It goes without saying no one in their right mind can expect a career in the military — including the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves — to be the most fun, easiest, enjoyable, and low stress job there is.
But the other day I overheard an acquaintance of mine, who for the purpose of this piece will remain unnamed, say being in the military is like being in an abusive relationship, “you know you should get out but you can’t.”
Now I’m not saying this acquaintance of mine doesn’t enjoy their career, in fact they love it. They’re good at it, progressing through the ranks and plan on making the move to Regular Forces in the future; despite the fact it takes them from their fiance for long periods of time and the wear-and-tear is already showing on their young, early-20s body.
This opinion column isn’t to criticize the Canadian Forces or devalue immeasurable efforts and complicated passions and lives of our men and woman who serve. Nor do I claim have a deep understanding of military protocol and am not offering solutions to situations I cannot comprehend.
Life is complicated; nothing is black and white. You can love something and hate it at the same time with a million other emotions coursing in between all at the same time.
Not every day is a good day and people can’t like their jobs all the time. My acquaintance’s words stuck with me and I decided to small amount of digging to see what life in the military is really like through candid opinions.
When a person admits they are in an abusive relationship they are encouraged to get out. When an office administrative personnel says they truly hate their job they would probably be encouraged to quite and find something they like better. Can you respond to a member of the military in the same fashion? They knew they were entering a life more extreme than the average citizen would ever understand.
The Next Edition, a Toronto based digital media publishing company — among other things — interviewed two Canadian Forces medical personnel to get their thoughts.
Both spoke of the bonds and family forged through service and memorable life experiences they’ve had. They also talked about being away from home for long periods of time and never, ever getting enough sleep, and training in horrible conditions. However, both also emphasized how serving in the military is not simply their job, it is their identity.
In 2014 Canadian Forces signals operator W.O. Russell Storring shared his sotry with CBC News Canada about life in the military post-Afghanistan and had a darker outlook on things.
He touched on the numbers of Canadian who died serving in Afghanistan but says it is nothing compared to the military suicides Canada sees once its men and woman come home.
Storring says budget cuts also had a great impact and in his last few years he became used to eating field rations already expired by a number of years.
After 22 years of service Storring decided he wanted out. He felt more like a number than a serving soldier and was further ostracized professionally for that decision.
Contrary to all the love one can have for what the Canadian Armed Forces gives Canada, and to all the love my acquaintance has for what it offers them personally, there is just something deeply sad about the words they spoke in a moment of unabashed honesty.
Amelia Naismith is the reporter for The Pipestone Flyer. She writes a regular column for the paper.