RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

Detached…

I have been out of the military for just under three months, although I have lived away from the military life for about 6 months.  And as I have said several time I have not really missed military life.  The people, now there’s another thing… but the life itself…not really.

I am enjoying my part time work, and enjoying my life in the countryside and even more enjoying village life, with all that I need – the small shop and post office and the pub, and my daughter, Lily, has her school just a few hundred yards down the road.

But I don’t miss the military life.  Don’t miss living behind the wire, don’t miss the community of other people who work in the same place as you, living in the same place as you, doing the same things as you.

Well, I thought I didn’t miss it.

But the other day as part of one of my jobs, I drove past RAF Cosford, where I once lived and worked as part of my posting as an instructor.

And that afternoon I felt a sudden pang of pain.  The fence at the edge of the camp was no different from when I was on the other side of it, but it suddenly seemed a million miles high. And thick.  As I sat at the traffic lights waiting for the green light, the perimeter changed, in my imagination, from a chain link fence to a thick high wall. Impassible and impenetrable. 

Automatically, I checked my wallet was in my pocket, as I would have if I was going to to get my ID out as I passed through the gate. But it was pointless. My ID was not there. As I am no longer in the RAF, I have no ID.  None, other than a drivers licence and a couple of bank cards. And my library card. 

And I felt empty. I felt alone.  As the lights changed I pulled around the corner and sat looking through the fence at the Med Centre, the Dentists.  The all ranks club.  The building I used to work in.  Just 50 yards away.  50 yards might as well have been 50 million miles. It was unobtainable, separate, distinct. I saw trainees marching about.  An instructor parked his car outside the Med Centre and stared through the fence at me. Looked at me and must have wondered why was I staring through at him.  Maybe he took a mental note of my description and my car details, thinking of security. A different culture; a different life. I was no longer part of that.  I had no right to go on that camp anymore. 

And my detachment from the RAF became complete.  I am an ex-airman.  I am a civilian.  I am no longer special like those people in there.  

And I missed it.  Missed the ability to just go in there, to go to the gym, to just walk around as part of something bigger than just me. I felt alone. Because you see the RAF, the military, the armed forces are about being part of something bigger than just yourself. About being part of something with a history, tradition and meaning that is more than just one person and more indeed is more than the sum of all of it’s parts. It’s about belonging.  Your very identity is given from what you are and what you do.

And I was part of that, but now I am alone. What I stand for once was pride and uniform and honour and comradeship and serving others and putting my own needs behind those of the wider community and the country.  But now I am just me.  I might still personally embody those values but the visible symbol of that is now gone.  When people looked at me once, they saw a serviceman, but now they just see a person. They might be kind and say veteran, but I am no longer a serviceman. I have handed that on to the next generation. I am just an individual.  I can do what I want, go where I want, when I want, think what I want, say what I want, but that is no compensation for the fact I am no longer part of all that

But then.

I got home. And I realised something. It hit me like a bolt from the blue.  It hit me like a four year old running through the dining room to bash into me and hug my leg when I arrived in the house. 

I still am part of something bigger than just me.  I might miss being part of the RAF, but I still am part of this family.  And I am always going to be part of it.  It will always be there. 

As wil the RAF. I might have physically left the RAF.  I might no longer have the card that allows me access to a free gym and to free medical prescriptions and to not to have to worry about what clothes I was going to wear to work – but I will always be part of the RAF, like I will always be part of my family.  I will always have my brothers and sisters – my colleagues. I will always have those who served before me – my parents.  And I will always have my children – those who will follow me into the service and make their sacrifices and maybe give their lives.  

Life goes on. And even though I am not in the RAF, it will always be part of me, and the material things that showed I was part of it are just that, material things that tarnish, fade, rust and decay.  But my memories will be with me, all around me, inside me, like my family is.

And will always be.

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12 thoughts on “Detached…

  1. Do you ever get over it? Something that has been a huge part of yor life. You deal with it and put it in a place but it is always with you I guess. My son is about to start a 3 year posting at an RAF base near Nottingham and is really excited about it. No doubt like many before him and many to follow he will one day feel just the same as you do. Crack on!

  2. Gavin Thomas on said:

    Could not have said it better mate. Exactly how I felt when I left 13 years ago!

  3. ah that was a lovely piece, my parents both served in the RAF but in their minds never left it either.

  4. HI There Alex,
    Just reading your latest blog and I think once you have been in the forces of any kind and come out on to civie street as they say,, (sorry not been one) its the fact that you had comrades about you, other people there all the time about you, yes you will miss it as it was your life, but it will never leave you, you were part of our recent history as well.. Like you though i do live in a village, school 3 mins away, shop and pub too and its great, and its a much slower pace of life too and you get to spend more time i guess with Lilly which is so precious as well, you will always part of something Alex, even just blogging about it makes you part of the blogging world.. I know its a long path that you follow, the ups and downs, but think of the stories you can tell your grandchildren (a while of yes i know) .about what you did as a RAF serviceman. That my friend is amazing.. part of UK’s History. maybe write a Book about it too

  5. Reblogged this on My World My Blog My Life and commented:
    Just a great Man to Follow but this so so so true for many ex service men

  6. Ashley on said:

    Very well written piece and a great read. So strange to hear you describe Cosford the way I know it, with my office a matter of seconds walk from the Med Centre. Thank you for sharing such a good insight and something so personal.

  7. One of my ex colleagues has a byline under his email signature, I’m not a civvie I’m ex-military. I know what he means, It always gives me a little chuckle when suppliers/reps come to my business and are totally startled when I tell them their world changing offer doesn’t work for us and can they offer us something useful? They are even more shocked when they are thanked for their time shortly after saying “We’ve never done it that way” They’ll always be a bit of Betty Windsor’s Flying circus about us.

  8. Richard 'Mario' Marriott on said:

    I agree with everything above. Having been out for a year, out of the RAF that is… There is something missing, it’s hard to pin down but you do it well. My job is similar to my military role but my aim is to make money, so much more satisfying to know you’re working to help others… By coincidence I’ve picked up the line above too, “I’m not a civvy, I’m ex-service!”

  9. Reblogged this on The Not so secret double agent who is in fact…secret! and commented:
    You my friend, are a legend!

  10. Pingback: on your bike | siwhi's Blog

  11. I served in the Royal Air Force for 10 years. They were 10 good years. I made many friends, and I got to visit the amazing Falkland Islands.

    The R.A.F. also gave me the foundation for my Career that I have built since then. You can leave the Military, but you can stay connected. My career since is in Defence, so I get to meet and be with all three of the Armed forces every working day.

    That could imply I never really left, but in reality its the best of both worlds, Same mindset, same friendships and ethos, but NONE of the Bullshit!

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