Military families never say goodbye. We say “See you later.”
We learn early on that the military life takes you all over the world. It becomes a challenge in itself to make friends at a new duty station as well as a welcomed adventure. That’s when we quickly realize that the lifestyle has a lot to offer– and that there are so many different ways to stay connected to the friends we’ve made at our former installations and our extended family members no matter where they are on the planet.
Military families never say goodbye. We say “See you online.”
We are extremely lucky to live in the digital age and to have the opportunity to keep in touch at a moment’s notice. At times, it can be overwhelming because there are tons of options out there.
Here are some resources that help me maintain and nurture my relationships with friends and family members from a distance.
Google Mail. I’m a huge fan. My parents and most of my friends have Google accounts. Aside from the typical email back and forth, Google allows you to have Hangouts where multiple users can be live chatting at the same time for FREE (Who doesn’t love free?). I’m able to see the smiling faces of my parents in Texas and friends in California, New York, Pennsylvania and anywhere else at the same time.
Facebook Private Group. Most likely, you have an Facebook account, but did you also know that you can create private groups to share anything and everything with family? I have lots of family in the Philippines and because of the time difference, it’s hard to coordinate a time to video chat. So, we created a family group that we can just hop on at any time.
Facebook gives you the opportunity to share photos, videos and other information that you only want the members of your private Facebook group to know. I love that the content is just living on the page and can be accessed when you enter. There is no need to dig through emails for photos or videos because Facebook keeps things relatively organized. We share graduation photos, birthday parties and anything else to keep each other in the loop.
Our mobile devices allows us to instantaneously share what’s on our minds. I love that. Before my husband left for Korea, he had a terrible old flip phone. We immediately realized that it was no way to stay in touch while he was overseas. It was time to retire the flip phone. Seriously, having a smartphone has become a necessity for military families. Don’t you agree? Without them, we can’t access email from anywhere or use other essential communications apps. I’ve grown to obsess over my phone. I’m not alone.
FaceTime or Skype. I was able to give a virtual tour of my first new home via FaceTime to family members and friends. That was awesome. To be able to see their reactions to what I was showing them was amazing. If you’re like me with a strong family bond, it was very important to be able to share how I was adapting to my new surroundings. I also needed their encouragement.
It’s a quick and instant way to share what you’re doing and where you’re at with your loved ones in a picture. I typically post pictures of my new adventures here at Fort Belvoir or when I’m visiting other locations, so my spouse’s extended family can see what’s going on. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words!
Texting. My No. 1 go-to with keeping in touch with my gal pals is group text messaging. It’s totally appropriate for sharing 1 word or a couple sentences and pictures too. I also have separate group chats for my parents and extended family. It’s probably our No. 1 way to be able to send messages to each other quickly. I also have to mention the app Tango because it was the service that worked best with Korean Internet. That allowed my husband and I to keep in touch all the time. I think I would have started pulling my hair out if I didn’t have that app. If you’re headed to the Pacific or are already there, give it a try.
Be old school.
We can’t forget about snail mail! I’m a huge fan of handwriting letters to family and friends. There really is something about putting words on paper that is meaningful. I witnessed the power of letters and printed pictures during my younger years. In the ’80s, my parents and their families relied solely on mailed letters and landline phone calls. They kept pictures and letters when they were separated to later put them back together. When families would PCS, you would establish a mail tree. You keep a special list of people from each location and you would constantly update each other via letters.
The result: an incredible collection of memories at your fingertips.
Even now, my parents still have the mementos from the families they met in the Air Force. It’s truly amazing to see that they are still so close and update each other on their grandkids and retired life.
We have the luxury of keeping records on computers, so you can access the information easily. I go to the dollar store or Target to purchase a bunch of “just because” cards to write special messages in them for family and friends. It’s nice to step back from technology for a moment to share smiles with a card or letter.