Today I have spent a few hours in an executive box at Manchester United!!! I never thought I would be able to say that again in a hurry. Especially considering I have panic attacks in crowded places. Thankfully though I was nowhere near the crowd. We arrived fairly early and parked across the road. We walked straight into the executive area so missed all the crowds. Eight of us shared the box, sat around the table having drinks and a meal. During the game itself there was even a separate outside seating area. Although I had my headphones in I still managed to drown out a lot of the background noise without ruining the atmosphere. It was amazing.
The special day was made possible by the Band of Brothers who donated 2 tickets to me. It was so very kind but I can’t help thinking about the reason this was made possible. I am a member of Band of Brothers because I was wounded in war and subsequently losing my career because of my hidden illness. On Monday I will begin to work for myself, a new venture which will hopefully take off. Sadly though I have to admit to be still deeply grieving the loss of my career.
Being in the RAF was something I had dreamed off doing from the age of 13 after visiting RAF Coningsby and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Due to circumstances I didn’t join up until I was 19 but I had signed on to age 55 because I loved my job. Don’t get me wrong, not including operational tours, I had bad days and sometimes I would think “why on earth” but I had the best job ever. I also had a guaranteed wage, roof over my head and meals available daily. A career in the forces massively affects your life far beyond providing monthly pay. I have been defined by my career and it has made me who I am today. I learnt so many life lessons throughout my 20 years of service and I had a strong sense of attachment to my job, an attachment that is accompanied by personal feelings of control, expectation and loyalty. The loss to job security threatens much more than just loss of income. The loss of my career also brings with it loss of my position and identity. I knew who I was in the RAF, what was expected of me and what I expected from my troops. I worked really hard from the very start. I was never really phased by basic training because I was used to discipline. I relished every challenge that was placed in front of me. I started from the bottom, worked hard to reach the rank of Sgt before taking my commission. I have sooo many memories and it upsets me that I won’t be a part of that anymore. I have a lot of military friends, a lot of which are on Facebook. When I see updates I sometimes get a lump in my throat because I’m no longer sharing in what is going on.
There are things I will not miss, starting with the obvious, seeing a vast amount of trauma, smelling the blood from open wounds, and being in danger whilst ‘out and about’ in the helicopter. I will definately not miss feeling extremely nauseous tactically flying in the Chinook to avoid being shot down! I won’t miss having to do the bleep test every 6-12mths that’s for sure! I won’t miss having to be subjected to CS gas on an annual basis or the noisy neighbours in the mess, and definitely won’t miss the career hunger people who don’t think anything of trampling on you to get up the ladder. I was career hungry but always mindful of those I may have passed on the way up because there may have been every chance Of seeing them if I slipped back down!!
I have mentioned things I won’t miss but there is so very much more I will miss for sure!! I really miss my job as a commissioned officer in the RAF, especially one of my peacetime roles as a flight commander at the officer training centre at RAFC Cranwell. It was my dream job, guiding, teaching and facilitating cadets to make future great leaders. I enjoyed being a great role model; I took pride in my appearance looking smart always; very proud to wear the uniform. Sadly currently I cannot even look at it!! In fact most of it remains in a box at Cranwell.
I miss mess life, socialising with anyone and everyone. It doesn’t matter wether alcohol was involved or where the socialising took place, everyone would just muck in to get a job done and then get together for a chill out afterwards. You may be surprised by this but most of the tours where great because of the people (most people anyway)! It didn’t matter how bad days got good people would always be there to hold you up and keep you together. I miss exercises, running around in the field. They where hard work but nearly always fun because it would be an opportunity to catch up with colleagues you may not have seen for some time. I miss having a laugh in the office with some amazing people. I deeply much a few amazing friends I made throughout my career. I miss putting on the uniform, I miss the coffee breaks in the HIVE, the gyms which where virtually outside your door. I just miss so much, I feel like I’ve lost my identity, the RAF is all I have known, I just miss it and there is no way back. It hurts, my heart aches to be bulling my shoes for parade or sitting at a meeting that is being held before the actual meeting; meeting for meetings sake!! It is a REAL loss and very hard to accept. I received my pension details the other day and the loss was suddenly very real…..