The veteran in me.
I lived and breathed being in the armed forces from the day I was born, my dad was a RE, one uncle KOSB, another two uncles ARGYLE and Sutherland Highlanders, cousins in the RAF, my sister joined the QARANCS, my brother was REME, at the age of 13 I joined the army cadets, then straight into the army as WRAC, then RAOC, then RLC, a lot of changes in my career, first non combatant, then allowed to carry fire arms whilst on patrol in Northern Ireland and other countries I served in. Women on the front line was unheard of, or should I say women in the infantry in a combatant role, what the army seemed to forget that women have always been on the front line, driving and moving much needed ammunition and other equipment to the front line, the female combat medics, the nurses and so many other roles.
I am proud to have served queen and country, the friends I have made are life long, you can walk down the street and tell a veteran a mile off just by the way they walk, the stride, the shoulders back and chin up.
Very often in civvie street, my time in the army will be talked about, then maybe at some point later I have to apologise for something I have said or got angry about, and walk away whilst apologising for my outburst due to my ptsd and my low tolerence for idiots.
Then comes the crunch, how can you have ptsd from the army, your a WOMAN….. omg even in this day and age people still don’t get the role of women in the army, I went to countries most would only hear the name of, on the news from years back. I give up when I hear this comment, and believe it or not. It mainly comes from men, off course the ones who have never served, or once or twice from an older generation veteran.
I almost lost my rag last year on rememberence day, down at the motherwell services, in my suit, medals polished, then this old timer with his head dress on but no medals on show, tells me my medals are on on the wrong side, and that my husbands medals should be worn on the other side since he has passed away. A few people at the table got ready to correct him, put I jist shushed them, said that’s my fella there, the one with the RE beret on, then I turned to him as I put my own beret on my head and said, “you will notice he dosent have any medals, as he has not served anywhere, a bit like yourself, now if you would like to check the name, rank and number engraved around the rim of my medals you will find they belong to me, for my service to my country, and I would advise you to be more respectful to women, veteran or not”… I could so easily have planted the prick, “yeah not all veterans are perfect” but I took joy in ripping the piss out the fact he tic tocked round to the cenotaph as we marched round the short distance. Needless to say on return to the service man’s club I was bought a few brandies by way of apology, “I’m thinking someone had a word in his shell” lol
After 14 years in the army, my time came to go out into the big bad world of civvie street, I was knackered, physically and mentally. I honestly think I slept for the first 4 or 5 months in civvie street, I didn’t have a clue what to do, who was giving the orders, where was I going. So first job was working for my dad, self employed taxi driver, the great thing was I could work my own hours, the bad thing was I worked all the hours my body would allow, I hated going back to an empty house, no one in the room next door, no naafi, all the veterans out there will know what I mean, civvie street is a lonely world for a veteran. So I got off my arse, changed my career, I wanted to know more about my own fucked up mind, so I put myself through university and became a mental health nurse. So as we say from one uniform to another.
Working with civvies is hard especially lazy ones (no not all civvies are lazy, there are even some out there with a great work ethic, get the job done) but it was the lazy ones, the ones always on a fag break, the ones who think you didn’t know how much of a skiver they where, it was those ones that made me loose the plot, and go from job to job. It’s damn hard with a work hard play hard attitude.
In the army we have discipline and high standards, drilled into us on a daily basis, just because we leave dosent mean we leave them at the camp gates, they are part of us and who we are.
These days I do my own thing, self employed, I teach mental health first aid, I also go out and help those veterans that live close to me with any issue they may have. The hardest thing for a veteran to do is to ask for help, to realise they can’t cope with whatever it is they are struggling with and need help, sadly this can go on for years and some never ask for help. My hand is up, I was one of those veterans, broad shoulders nope I don’t need help, but when I did ask the right person for it, I got it, I was out the army for 10 years before I asked for help, and I don’t regret it, if anything it has made me the person I am today, someone who can help, support and empathise with my fellow veteran, I’m not a judge and jury, we ain’t perfect when we leave, some end up with addictions through no fault of there own and it ends up being there coping mechanism, I know I became addicted to my pain medication, I trusted that bestie of mine enough to tell her, yeah she is a civvie, but feck me she should have been in the army. Needless to say, trusting a person takes a lot for a veteran, but believe me, when you find the right person, it will be the best move you ever make.
So life goes on, I’m a proud veteran, and will help my fellow brothers and sisters in anyway I can. But one thing I do these days is take time for myself, time to breath, centre myself and get on again.
To my fellow veterans out there I salute you and thank you for your service. To all the families and friends of veterans out there who support and love us, no matter how much of an idiot we are at times, I thankyouxxx, from the bottom of my heart, again thank you.
Love and hugs to all xx Cat xx