They say that the Army is a family. I really really big family, but a family nonetheless. When I did my first hitch I thought that they were referring to the FRG. I thought the fact that we practically bent over backwards to accommodate the Army Wives were what it was all about. But this isn't actually the case. I learned this a little bit when I was deployed. The guys I with were like my mulch-dysfunctional, semi-retarded family. We quarreled like any large family at thanksgiving, more so because we literally could not escape each other.
It wasn't until I PCS'd that I really began to understand the the "Army Family" was actually referring to the whole Army. See when I got there who should I find, and ironically become subordinate to one of my Squad Leaders in Hawaii. SSG Garza, ironically enough knew one of my Senior Medics in 2-16. SSG Garza and his family were very welcoming to me, and made me feel very much at home. Being a single soldier and all.
Well I, being a dumb ass, decided to re-up. Who should be the guy to Re-up me? My first Commander Major Steven J. Richter. Now if that doesn't seem like a small world fine. So I get to Riley. Who should be there but SGT Sanders, my squad leader in Ambulance Platoon. (he was in 610 BSB) and that wasn't all. Once I actually got to Rusty, I ran into of all people Smitty. SSG Smith, another squad leader I had while in 225 FSB. She happened to be assigned to 3rd ID, and in a completely different unit. One of the best parts one of the Infantry Platoon Sergeants in Delta Company was actually one of the Drill Sergeants I had in basic.
No if that doesn't seem insanely coincidental, then you must not think too much of things. Here's the real coinkey-dink, that's actually pretty common. The Army Family is actually an institutional fact of life. One of the things that's perhaps the most poorly understood about the Military. Yes we grunt and make gorilla type noises when speaking, but we are also a family, in more ways than one.
It is this family mentality that keeps soldiers in for 20 years (long after their knees, back, and neck are screaming for them to stop). The Army becomes like your Mother, when you're a Private, a Mistress when you're a Specialist, and something akin to a wife when you're Sergeant and above. Yes that sounds a bit of an Edapis/Electra complex going there, just bare with me, I'm living in West Virginia after all (Kidding!) Your friends become Brothers, and Sisters, and it is entirely possible, if you are in a co-ed unit, something more. There are actually as much as 17% (this was in 2004) of marriages in the Army are Dual Service. It is understandable then why so many soldiers find a "home" in the Army.
When you've done your 20 (or more as necessary) a lot of the Old Soldiers will "Fade Away" to their porch, having lived a life that very few could ever understand, they will sit on their figurative porches with several years still available to use for work (presuming no injury). We will look back fondly after "the kids have left the house" and be fond in your memories, never remembering the many squabbles and fights that marked the time.
Yes the Army is a Family. A strange, screwy weird family, but a family nonetheless. Its nice to know that I still have fathers out there if I need them.