As I slid my black slacks on in a rush to make it to the SOFREP party at this year’s SHOT Show, I couldn’t help but feel like they didn’t fit. Not the size mind you, my waistline hasn’t changed all that much since my days as an HR manager, but the style, the feel of something so formal just doesn’t fit me anymore. I’m a work pants and flannel guy, and inside my little Georgia world, most folks don’t even have the internet, let alone read my work.

The SOFREP Party, like the pants, didn’t seem to fit me at first. I walked into the beautiful bar to find more people than I expected, sitting at tables, conversing and having a good time … the idea that all of these people might be familiar with something I wrote, even if they didn’t catch the name on the by-line, was at once both overwhelming and honestly a bit frightening.

The thing about writing (for me) is that I do it with a one person audience in mind. I see the SOFREP readership as a community of peers, perhaps not in experience, but certainly in value of perspective. Much of my work is directed toward that singular concept: I’m writing about what’s interesting or important to tell this faceless community what I’ve been able to learn … but suddenly that community was no longer faceless. It had always been my dream to have people read my writing, but faced with the prospect of having that dream come to fruition, I found myself wishing for more familiar territory.

But then a few Marines approached me and introduced themselves. After a few minutes of conversation, I met another reader, then another. Soon I was starting to associate faces with screen names I’ve seen pop up time and time again in the comments sections below articles I’ve read or written … and it struck me. I WAS in familiar territory. I was among that community of peers, of readers and responders, of the very people who grant me the means to feed my daughter and keep my lights on through their shared interests and willingness to see the world through SOFREP’s lens.