My best friend has been the same person since I was only 15 years old (which was a very long time ago). For 8 of those 13 years he was in the US Marine Corps and recently came home. He and I both love the videos by Mat Best (Article 15) and Ranger Up, so it was natural that we’d both go see Range 15 as soon as we found out it was a thing.
The thing that has stuck with me the most in the day since we saw it together hasn’t even been getting to spend time with my best friend again. It wasn’t getting to surprise him with tickets and sharing a memory watching a really great movie. (I do mean that last part. I’ve never laughed so much during a movie in my life.) It was being in a room full of veterans and getting to see first hand the way they are together.
You hear a lot, especially if you have military friends, about the brotherhood that they experience with each other and that it doesn’t always translate well into their new lives rejoining the civilian world. One of the first couples to walk in after us had a man in a tactikilt who climbed over the railing in it while making jokes about not “flashing everyone his boys”. No one was disgusted and everyone laughed. A few disabled veterans showed up in wheelchairs with their branch of service on the back of them and everyone was incredibly polite to them as they and their families tried to maneuver to the middle aisle where there was a place for them. After that point the room filled up with more men and women all cracking jokes with each other from across the theater and having a hell of a time.
These were strangers. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t served together. Only that they understood each other because they had served. If you were to go to see any other movie, the room would be everyone silently browsing on their phone and nobody would interact with the person near them. Most of us just don’t do that. But here was this room full of military men and women who spent the time talking and laughing all the way up until the movie began. They were from different cities, different walks of life, and their only connection was their service. It was enough though for them to have a bond and act like one big group of friends. During the movie, everyone laughed at the same moments (damn challenge coin bait). After the movie, groups of veterans who didn’t come into that theater together left together and we could see them filing into the restaurants across the street in larger groups than they arrived in.
To be perfectly honest, after being in that room for two hours, the “normal” world feels very lonely even to someone who never served because of seeing the love between those who did. That sense of brotherhood and level of comfort with each other is enviable and I’m glad that just for a little while I had the chance to see it. If we were even a little more like them in how we connected with other people, we’d be a hell of a lot better off.