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A little over a year ago, my best friend left for basic training for the United States Marine Corps. I was so proud of her for what she was going to do.   I knew that it was what she really wanted, but saying goodbye to her was also one of the hardest experiences of my life. In the past year, I have learned a lot about having a long distance friendship.  I’ve also learned what it means to support someone close to you, even when it can make your own life more difficult.

When my best friend, Nicole, first told me that she was joining the Marine Corps in June of 2015, I did not think she was serious. She was.  She chose the departure date for her basic training as September 21st, 2015. We spent that entire summer trying to cram in as much Buffalo food and fun times as we could.  We were very conscious of the countdown on her fridge that was becoming smaller by the day. Everything we did was the last thing we would do before she went away for three months.  It made me look at everything differently. Living in the moment was more important, because it was the last time we would live in the moment together for awhile. Her departure weekend came, we had dinner, and we cried a lot.

I’m not going to lie and say that it was easy having my best friend away at boot camp.  It isn’t any better now that she is across the country. There are definitely ways to help missing her though, and I want to share a few for those going through what I did last year.

1) Write letters. Tons of letters. If you feel like you are writing too many letters, write another one. Not only does it make things a lot easier for her to be hearing from people at home and know that she is not forgotten, it also makes life easier for you. I treated those letters like a diary. I wrote one whenever I had something important or even unimportant to say. I kept her updated on the latest gossip at home and checked in on her, too. I always tried to ask open-ended questions, because sometimes she wanted to talk about everything she was doing.  Most of the time she wanted the letters to be an escape from where she was. When we saw each other again at her graduation and family day, it was like we had never been separated.

2) Being understanding when she is at home. There are so many people that she is going to want to see.  This means that you might not get to spend as much time with her as you would like. That’s okay. She knows you are there for her.  It is important not to waste time complaining about it. Instead, focus on the time that she does have to hang out with you. Savor the little moments that you have when she is home instead of focusing on the quantity of time you have.

3) Really live the experiences you get to have as a result of being her friend. Over the past year, I was able to watch my best friend swear into the Marine Corps.  It was an amazing experience. I am so proud of her. I also got to experience Family Day and Graduation at Parris Island Recruiting Depot, which is easily one of the most emotionally touching and patriotically inspiring ceremonies to witness. I watched some of our country’s newest Marines take the oath of loyalty to this great country.  It amazed me watching people my age swear to defend my freedoms and the freedoms of my friends and family. Nothing makes freedom more real than watching people graduate from basic training and become official Marines. It’s an unreal experience to watch the informational videos of basic training and knowing that someone you are so close to went through that for our country and our world.

4) Learn as much as you can about the Marine Corps. Learn about what job field your best friend is going into.  Ask for a calendar to count down through basic training.  Ask about what she plans to do during her enlistment as well as about her friends and what she is learning. Nicole loves to talk about her friends, the different people she has met from around the country, and what she has had the opportunity to do. It’s awesome to hear.

5) Give yourself a support system while you are supporting your friend. I joined several Facebook groups focused on supporting the families of those at bootcamp.  We always were there for each other to get through a long three months. Many of the pages do something called “where’s waldo” – when members of the pages go down to Parris Island for graduation, they take as many pictures as they can of training recruits and post them so waiting families and friends can find their recruit. It was exciting for us to finally find Nicole in pictures.  It made us feel like she was a little bit closer to us while she was gone.

It is going to be difficult when your best friend first says that she’s going away, but I have found that Nicole and I have only become closer since that day. I have never been prouder to call her my best friend and I feel so blessed to have her in my life, and I hope that you get to feel all the same things about your best friend. Good luck and ooh-rah!

Cat B
FFL Contributor