CategoryWives – support

Canadian Military Wives Choir

In May 2015 I had the immense pleasure of being asked to take photos for the Canadian Military Wives Choir’s trip to Hamilton for the International Tattoo. What a treat.

Finale Photo for 2015 International Hamilton Tattoo.

Finale Photo for 2015 International Hamilton Tattoo.

The History

In 2010 the Military Wives Choir began in the United Kingdom as a way of support for spouses of husbands serving in Afghanistan as well as for serving female members. This phenomenon quickly spread across the UK and there are currently 77 different choirs set up in many places that the British Armed Forces serves across the globe.

In 2013 one member of one choir moved to Canada as her husband transferred from the UK Army Air Corps to the Royal Canadian Airforce.  Sue Palmer was determined to set up a choir in Ottawa to replicate what was so successful in the UK.

The choir has been going for two full years now.  They have over 60 members and have sung at many events including the Governor General’s residence, Parliament, as well as in the Senate for the families of fallen soldiers.  New choirs are popping up across Canada in Edmonton, Comox and now Petawawa.

The Passion

Prior to the trip to Hamilton I thought the choir was a cool phenomenon.  I am not musical at all but I appreciated how it brought support to a bunch of great ladies.  What I didn’t really understand is how special it actually is.  These women come from all different backgrounds.  Army, Navy, Airforce.  Most have lived through multiple deployments and moves, most are far away from any family support.  As I looked at these lovely ladies I felt magic. The music and the closeness seemed to temporarily melt away their burdens. Women recovering from breast cancer, women that have recently lost loved ones, women with aging parents, women dealing with young children and another upcoming deployment… and yet.. when they get together and sing it seems to melt away.   Even for the moment.

On our final night we all met in the pub to raise a glass to a lot of hard work.  They sang, I listened.  They really are stronger together.

It is all about the sisterhood:

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Military Sister Wives

When we were posted to Edmonton my husband deployed to Afghanistan. This tour was different than the ones that had come previously. It was early days and this one felt sour from the beginning.

There are several things that a Military Spouse is awesome at (or at least does begrudgingly):

  1. Pick up a home and move it across the country – most often with only a few months notice.
  2. Is capable of meeting new friends quickly – forming deep bonds in an unnatural time frame.
  3. Supports chaos at home (new schools, new friends, deployed parent).

But there is one thing that has always astounded me. The military spouse seems to cope with an inner voice at the back of her head that says ‘at least I am not her‘. In the military there is always somebody within an arms reach that has more children, less family support, an illness, a worse location, a husband deployed longer or worst of all (in my mind)… a husband outside the wire patrolling villages or disarming IED’s.

Back to that posting in Edmonton:

I was a Beaver Leader for my son’s Beaver Colony. Each week we would pass through the halls of the local Military Family Resource Centre to reach the community room that played host to 14 very active little boys. The kids would race past reception with their little beaver hats and their little beaver tails oblivious to the table with a condolence book. Someone’s lost Dad, a photo, a book and a pit in my stomach. The next week there were 3 lost Dads, 3 photos, and 3 books. The following week seven…

Military friends are different. They get you through things that only another military spouse would ever understand. The joys are wonderful, the shared pregnancies and births, celebrations, book clubs and lots of wine. The agony of leaving those friends when you embark on a new adventure is enormous. The bonds are so deep and precious and there is a strength and resiliency that is difficult to break. My military friends are more than my friends. They are my sisters.

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I’m Just a Spouse

“So what do you do?…”

That dreaded question…  Cocktail parties… Dinner out with new people… it always comes up. Everybody asks it… How does a person define oneself when they don’t have a pat answer?

I was recently at a luncheon for an International Women’s Club and that question came up.  As soon as I mentioned I was a military spouse the lady assumed that I had nothing relevant to offer and moved on to her next victim.

I am a Military Spouse.  Defining yourself in relation to your spouse’s occupation is something that is never done in today’s society.  It feels like something out of A Mad Men Episode.  I could tell you that many years ago I was an RN working in palliative care, but as soon as I tell you that I would have to follow with the fact that I haven’t nursed in 20 years.  So if I am not an occupation.  What am I?

I am fierce advocate that has moved every two years for as long as I can remember.  I am able to adapt at the last minute and manage projects as we move to yet a different province, or a different country with different health care and a different school system. I help my family start over each time we relocate.  I am a champion for my children and the vastly different school systems that exist within multiple provinces and one state. I am a researcher; I buy, renovate and sell homes, frequently.  I am an event planner and team player; I find venues for large groups of spouses so they can connect. I manage a single household income (because who will hire somebody that is going to leave soon). I hold my family together through difficult deployments to conflict areas around the world. I often watch the news very carefully because decisions made in Parliament today can affect my dinner plans tomorrow.  I re-invent myself every two years, and because of this I am a master networker. I have lived in 4 Canadian provinces and one American State. I volunteer, and I am about to be a single parent again as my husband continues to serve as a soldier.

What do I do?  I am a Military Spouse.

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Communication to Families

misinformation

I will never forget…  My husband was on his third tour and I was at a playgroup with my 3 year old.  Another spouse came up to me and conspiratorially confided in me “Hey…. did you hear?  The brigade has set up a brothel outside the camp in Bosnia”.  It wasn’t until I got home that I was able to chuckle about this, but at the time I was gob-smacked.  Even if she heard this rumour, how could she possibly believe it?

With the advent of social media these crazy rumours seem to be getting worse.  This is compounded by the fact that not all of our darling spouses are very good at bringing home all the information.

In October 2015 our country elected a new government and I watched the rumours ramp up again surrounding the deployment of troops to Syria. Would our troops be leaving?  Would they be away from their families at Christmas? What would they be doing?

On November 13th the Commanding Officer of 2RCHA did something fantastic.  He embraced Social Media and spoke directly to the families of his soldiers.  It was simple, clear and honest and I am sure it put so many anxieties to rest. It was also widely shared on social media  outside the 2RCHA family.  Sometimes even the grown ups don’t have all the information.  In one post, he was able to bypass the BS and let families know directly what they were up against.  I wish this was around during our early deployments and as a spouse I really hope more Commanders utilize social media this way in the future.

2rcha 2nd Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery

Syrian refugee update for the spouses and family of our soldiers. Presently, the Canadian Government has not made any decisions, so please don’t give in to gossip or speculation. As reported in the news, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have been proactive in planning to assist the government in its pledge to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by year’s end. We are soldiers employed by the Government of Canada to do its bidding when she calls and we will do whatever our new government asks of us in helping mitigate the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII, with more than 4,000,000 Syrians displaced from their homes.

So what do we know? We know that the military is likely to be involved in some way, shape, or form. Certain units, including 2 RCHA may have a roll to play, but at this time, we do not know what that roll is or exactly when. We know that we have five personnel that are part of the CAF’s high-readiness unit tasked to evacuate Canadians from a disaster zone, and they could potentially find themselves in the Middle East helping with efforts at that end. 2 RCHA assumes the Immediate Response Unit (IRU) task for Ontario on 1 December until 15 April, but as it stands now, we do not yet have a task to assist with refugees at this end. For the almost 200 soldiers we have identified in the IRU (myself, the RSM, and the Regimental leadership included), this does mean some restrictions on leave and how far those tasked to the IRU can travel.

Of course, should we be tasked to help the Government of Canada in this monumental task, then the possibility exists that our men and women may be away from their families at Christmas. Please be reminded that this is why we serve and why we so proudly wear the Canadian flag on our uniform. I promise we will communicate more once we have more information.

– LCol Sonny Hatton, CO

What do you think of his approach?

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