Earlier this week, I gave the ‘Soldier to Civi’ community an opportunity to ask me questions about my personal transition from soldier to civilian.
There were some very thought-provoking questions which were raised and it encouraged me to take a trip down memory lane in order to deliver some very honest answers.
Question one came from Abbie Butchers:
“What expectations did you have before joining the army”?
I made the conscious decision to join the army at the young and naive age of fifteen. When I passed the initial selection and medical phase, I received my army number. It was then that I completely brushed my hands with school which was a huge mistake in hindsight.
I was misled to believe that once anyone had served within the British Armed Forces, that individual would be employable for life. I have come to realise the harsh realities and now I can clearly see from experience that this is far from the truth.
Having said this, I knew exactly what to expect from military life and I had a fairly clear understanding of what I was signing up for.
The second question was asked by Dawn Civill Williams:
“What would you say you found most difficult when leaving the forces”?
I immediately discovered what it felt like to lose that sense of purpose in life. One week later from walking out of those military gates for the final time, I found myself stuck in a nine to five job, driving lorries. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the fact that my dad got me the job, it was the fact that I was disappointed. I guess I was expecting the grass to instantly be greener on the other side but I have learned now that these things take time and a lot of hard work.
If I had prepared more efficiently prior to leaving the army, I would have had a better start in ‘civvy street’, nonetheless, what’s done is done and now I need to fight through and recover.
To be honest, even to this day, I still find it hard to let go of certain elements of the army such as the operations we carried out in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I often wonder what it was all for.
Question three was from Joshua Hunter and he asked:
“Do you ever think about going back to being a soldier when times are hard in civi life”?
I can’t deny that I miss the army at certain times. Since leaving the army five years ago, I have encountered two occasions where I have come extremely close to rejoining. I once completed the paperwork to initiate my re-enlistment. Nevertheless, I left for a reason and that reason will still be there if I was to return to the army now, at least that’s what I believe.
The final questions came from Jason Butchers and he asked these two interesting questions:
“Does it feel strange talking to serving soldiers as you are now a civilian”?
When initially joining the armed forces, I also became part of a comradeship. Regardless if you are now a fully fledged civilian who has already transitioned or if you are a soldier who is still currently serving, we all belong to a brotherhood, so to speak. So in comparison to talking to a soldier who is still serving compared to talking to a veteran who has already transitioned to the civilian world, there is no difference in my opinion. We are all veterans.
Having said this, the only possible difference is our actual knowledge and wisdom of the transition from soldier to civi.
“Do you miss the ‘buzz’ of action”?
The simple answer is yes. The more complicated answer requires a little more depth.
I am sure I will speak for most veterans when I say that there is no drug on this planet that will ever be able to replace that feeling of being under effective enemy fire. Feeling like your death is inevitable is what makes you feel alive, at least, that’s how I felt. Although there is an element of an adrenaline formed from operating in hostile environments that I miss, there are just as equally many situations which I would rather not find myself in for the remainder of my life.
‘Civvy street’ can get really boring for me at times and that is when I crave the action but I now have too much to lose. I now have friends, family and loved ones to consider. Therefore, this ‘buzz’ that we speak of will not only affect me but it will also affect them.
Thank you all for taking the time to ask these thought-provoking questions, I hope I answered them to your satisfaction, and I thank you for reading this week’s blog.
If you are a serving soldier or a veteran who has recently left the armed forces and you would like more information and guidance about the transition from soldier to civi, then please feel free to join the ‘Soldier to Civi – Chatroom’ where veterans are supporting veterans.
Enjoy the rest of your bank holiday weekend as I plan to enjoy mine. I shall see you next week for another edition of a ‘Soldier to Civi’ blog.
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