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Every assignment adds names to my Christmas card list, but I’m not complaining. The price of stamps keeps climbing, but the value of the people at each address is much higher.

I read a greeting card that said: “Friends are relatives that you make for yourself.” I don’t know if the writer served in the military, but his words apply to military life. When we can’t be near our families, we create our own.

Here are some words from military spouses about friends and friendship:

Marilee: “Finding good military friends can really make an assignment. You are so far away from family that a close, real-time friend can step in when you’d otherwise turn to family. They also make it more fun to experience the country you’re sojourning in. My military friends (mostly spouses) have helped make my overseas assignments highlights in our military experience.”

Beverly: “Our Air Force is a family to all of us during hard times when we are so far away from family. They are so much more supportive than people on the outside with busy lives … That has certainly been my experience (during treatment for breast cancer.) … There are angels everywhere in it that are really coming out to take care of us. I love them so much.”

Pam, writing about her best friend: “I met Betsie a very long time ago, during our second assignment twenty years ago … right around Thanksgiving. She and her husband wanted to go on a date, and we agreed to babysit their daughter.

“Little did we know that this was the beginning of many babysitting swaps and a friendship that would endure everything the military threw at us.

“Betsie and I now have a large (temporary) geographical space between us while I live here in Germany, but I know that she is always there for me.

“I would have never met her if not for the military and for that, I am forever grateful.”

Kelley Mae: “When Jeff and I had to move our wedding date up … we had no money for a wedding. However, without hesitation co-workers … pulled together to cater, get a DJ, decorate, film and photograph, set up and clean up for the reception. My supervisor even stepped up to stand in for my father to ‘give the bride away.’

“It was an awesome experience!”

Brenda: “One particular time that friends came through for us was when Gary had a heart attack (during a deployment.) … There were many who were praying for him and looking for him to come in their direction. After finding out about the incident, I called a friend. She in turn also called this friend who was in Germany in the medical field and they knew exactly where he was and when he would be at a certain place and time and forwarded the information to me.

“We have had friends who shared tea in the wee hours as we worked on projects … We have had friends who kept our children when we had to make runs to the commissary to get 7-Up and chicken soup when they were sick … We have been able to share in gardening many places we have been whether base beautification or a special friends’ yard. Easter egg hunts, picnics, birthdays and surprises, Bible studies, Christmas dinners … many wonderful memories that we have shared and hope to continue to build them.”

My yard in Georgia was one of the many places beautified by Brenda. I am sure that she and other military spouses will continue to plant friendships and grow long Christmas card lists.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany, where her husband is stationed at Ramstein AB.

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