The Need for 911 Friends

Developing relationships critical to overcoming “body-slams”
Commentary by Linda Ambard
Hanscom Community Support Coordinator

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. — People need connections and other people in their lives. As a military spouse, I didn’t recognize how narrow my circles were or how shallow my support group was until my husband was killed. Until that time, I never considered how disposable my relationships had become. I had spent 30 years traveling the world as a military spouse. I was really good at making fast connections, being able to say goodbye and then, if I ran into these same people later, very good at starting where I left off. I never considered that fast and shallow connections was a bad thing because it was our way of life and everybody around us was the same. As long as I had my immediate family with me, I was content.
But what happens when a body-slam is to the one person to whom a person confides in?
Body-slams are events that affect a person emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually.
One of the casualties of military life is that it lacked “911-friendships.” As military families know, we are nomads. This transience leads to having connections worldwide, but these connections rarely are where we are or know what we need in times of crisis. These are friends that know each other well enough that words are not needed. These shallow roots impact all of us. Men seem to narrow their circles and connections more than women when they marry. Men work all day, go home to family and then go to bed. It leaves little time for hobbies or deep friendships.
When my body-slam happened to the one person I had a deep connection with, I realized how alone I was. My connection was severed.
A person often thinks they know how they will react when trauma happens, but the reality is not one of us knows how we will react or how the people in our lives will react. I didn’t really consider the what if’s prior to my body slam, but if I had considered tragedy, I would have thought that family would be the answer, but as I found out, when every person is grieving, the support isn’t there in a way that might be healing. Even my own mother didn’t call as she didn’t know how to deal with my trauma. I thought that long-term acquaintances would be there, but nobody knew how to deal with my trauma. My children were shocked and hurting. I was not able to be the lifeline they needed because I could barely function.
How can anyone address the hurt in children if they cannot address the hurt in themselves? Being a military family, home becomes whichever base a family is together at. Home is a person versus a place, thus when trauma or tragedy happens, people may not have the resources to fall back on.
Relationships take time and energy. Relationships are built on a mutual investment of ideas, thoughts and feelings.
A person must invest energy and personal information to build these connections over time. It is sometimes easier to feel that friendly acquaintances are enough. Think about it. We all put on masks at work. When was the last time you let someone in?
During trauma and tragedy, or during body-slams, connections give us hope and they give us a reason to recover. This connection is key is to establishing and maintaining these relationships before hard times are endured.
Military spouses need to develop opportunities outside of the house to establish connections, because in doing so, they are able to develop friendships at a deeper level.
While it is not impossible to establish and maintain 911-friendships in the military, it takes a commitment and it takes vision.
Never again will I allow my circle to be one deep because I understand how hard it is to come back from a body-slam alone. Connections matter because relationships are critical for wanting to get up in the morning.
Relationships are important because they give us accountability and a sense of purpose. While social resiliency is only part of the puzzle, it is a critical element to consider carefully in the military life that we have chosen because it is the one area that most of us are very shallow-rooted in.
(Editor’s note: Linda Ambard is the Community Support Coordinator. The position was created to help Airmen and their families withstand, recover and grow in the face of stressors and changing demands. For questions concerning resiliency, contact Ambard at or at 781-225-1771.)


  1. […] The Need for 911 Friends. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: