The Importance of Maintaining Friendships for Mental Health

Recently, a Facebook post resonated deeply with me: 

“Does anyone else feel that once you retired, pretty much no one you worked with cares to talk to you anymore… It’s sad after 20 plus years the people you met, could give two shits anymore.” 

This sentiment, echoed by many, isn’t unique to any profession but hits hard for those of us in first responder and military roles.

The Hard Work of Friendship

Maintaining friendships requires effort, more so than many of us anticipate. For first responders and military personnel, the bonds formed are born out of shared experiences that are hard to replicate in civilian life. These aren’t just friendships; they’re forged in adversity, creating a depth of connection that’s hard to come by.

Yet, as one comment aptly put it, “You’re retired, you have time on your hands. They don’t…” This reality creates a disconnect. While one side has the time and perhaps the need to maintain these connections, the other is engulfed in the demands of the job.

The Necessity of Maintaining Friendships

The necessity of these friendships can’t be overstated, especially for those of us who have served. We understand each other in ways that others can’t. This shared understanding creates a support system that’s crucial for navigating the stress inherent in our roles.

Research underscores this, highlighting that strong social connections are crucial for mental health but require consistent nurturing to sustain. A study published in the National Library of Medicine found that greater levels of perceived social support are associated with lower levels of depression and PTSD symptom severity among public safety personnel (Carleton et al., 2020). This evidence supports the critical role that maintained friendships play in the mental health and well-being of those in high-stress professions.

Bridging the Gap

Some departments are finding ways to bridge this gap. Monthly Retiree’s Coffee events or peer-to-peer programs for retired staff are examples of efforts to keep retired officers connected to the community they served with. These initiatives not only help maintain friendships but also provide a way for retirees to continue contributing, keeping the bond alive.

Personal Reflection

Reflecting on my own journey, I’ve seen how easy it is to drift apart from those I once stood shoulder to shoulder with. The comment about being able to count true friends on one hand hits home. It’s a sobering reality but also a call to action. We must work to maintain these connections, not just for our well-being but for the strength of the community we’ve built.

Final Thoughts

The work required to maintain friendships, especially those forged in the line of duty, is significant but necessary. It’s about making the effort, reaching out, and understanding that while we may no longer share the daily grind, we share a bond that’s worth preserving. Let’s not let those connections fade into memory. Instead, let’s invest in them, cherish them, and keep them alive. For in the end, these friendships are a testament to our shared experiences, our sacrifices, and our unwavering commitment to each other.


Carleton, R. N., Afifi, T. O., Turner, S., Taillieu, T., Duranceau, S., LeBouthillier, D. M., … & Asmundson, G. J. G. (2020). Mental health and social support among public safety personnel. National Library of Medicine.

About Eric Basek

Eric is the co-founder of Stay Safe Foundation, a former law enforcement officer and a current Coast Guard reservist. He is the author of “Lessons in Cadence,” and is passionate about helping people better themselves through fitness. Eric is our director’s husband, and dad to Logan and their dog Rajah. They live in Florida.

Empowering Future Marines

The journey to becoming a United States Marine is a path of physical endurance, mental toughness, and unwavering commitment. On January 13th, 2024, the Stay Safe Foundation, in partnership with USMC recruiters from New Jersey, hosted another one of their inspiring Poolee Function at Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, NJ. This event, a cornerstone of the foundation’s collaboration with the Marine Corps recruiters of Northern New Jersey, was not just a preparatory session for the 58 poolees in attendance but also a testament to the enduring spirit of service and community.

What is a USMC Poolee?

Before delving into the event’s details, it’s essential to understand who these attendees, known as ‘poolees,’ are. A USMC poolee is an individual who has enlisted in the Marine Corps but has yet to begin their formal training at boot camp. They are part of the Delayed Entry Program, which allows them to prepare both physically and mentally for the challenges ahead. These functions serve as a crucial bridge between civilian life and the disciplined world of the Marine Corps.

The Event: A Bootcamp-Like Experience

The Poolee Function at Picatinny Arsenal was designed to mirror the intensity and rigor of Marine Corps boot camp. The day was filled with grueling physical activities, marches, cadence runs, close order drills, and team-building exercises. These activities are not just about physical fitness; they are crafted to instill the core values of the Marine Corps: honor, courage, and commitment.

Instructors: Sharing Wisdom and Experience

The event was led by two distinguished instructors: Stay Safe Foundation founder Eric Basek, a former law enforcement officer and current officer in the USCG reserve, and former Army Captain Lloyd Briggery, a tank commander who served in Ramadi during the Iraq war. Their experiences in military and law enforcement roles brought invaluable insights and real-life lessons to the poolees.

For the recruits, these functions are more than just a physical test; they are a window into the life of a Marine. Through these exercises, poolees learn about leadership, teamwork, and the importance of mental resilience. They get a taste of the discipline and structure that define military life, preparing them not just for boot camp but for their future roles as Marines.

Mental Health Benefits

The Poolee Function also serves a dual purpose. For the instructors, leading these events is a way to reconnect with their military roots and give back to the community. This act of service is profoundly cathartic, especially for those who have transitioned from active duty. It provides them with a sense of purpose and helps in coping with the challenges associated with separation from service. Engaging with young recruits and sharing their experiences is not just fulfilling; it’s a powerful tool for their own mental health.

A Cycle of Support and Strength

The Stay Safe Foundation’s Poolee Function is more than an event; it’s a cycle of support, learning, and growth. It prepares future Marines for the challenges ahead while providing a platform for veterans and former service members to contribute positively to the lives of these young recruits. As the poolees left Picatinny Arsenal, they carried with them lessons in leadership, resilience, and the unbreakable spirit of the Marine Corps, ready to embark on their journey of service and sacrifice.

Supporting Our Unsung Heroes: Top Law Enforcement Charities You Should Know About

When we think of PTSD, trauma, and the need for support, our minds often gravitate toward military veterans. While the sacrifices of our soldiers are undeniable, there’s another group that often gets overlooked in this conversation: our police officers. These brave men and women face life-threatening situations daily, ensuring our communities remain safe. Yet, when it comes to charitable support, they often stand in the shadows of their military counterparts.

There are numerous charities dedicated to supporting our law enforcement officers, each catering to different needs. Some provide scholarships, while others offer financial assistance to the families of fallen officers. There are also charities focused on mental health support, legal defense, and more.

Today, let’s shine a light on five outstanding law enforcement charities that deserve our attention and support:

The stark reality is that every year, numerous law enforcement officers lose their lives in the line of duty, while many more struggle with mental health issues, including PTSD and depression. Alarmingly, suicide rates among officers are on the rise, underscoring the urgent need for support.

As someone who has served in law enforcement and currently holds a position in the military reserves, I’ve witnessed firsthand the challenges our officers face. It’s always a great time to rally behind them, offering our support and gratitude.

If you’re considering donating or supporting a cause, remember our unsung heroes in blue. Every contribution, no matter how small, can make a significant difference in the life of an officer and their family.

About Eric Basek

Eric is the co-founder of Stay Safe Foundation, a former law enforcement officer and a current Coast Guard reservist. He is the author of “Lessons in Cadence,” and is passionate about helping people better themselves through fitness. Eric is our director’s husband, and dad to Logan and their dog Rajah. They live in Florida.

Cooking Up Resilience: The Inspiring Journey of Bobby Somers

In the world of law enforcement and military service, we often encounter stories of valor, sacrifice, and resilience. However, every once in a while, a tale emerges that resonates deeply, not just because of its heroism but due to its profound humanity. One such story is that of Bobby Somers, beautifully captured in the book “Lessons in Cadence.”

Born on an Army base in Germany and raised in the shadows of Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX, Bobby’s early life was anything but ordinary. The challenges began early on, with family complexities and the harsh realities of street life. But amidst the chaos, young Bobby found solace in an imaginative world of his own creation, aptly named “Bobby’s World.” This world, though fictional, provided a haven from the discrimination, neglect, and turmoil he faced daily.

For many of our brothers and sisters in uniform, whether in the police force or the military, the struggles of childhood and adolescence can leave lasting scars. But as I’ve often emphasized, it’s not the challenges we face but how we respond to them that defines us. And Bobby’s response? It was one of resilience, determination, and an unyielding spirit.

Transitioning from the tumultuous world of street gangs to the disciplined ranks of the Army, Bobby’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of purpose and belonging. The Army, with its structured environment and camaraderie, offered a fresh perspective and a chance at redemption. But the story doesn’t end there.

In a twist that few could have predicted, Bobby discovered a passion that would further redefine his life: the culinary arts. The chaos of the kitchen, with its frenzied pace and creative demands, became a therapeutic outlet. Cooking not only honed his skills but also reignited a sense of pride and self-worth that had been dimmed by years of adversity. I’ve witnessed a similar story in that of another inspiring friend of mine, Chef Rush, the White House Chef with 24 inch biceps that does 2,222 push ups a day. 

For our fellow officers and veterans reading this, Bobby’s story (and Chef Rush’s) serves as a beacon of hope. It reminds us that no matter the challenges we face, be it on the streets of our cities or the battlefields overseas, there’s always a path forward. And often, that path is illuminated by our passions, our dreams, and the communities we build along the way.

Bobby’s involvement with charities like ours, the FitOps Foundation (@fitops), and Merging Vets and Players (MVP) (@mergingvetsandplayers) further underscores this message. Through this work, he has connected with a community of individuals who shared his experiences, his struggles, and his aspirations. Together, they embarked on a journey of mutual growth, support, and empowerment. I have seen the power of this community work miracles, time and time again.  I cannot recommend searching these organizations out highly enough!

The Power of Story

As I reflect on Bobby’s story, briefly chronicled in “Lessons in Cadence,” I’m reminded of a principle I hold dear: the power of storytelling. Stories have the ability to inspire, to heal, and to transform. They bridge gaps, foster understanding, and ignite change. And in our line of work, where challenges are a daily reality, stories like Bobby’s offer a glimmer of hope and a roadmap to a brighter future.

To our police officers, military veterans, and all who have faced adversity, I urge you to draw inspiration from Bobby Somers. Embrace your past, however tumultuous, and let it fuel your future. Seek out your passions, build your community, and remember that every challenge is an opportunity in disguise.

In the words of Bobby, it’s about finding the “zest” in life, even when the journey begins in a scramble. And as we’ve seen through his remarkable journey, with resilience, passion, and a dash of creativity, anything is possible.

Stay strong, stay inspired, and always remember the lessons in cadence.

For More…

In the challenging world of law enforcement and military service, remember that you’re never alone. If you’re a police officer or veteran in need, please don’t hesitate to reach out. There’s a wealth of resources, both online and locally, designed to support you. For those seeking guidance and inspiration, we’re offering a free copy of “Lessons in Cadence.” Simply drop us an email, and it’s yours. For our civilian readers, consider purchasing a copy. Every book you buy ensures two free copies for our brave veterans and officers. And if you’re looking to make an even bigger impact, visit and grab a shirt. Every purchase directly supports the Stay Safe Foundation’s mission and events. To stay updated on our journey and future blogs, sign up for our newsletter or text message list. Together, we can make a difference, one story at a time.

About Eric Basek

Eric is the co-founder of Stay Safe Foundation, a former law enforcement officer and a current Coast Guard reservist. He is the author of “Lessons in Cadence,” and is passionate about helping people better themselves through fitness. Eric is our director’s husband, and dad to Logan and their dog Rajah. They live in Florida.