A Life-time in the Military

By Tina Dennison

I started out in Air Cadets at the young age of 13. Then from there I quit high school and joined the military at age 17. Being so young, the military became my surrogate family, as it did for many of the young recruits. Like all families, memories of the times we spent together were bittersweet, like all families there were good times and bad. Travel and the military's unique lifestyle tended to segregate us from the civilian population and therefore made us cling to each other even more so for support, for a feeling of belonging. Everyone knew everyone else's business, much like living in a small town. This connection varied with the times, locations, and players and could be either drastically negative or positive, there tended to be no in-between.

Later in my career when I married a military man, I saw another side to military life. Even the wives of military members had it rough because of their spouse's extensive travel and the adultery that occurred on those trips. Sadly, divorce is common for military couples. Unlike a civilian job, military members are on call twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and many times even their social life is closely intertwined with work. If you were an outcast your career was dead in the water but if you were popular, you could reach almost any height. This situation motivated many men into putting their job before their wives. For me, I was a wife of a military member as well as being a member myself, so I had more insight into the problem than most. Once married, like many military couples we moved into a home on a military base. The neighbors rallied to greet us and we had many barbecues throughout the summer in a big field out back of our homes. A military base was one untouched frontier where you knew your neighbors. Unfortunately, political budget slashes and negative media coverage resulted in major military cutbacks that included closing many bases. Ultimately, eliminating the close-knit communities as well as the members' social interaction resulted in a negative cultural change in the military. It became a job not a lifestyle.

Now after being part of the military environment for over 20 years, both my husband and I left. Why? The Canadian military is fading into obscurity. In reality, today there is no military left. There is no job security, only broken promises. If a huge war broke out there are not near enough regular, full-time military members left to defend us. Our reserves are made up of young, poorly trained, poorly equipped, unmotivated, personnel because they are only part-time, casual warriors who haven't truly made a strong bond with the military organization. The proud strong beast that at one time had a purpose and vitality is gone for now. Where is our pride in our own military? We see them as unnecessary, obsolete until a crisis occurs, then we scream wolf. Well, you can't rebuild a military force in just a few days, a few months, or a year's time. It took years to slowly erode the giant beast and break it down into the minimal representation it is today. In the future, who knows? I might return one day. Politicians, media, Canadian citizens, and even the upper echelon of the military itself, the dinosaurs that refused to except some required changes in the organization, seem to be powerful forces in determining the military's fate.

As far as the huge issue about females in the military, as liberal as I am I don't think, I truly don't feel in my heart that the military is ready for females, not the other way around. My experiences in the military would have been a whole lot less stressful and a whole lot more memorable if I were male. As much as the military establishment tries to appear as a suitable environment for both sexes, it isn't. There are so many cases of reported and unreported harassment of the female members it would take years to investigate and untangle the whole mess. I became tired, war-weary of fighting for what was right and fair on my own and others behalves. It felt that I was forever fighting "city hall", and because I was alone in the fight, my male co-workers would never join in, I sensed that I would never win. If I am bitter about anything, it is the fact that females on the whole are unappreciated, tolerated as a political necessity, and truly will never be a part of the military organization in the establishment's mind. As far as we think we've gone today in women's rights that is how far behind the military has returned its female members to the cave-man era. If I knew what I knew today, would I still have joined the military? Quickly, I say no, but then I wonder if I would I have been the same person that I am today without all the character-building crises I went through? I don't know but I sure would like to have had the chance to see! But then again, I wouldn't have my husband and children in my life now or have written a full-length novel, "Service Second To None", about my experience in the military either. I guess in my case, the military was an inevitable part of my life, like it or not!

Copyright 1999 Moxie Magazine All Rights Reserved