Sunday, 20 April 2014

If he is a hero, she must be a saint

When I try to make sense of something, quite often I start off by writing a poem about it.

A (veteran) friend asked me the other day: "Why don't you write about spouses - about what happens to them during the transition?" So I wrote a poem and sent it to him. Nervously waiting to hear what he might think, the reply that came back was: "It sounds angry."

That made me think.

I have spoken to many Service leavers over the past few years: their hopes and fears; their disillusionment and disappointment; their struggles - and their successes. There has only ever been the odd glimpse of what it all means to their partners. A lot is expected of "military wives" and, somehow, most of them grow into it. There's no course they can take, no exam they sit. They just get on with it. After all, they know why they are making all those sacrifices. Or do they? Should they just be happy, grateful, cheerful when it comes to an end? Unlikely. Nobody has prepared them for it. It won't all be plain sailing - so, yes, why shouldn't they be a bit angry at times.

You're leaving the Forces
The life I thought we’d have is gone.
You didn’t ask for my advice,
when you decided to move on.
It’s me as well who pays the price!
Life happened at a hurried pace,
I’ve only ever seen you strong.
You are now in a different place,
but you don’t tell me what is wrong.
You were not ready yet to go,
now it is only you and me.
I’ve loved you long enough to know
you miss the camaraderie.
So please let’s talk, just you and me,
let’s make a start at a new dream.
We can both fight adversity,
just let me in, I’m now your team.

I have the utmost respect for every soldier, sailor, airman I have got to know over the past years. I have begun to feel extremely uncomfortable at the overuse of the term "hero" - they don't want to be called heroes anyway. It prevents us from dealing with them as simply fellow human beings - especially when they are leaving the Forces and start competing with us for jobs.

Now I think I have come to realise that their partners deserve just as much respect and admiration - and support. They aren't just "military wives" - they are the partners of men (or women) whose jobs were demanding, dangerous at times, and are now coming to a end. They have to master just as much reorientation. Therefore, I will dedicate the next two articles to them.

In the meantime, I leave you with a song:
I can't remember how often I've heard it - now it leaves me deeply in thought as I'm about to go and see "The two world of Charlie F." again.

Our Servicemen (and women) aren't heroes. Their partners aren't saints. Both are doing tough jobs, both have my highest regard - both ought to be recognised for what they are.

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