out all day and playing Spades in the smoke pit. We're up for anything, really.
They will always enjoy the little moments with you
The bonds between troops aren't just the result of completing rigorous training or fighting in combat missions together (even though those play a big role). It's the little moments that cement friendships — it's those times when troops are bored out of their minds in the tent or stuck on the same boring detail.
You don't have to plan some intense friendship-bonding thing just to appease them. Most veterans are completely happy sharing a beer in the living room for hours and just relaxing with you — that's what means the most.