Friendships made while enlisted tend to be a deep, unique form of connection. There are countless movies and TV series that pay homage to the strength of the bonds forged through shared military hardships. There’s no denying that friendships are a crucial part of day-to-day military life. It’s important to try to find military friends.
In fact, researchers have even found that friendships can help alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):
“Results suggest that better peer relationship quality during deployment may reduce the likelihood of subsequent PTSD symptom development and that the quality of early relationships may set the stage for better relationships during stressful contexts such as war”International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
Regardless of branch, friendships formed in the line of duty are some of the most unforgettable with the potential to last a lifetime. If you’ve lost touch with friends that you made in the military but don’t know how to find them, you’ve come to the right place.
The Unique Nature of Military Friendships
Military life is so unlike its civilian counterpart that the connections created on-base or while deployed are nearly impossible to replace.
“It’s almost a cliché to say that military friendships are the ones that last a lifetime but, for me at least, it was completely true,” one former military member wrote on G.I.Jobs.
Why is that?
Service members are subject to permant changes of station (known as PCS), which is military jargon for “moving.” When a member leaves their current unit or command, there’s a high probability that they will have to leave all their friends behind. This means that these friendships have to be formed at an accelerated rate, and as a result, often become deeper connections that can be difficult to replicate.
Military friends can commiserate about permanent changes of station, apprehension regarding deployment, perceived injustices at the hands of their superiors – all without fear of judgement. They understand that you can both love and hate life in the military at the exact same time, and can relate to your joys and fears even more deeply.
Although developing a strong bond happens naturally for most military members and their families, staying in touch across both time and distance can be a challenge. Unlike civilian families, military members get relocated frequently. It’s just part of the dynamic that military friends often tend to lose touch.
Nowadays it’s possible to reconnect with military friends. There are many resources and digital services that can help streamline the process.
If you’re hoping to rekindle a friendship with a military buddy or are trying to find military friends from your childhood on base, here’s what you need to know.
1. What information do you need to reconnect with military friends?
The best place to begin is with what you already know. Collect and write down all the information you can remember about the person you are trying to find. This can include:
- First and last name
- Last known address
- Date of birth
- Branch and unit in which they served
The more info you can gather the easier your search can be. You never know what tiny piece of information can unlock the door and help you find your military friend. Indirect information (phone numbers, email addresses, street addresses, etc) can also be valuable to your search.
Even groups, churches or religious institutions they attended, organizations they belonged to or the high school they attended can provide you with a lead. Consider contacting these different organizations to see if they can help you reconnect with your military friend. Even if they can’t put you in touch directly, they may know someone or something that can assist you.
2. Where should you look for your lost military friends?
The quest to find military friends is a common one. So common in fact that there are a variety of websites and organizations that offer help searching for military friends. While there is no central database to help you easily locate a military member there are a couple options available.
- National Archives Military Personnel Record Center: This organization can try to find the person you are looking for as they keep all records of military personnel. Try sending a letter to them, providing them as much information as you can about the individual you are looking for. Their website has more details on making your request as well as a link to Form 180, which you can use to make your request.
- Department of Veteran Affairs: If you’re unable to find your friend through the archives, you can contact VA. This organization maintains records of veterans, including contact details. You can begin the process of searching through VA with a letter. Be sure to provide them with any and all information you collected about the military friend you are looking to get into contact with.
Search Engines & Social Platforms
- People Search Engines: For searches where you are confident you know their current city or geographical location; you can try online people locators and search engines, like Spokeo. This is also a useful option to find one of your friend’s family members in hopes they can put the two of you in touch with each other. Get started by searching their name and last known location.
- Forums: There are a variety of military-related forums out there so, be very specific about the ones that you use. Military Times Forums has a thread dedicated to messages of those trying to locate services members. Together We Served is a popular site that helps veterans locate their former military buddies.
- Search Engines: It is pretty common to try and find someone with a simple Google or Bing search. However, you may want to make your search as narrow and specific as possible. This could prevent you from following a false lead of someone with the same name as your military friend. Some ways to refine your search is to include the branch and military unit of your friend.
- Social Media: There are nearly three billion social media users around the world, according to Statista. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have become the top ways to stay in touch with friends – both old and new. One trick to searching these sites is to remember that people may not be using their regular name. So, try searching out nicknames or refine your query to location, high school or other details you can remember. It is also possible to find them through groups such as Facebook Group pages that they may be connected with. If you’re unable to find them directly on social media, try searching those who were close to them. Perhaps mutual friends or family members that may be using the platform.
3. What Are the Potential Results of Your Search?
One of the best places to start is the NPRC due to the quantity of records they have on military personnel. While they are not legally permitted to give you any information on your military friend, they can pass along a letter or message.
Military forums may or may not be a productive search tool. It really depends on who sees your message. Sometimes you could be lucky and your friend or someone who knows where they currently are will see it. For this reason, forums should be an aspect of your search process but don’t make them the central part.
Search engines can yield a vast amount of information that you will need to sift through to find some reliable leads. This can prove to be the most time consuming and disappointing of the search methods, particularly if you spend a lot of time tracking indirect leads to your military friend and still come up empty.
Trying to find military friends on Facebook can also be a time-consuming and frustrating process. Keep in mind that some users keep their security settings so high that it is difficult to find them.
You will need to be patient and try different avenues until you get a lead. Thinking outside the box is also important during these types of searches. Sometimes you need to follow indirect leads to try and reconnect with your military friend. This means contacting organizations they belong to or family members that can pass along your message to them.
Why is reconnecting with military friends a good idea?
Military friendships are unique. They are often forged quickly and become the strongest bonds that can be experienced. These individuals are those that you trust to have your back no matter what comes your way. They may have been with you during some of the most traumatic and trying times of your life.
Even civilians can understand the connection that military members have with each other. These connections and friendships are important to our mental health and our general well-being. Yet, it is not always easy to stay in touch over the miles and deployments. With some time and dedication, it’s possible to find military friends. Reconnecting with them can help us find the support and acceptance that we all seek.