It is not just the Police who find themselves “so lonely;” we too should find “no surprise, no mystery” in loneliness’s pervasiveness. Military lawyers, in particular, feel its unavoidable sting accentuated by the military attorney lifestyle. Together, let’s look at how to work past the inevitable to succeed where possible.

As judge advocates general, we aid commanders in wise decision-making spanning the spectrum of mission demands. Staying conflict-free is key to providing the best legal advice. If an attorney personally knows about or has personal relationships concerning a particular issue, they’ll need to recuse themselves.

But the JAG who is recused too frequently becomes irrelevant to their commanders, who rely on the JAG’s sound judgment. The easiest way for JAGs to remain relevant in achieving military success is to not form personal relationships within the military structure and instead resort to relationships in the local community.

Yet moving every two years does not easily allow for forming friendships outside of the military. Within the United States, civilians surrounding military installations understand the assignment cycle and become reluctant to develop relationships with the military transients.

Friendship-forming stateside is tough, but it becomes a herculean task when stationed overseas because of cross-cultural barriers. These hurdles exist irrespective of rank or marital status, but they are compounded if a JAG is promoted or does not have a nuclear family to rely on.

Further complications arise when a JAG is selected for a leadership position or for a remote assignment. (Lo to those who are selected for both at the same time.)

Most JAGs accept a commission to serve the country they love, for the job’s excitement or to follow their childhood courtroom-drama dream. Surely no aspiring JAG would say: “I want to join up to be the loneliest I have ever thought about being.”

Civilian lawyers do not have it much better. Nobody wants to befriend the attorney. Plenty of articles have shown that lawyers are consistently ranked as the loneliest professionals. This compounds the work-related stress contributing to poor health and suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Legal loneliness is a pervasive problem without an easy fix. JAGs still need to move to grow and expand their scope of practice in order to be the best senior leaders possible. Moreover, JAGs are still needed overseas and will still be assigned to remote postings. But if we don’t start working toward solving this pandemic, then it could negatively affect individuals and the JAG Corps. If the solution is not an easy staffing remedy, we must explore other solutions. Here are some to consider.

You are not alone—now let’s get you connected!

Recognizing how severe loneliness is affecting your professional life might spur you to reach out to a trusted confidant. But if you’ve sacrificed personal relationships for career success, Pamela DeNeuve, in “Lawyers: Why it is so Lonely at the Top,” recommends you start with “one action step each week” focused on rebuilding relationships important to you. This can be a scheduled phone call, an intentional text message or another similar action that will begin restoring the authentic human connection previously left to languish due to geographical separation or the tyranny of time. Additionally, to combat the possible social isolation of frequent moving, think about structuring your friendships with the durability to continue despite relocation. This may mean spending more time on fewer friendships while taking the long view of maintaining those relationships long-term.

Fixing the problem

Fixing the problem begins with acknowledging the current state you are in. So give credence to the feelings and understand the possible negative health effects. Don’t let the severe stigmatization of loneliness further isolate you or prevent you from discussing your experience. Moreover, aim to abate your sense of loneliness by forming connections with others. If you don’t yet have meaningful friendships where you live or wonder what else you can do to combat life-altering loneliness, we recommend any combination of the below:

Join groups. Group classes or physical activities like dancing or swimming are more effective at decreasing loneliness than sedentary living. You do not have to be a stellar athlete to reap the benefits; simply seeking out a sports team is a great way to meet people in a group activity.

Steer clear of social media. Firm support networks established to battle loneliness need to be formed in person, not via social media and our computers. It is easy to hop online and try to dupe ourselves into thinking we’ve connected with people. Yet many studies have debunked this assumption, showing that social media is merely a connectedness illusion that only makes us lonelier in the end.

Support others. Genuinely discover how you can help others. Approach social interactions with the mindset of how you can serve the other person. As Dominique Farrell demonstrated in her 2023 article about random acts of kindness, “small unselfish gestures can be as beneficial as therapy” to combat loneliness.

Develop a fourth pillar. While perhaps cliche, the four pillars of mental, physical, social and spiritual health are robust tools to declare war on loneliness. As the other three have been discussed, this is an opportunity to encourage a rededication to spiritual reflection, mindfulness, meditation or recommitment to religious practices. In addition to other benefits, these practices, much like supporting others, shift one’s focus off of oneself to something greater than the individual. Altering your focus to one of gratitude will shift your thoughts away from negativity. This crucial mental shift can change your entire day, thus positively affecting your week and how you connect with others.

There are not very many JAGs. We don’t have the bandwidth or flexibility for JAGs to not be actively contributing to the mission or falling out because of loneliness, especially if it’s preventable. With the plethora of contributing factors multiplying the depth of possible loneliness, we need to prioritize conversation and education about loneliness throughout all levels of our corps. This will allow us to normalize this all-too-common feeling that will happen to some—if not all—of us at some point. By squarely addressing coping mechanisms in our training and continuing education, we can hopefully start to demystify the concern and proactively handle these issues.

Maj. Kyle Carter and Capt. Nicole Bessette are honored to serve in the U.S. Air Force. They’ve both served internationally as JAGs in a variety of roles, helping commanders achieve their various missions and assisting individual airmen around the world. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official guidance or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. government. is accepting queries for original, thoughtful, nonpromotional articles and commentary by unpaid contributors to run in the Your Voice section. Details and submission guidelines are posted at “Your Submissions, Your Voice.”

This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.

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