Army Vet trying to meet all his Facebook friends

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Army Vet trying to meet all his Facebook friends

Had an interesting moment on Monday while walking around Arlington National Cemetery.  I was with my battle buddy from Bosnia (who you'll read about in the July Magazine) and my battle buddy from Afghanistan.  Mike, the one from Bosnia used to be with the Old Guard at Arlington, and was giving us a tour of the half of the cemetery that most tours don't go through.

Somehow the topic of Facebook came up, and they were both complaining about people who over-share on Facebook.  I had to chuckle.  Of all the offenders of that in this world, I'd rank myself probably #1.  I post so much to Facebook my family had thought I had been fired.  I don't actually spend a lot of time looking around, but I probably do 20 posts a day there.  I have 1,929 friends, of whom I probably actually know less than 20 percent. 

But I love Facebook for the simple reason that living out here in the "Flyover Country" away from my former battle mates, I sometimes feel like I am missing out.  Facebook lets me stay up on what is going on.  The chances of me picking up a phone and asking them how their lives are going is less than zero.  My friend Matt runs a stop watch during our calls, in hopes of breaking that elusive 7 minute barrier.

So I came across this entertaining story about Mikel McLaughlin, an Army Veteran who is travelling the country:

An Army veteran from Minnesota has set out to do what no other Facebook user has likely done before. Visit all 377 of his Facebook friends.

On April 2, Mikel McLaughlin, 35, started his journey in a rented red Volkswagen Beetle. He made his first stop in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where he met his friend known as 'J.'

'I’m not an extremely social person and I don’t have a lot of close friends, so with most of these people I’m meeting, it’s more common than not this is the first time we’ve spent time alone,' McLaughlin said according to

If I tried to do that I'd need my passport.  I have a startling number of "friends" who are across the world right now.

I really like this guys attitude:

McLaughlin told Yahoo he's visited about a third of his Facebook friends. He also estimated that about a quarter of his Facebook friends were real-life friends before he set out in his VW Beetle.

'I have this idealistic view of the world, and I think if I can meet up with these people, I know spending time with them makes you more likely to be compassionate,' McLaughlin said. 'I thought if I could be a little better perhaps everybody could be the same.'

Just today I was talking to a lady who is a Legionnaire from Wisconsin, and our National Membership chair, and she was telling me how she follows both my wife and I on Facebook and loves hearing what we are up to.  Most the time it is my wife and I taking playful shots at each other.  Everytime I leave on travel my wife dresses up my dogs in outfits (my Boston Terrier last week was dressed as a duck) so that I need to come home to save them.
But I really like the power of Facebook as a communication tool.  When I read that another guy in our unit has lost his job, or is in some trouble, I can reach out immediately, and they can either reply or not.  Some people want to be left alone, some just want to know we care.  Either way, I like that.
And when I was in Afghanistan on an embed, I asked on Facebook: "Anyone know a way to get the hell out of Kandahar to get to Andar?  Because I can't get a flight."  Within minutes a guy I had served with 15 years ago met me on the boardwalk at Kandahar and got me manifested on the next flight.  When I was in Senegal and couldn't get to where I was going I threw something up and a kid who had been in my Boys State City 4 years ago wrote and told me his Dad was best friends with the military attache in Dakar, and arranged for me to get over there.
I love Facebook.  Even though Mike and Jimmy don't care for my oversharing, it makes me feel more connected.  So good on Mikel McLaughlin.
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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.