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It’s a strange feeling knowing that everything is going to change. What you earn, where you go to work, maybe even where you live. When you start the resettlement process, there will be a lot of talk about preparing for change. Although it’s true, and the advice is well meant, it’s important to think about the good things you’ll experience leaving the forces.

 So here are my five top things that made life so much better when handed in my ID. Forget the money, the pension and the security for a while, here’s a few things worth looking forward to after leaving what to look forward to after leaving the forces. In no particular order.

Making plans you can keep.

We’ve all been there. You’ve planned a weekend away, or even just a night out and it’s been in pen, in bold for months. All the way up to the moment you get in the taxi, your partner knows it might not happen and even that tension can put pressure on. Then the phone rings and someone’s sick, or been detached away and you have to fill in. When you leave the forces it may take you a while to get used to it, but

The Pub Quiz.

Not soon after leaving the forces, I found myself in No-Mans land. I was losing contact with my RAF mates but didn’t have many non RAF friends either. Then a few of us started a regular Monday night Pub quiz team, and just by chance we all billy no-mates! A couple had moved into the area, and another member had just retired. Twelve years on and only three out of the five of us remain. We’ve been through divorce, disaster and death together and looking forward to Monday made all the difference. Had I still been in the RAF, it wouldn’t have been possible.

The School Run

For fifteen years I’ve been the dad taxi. Granted, there are plenty of parents who serve in the forces and the school run. However, being able to do that regular school trip has given us both sad and happy times. From the tears when Grandad went far too early from cancer to the nerves of exams and university applications. Sometimes it’s just simple teenage stuff and being there to hear it, but it’s made us close. Years after leaving the forces, my daughter who lives miles from me at uni, will regularly call throughout the day, just for a chat. This tells me leaving was the right thing to do.

I’ll be there to help out.

When you’re nose down working after leaving the forces, you’ll probably need something other than work. For some of you it could be the PTA, or helping out with coaching at a local sports club. It may even be just seeing a regular TV schedule for a change!

For me it was Scouts. My lad went, so I was drawn into it, and saw him do so much great stuff for the first time. Now, he’s moved on, but volunteering is a big part of my week. I don’t do it for them, I do it for me. There’s a community and being able to commit to a weekly helper makes the difference. I know many of you volunteered as part of secondary duties ( how else can anyone get promoted?), however it’s different after leaving the forces. That weekly connection is important. The close ties you lose when leaving the forces needs replacing, and volunteering is a way this can happen.

Being a Rebel

Growing your hair long, growing a beard, or even a purple goatie? From additional facial hair, walking out on a job without giving notice or upping sticks and living in the outer Hebrides, within your financial constraints, you can do what you want. Always fancied a year off around the world? There’s no-one to stop you, except yourself now. Just knowing you have the choice can be enough for most.

But doesn’t all that wear off?

For me it hasn’t no. There were some tricky times with money, (we sailed pretty close to the wind). Then sad times when the Nimrod crashed in Afghanistan (I was just out, but isolated from the support of the community). However, leaving the forces has been a positive thing to enjoy and grow used to.

If you’re worried about how it will be, it’s understandable. But it’s what you make it, and if you can let go, there is so much to look forward to.


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