Tonight I was at an awards dinner at work. I sat with three investment managers who sponsored a table at the event. We talked about Iraq and the good and bad of serving in the Army. When I mentioned friendship, they knew right away at least one reason why men join and stay in the military.
Most modern men, unless they have a dangerous hobby or join the Army, have no friends. At least no friends in any sense that does not beggar the definition of friendship. One of the men said right away, "In my business I have to know my clients well to advise them." He said he meets many of his clients when they are middle-aged and have enough wealth to need management advice. "I ask how many friends they have made in the last year then tell them not to bother answering. I know already. The number is zero."
Because soldiers share hardship they get to know each other in a way that mechanics, cooks and office managers will never know each other. Cops and firefighters have friends. Soldiers have friends.
None of these men had served in the military, but they understood why soldiers volunteer for multiple deployments. Usually the conversations at awards dinners are light and funny. People who see each other only occasionally or who never met sit together for a couple of hours. They exchange stories and jokes--the jokes improve with each glass of wine.
Tonight's conversation was the most intense dinner conversation I can remember in a very long time. It reminded me yet again how much fun it can be to meet and talk with curious, bright people who can ask thoughtful questions.