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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Profusely Proud To Be A Military Wife

You'd be hard pushed to have missed the huge furore currently surrounding BBC choir master Gareth Malone and his unstoppable force of military wives from RMBs Chivenor and Plymouth, who are currently being tipped by the likes of Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans, to beat Simon Cowell's X Factor winner to the coveted Christmas no. 1 spot in the charts.
This the fourth series of the BAFTA award winning BBC series following Malone's ambitious quests to form choirs from unlikely and often under confident participants, saw him call upon the courage of the wives of  Royal Marines, Army and RAF personnel, to step forward out of the shadows and into the limelight, to take part in a choir that would see them perform at The Royal Albert Hall's Festival of Remembrance in November, and later release a single of the song written for them by royal wedding composer Paul Mealor.
The seed of this now nationwide phenomenon, all began with a letter to the former London Symphany Orchestra choirmaster, from an army wife based in Devon, suggesting that he form a choir from the wives left behind in blightly whilst their husbands and partners serve in Afghanistan.
Thereafter followed the collaboration of wives and girlfriends from the two Devon bases.
These amazing ladies were also brave enough to give forth their personal letters, or 'Blueys' as we affectionately know them- so that composer Paul Mealor could create lyrics lifted directly from their own heartfelt words.
When I watched the episode where the creation was first sung to these courageous women, I joined with them in shedding a few tears- and by few, I mean few bucket loads!
The wonderfully interlaced words from these women's own hearts, to me speak for every single one of us who have been left behind, unable to know where or what our beloved husband or partners are up to, and who worry and pray for their every second away from home.
It is a position I would not ever wish anyone to be in. My mother often emphatically reminds me, of my need to know what is going on since I was a small child- Why are you doing this? Where are you going? What are you going to do there?
It is a trait I never have grown out of and one that doesn't serve a military wife well I can assure you!
For the last few years it has been impossible for me to call Garry when I have needed him or indeed when I have just wanted to talk to him, when he has been away with work, Instead I have had to sit at home for many an anxious night waiting in hopeful anticipation that he might be able to get to a computer, or better yet a phone so that I may simply be able to know that he is safe.
Thankfully, for me at least, back in 2006 when I had my accident, Garry then carried a captain's phone that I could call him on and express my shock and distress at just having been involved in an accident.
It is amazing how even in less dramatic and important times than this, hearing his voice when I have been unable to for too long, can turn me into a love struck school girl all over again!
On Garry's safe return home, it actually feels like all of my childhood, ( and for that matter adulthood as well!), Christmases have come at once- coupled with my wedding day and birthdays all rolled into one!
This coming from the world's biggest Christmas fan/elf ! If only you could see the amount of fairly lights that currently surround me lighting my keyboard as I write this post!
Unbelievably sadly, all too many wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, mums, dads, brothers, sisters and children don't get to experience this jubilation and immense relief, as their loved one does not return home to envelope them in their arms.
The last base in which Garry and I were based, was struck by it's own earth shuddering tragedy, when it lost an aircraft and crew a year before I met him. Despite the stoic and traditionally military character of all it's personnel, I always felt that a piece of the heart of the place had been ripped from it, to the day that the base recently closed: yet at the same time an increased strength of spirit was present as the base family pulled tighter together in order to hold one another up, as everyone despite their sympathy could not help but think selfishly of how it could have so easily been them facing such heartbreaking loss.
The Military Wives choir were themselves struck by such tragedy- as whilst Chivenor's troops thankfully return safely from the six month tour of Afghanistan both bases were on whilst the choir was formed, Plymouth's 42 Commando tragically suffered fatalities.

My thoughts are of course with those women who are now single mothers and heartbroken widows desperately trying to cope without that huge piece of their lives where their husband once fit so tightly.
That void will never be filled for them and those children will grow up without their dad's playing football with them, or tucking them in at night.
Please spare a thought, and if you're inclined, a prayer for these decimated families this Christmas and support the charities which will help them cope as well as is at all humanly possible with life's biggest and most painful obstacle- The Royal British Legion and SSAFA.
If ever there was a worthy way of spending £1.99, it is this beautiful single. Let's face it, that's less than a pint or a glass of wine in the pub!

Whilst researching for today's post, I typed into the Google search engine- first Military Wives and then RAF wives and so stumbled upon this entry into a wedding planning website's forum.
post was entitled:
Whats it like being an RAF wife?
And was followed by this young girl's concerns over her fiance's desire to join the RAF as a pilot.
The bride-to-be wrote...
    ''I'm not wanting to really be a forces wife, but if needs be, I'll live with it.. I'm concerned that my lack of enthusiasm for the social side of it will impact on my future husband.
... if someone could tell me what its like, what the responsibilities are and what I can expect, I'd be ever so grateful.''
Although my circumstances were different, in that when I met my husband, he had already been serving as an RAF pilot for 8 years and I was filled with a mixture of awe and pride for this profession of his; I did still share this girl's anticipation of the unknown.
The concerns of-
 What is expected of me, in both the personal and social sense? How do I know who's who on social occasions? And of course most importantly- Where will he be deployed and how long will he be away?
These are questions that I know every one of my friends who are military wives have asked themselves when they embarked upon their serious relationships with their now husbands.
In my case, when I met Garry, all but a handful of his friends and colleagues had been together a long time- they were married and many were expecting their first round of babies, ( I say this as there is an odd coincidence that babies born to squadron personnel and more specifically 'married patch' dwellers, have all been born around the same time, with the second child born to each family also coinciding with the others based around them- spooky ha!)
When I moved to Garry's base, all of the wives had already experienced their husbands being away in conflict and more trivially, (but strangely still importantly to us girls!) knew what dress to where to each social occasion and who's wife belonged to whom and said events!
There is no doubt that entering into this world is daunting in every capacity, but what I soon learned was that the sense of community and even family amongst those at RAF, Army, Royal Marine and Navy bases alike, is a unique and strangely wonderful thing.

Yes marrying into the military often means that your career comes second, you have to relocate to places you frankly would never choose to live. You have to put up with your husband missing, birthdays, anniversaries and other people's weddings and other events you then have to attend alone. Life can often be lonely, anxious and stressful; but for me the many positives out way these negatives significantly.
First and foremost there is of course the uniform-that's many of the negatives above outweighed already!
But on a more serious note, having been a part of the RAF and in turn the RAF a part of him, for a third of his life- I am married to a husband who is proud of his work and this brings him joy and a contentment often lacking in so many careers.
It goes without saying that I am so incredibly proud of Garry and his colleagues in all of the armed forces and I pray for all of those who will not be home for Christmas and who will be spending it in a war zone, and for those who's loved ones will not return at all.
Please support these wonderful women (and one marvellous man!) on their fantastic quest to raise money for an incredibly worthy cause.
Listen to the lyrics and I challenge you not to be moved to tears.
Have a good night everyone. Treasure it, and those loved ones around you spending it with you.

Do you still need to do some Christmas shopping? Please check out Help For Heroes on line shop where you can buy presents and make a difference at the same time. That's got to be good hasn't it! x


  1. You are so passionate honey!! Lovely post! xxx

  2. Karen and Garry, I enjoyed reading that. Please keep it up, you are an inspiration to many I'm sure.


  3. Great information. Thanks for providing us such a useful information. Keep up the good work and continue providing us more quality information from time to time. Dad's Army