When I married an Army Officer 20 ago, I was pretty sure there was nothing I didn’t know about this new life I was about to enter into with my new husband.
After all, I’d grown up as a ‘pad brat’ – the colloquial term for forces children – both my parents had served their country. My mother left when she married my father as was required in the 1960s.
Following university, I also joined the Army – it seemed the natural thing to do and I was commissioned as an officer into the Royal Artillery for three years. When I left, I carried on my love of all things military as a media specialist reservist, still in uniform and supporting the regular Army for training and exercises and on operations in Bosnia.
I thought with all my knowledge married life in the Army would be a breeze – what didn’t I know?
I didn’t know how resilient I could truly be; with each additional challenge I reached another depth that I didn’t think existed.
My knowledge of the military has been a hindrance at times. When I received a letter from my husband telling me the role he had in Iraq I was able to go to the map and see just how forward he was.
I was in a quandary. I was being torn between soldier, wife and mother.
As a soldier it is ‘easy’. I have a fixed role. I know my parameters and I can anticipate because I have drills, Standard Operating Procedures, Standard Operating Instructions.
As a mother I never know what is going to ‘hit me’ next. During 10 years of my husband being away on operations I had to be able to tell my young children the truth in a way they would understand; I had to explain why someone’s Daddy wasn’t coming back; I had to keep life going as ‘normal’.
There is no real routine. You have to be upbeat about every move, every challenge and embrace it all as a positive.
As a wife you are ‘the glue’.
It is a different lifestyle that relies on community. Being on a ‘patch’, the term used for the group of houses owned by the MOD that we rent, ensures you are with like minded people. You know they will understand without any words being spoken.
A review of this community is currently underway; a community that has been ‘the glue’ for the military for years. This exhibition therefore becomes more important as it documents a lifestyle that is hard to define and could, within a couple of years, be a diminishing thing of the past.
As world leaders look to create communities we find ourselves in the military having ours taken away.