My previous post touched lightly on the military uniform and some of its facets-at least from a child’s point of view. I want to continue to expound on the question at the end of the post….’what does the uniform mean to you?’. This certainly assumes you have seen individuals in uniforms[icon icon=icon-smile size=14px color=#000 ].
The uniform as I knew it and later came to understand bits and pieces of its significance, commanded some sense of respect and the service it represented, from civilians-myself included. Even though I grew around these surroundings, where the uniform was commonplace, whenever we were outside the camp was when I would sense much more, the effect of this uniform. Walking with my Dad or any other uniformed personnel brought with it some aura of awe and respect.
There were moments-not many, but definitely worth remembering, when, if we happened to board a bus and my dad was in uniform he would not pay the fare. I don’t know about now, or if that even happens at all, but this used to happen and I thought that was really cool! Granted, it was not his wish to be in uniform and in public service vehicles at the same time, but sometimes it warranted it.
Then again there were those moments when we’d be walking around our neighborhood with him either to or from work and you’d know people are looking at you and wondering …’how is it you get to walk with the man in uniform’. Never mind the obvious connection, or perhaps it wasn’t? Even though I was young, this sense of awe did not escape me.
Then there was the time when I was in high school, and we were closing for the school holidays. As I was waiting for my dad to walk through the gates(he’d promised he would pick me from school that end of term), I saw this Land Rover drive in and of course my interest is piqued, because I know these vehicles. As it got closer, I instinctively looked at the number-plate because, out of habit I used to play mental maths games with the army number-plates which revolved around calculations between the 2 sets of numbers( don’t ask…..I still do it). So, some plate combinations would ring a bell. I didn’t even need to play the game because I recognised the number plate! It was the Landrover from Dad’s office! I knew that combination in my sleep. Before I could even figure out all the possibilities of why the vehicle was here, in my school-a useless process of course, out stepped a familiar figure in his camouflage uniform! I think I almost got knocked down by another car as I ran to him, completely forgetting my bags behind. It was a wonderful moment of pure happiness. Ofcourse this was influenced by the fact that my holiday was about to begin. But I admit some other feelings influenced this, not least of which were the voices echoing around me filled with questioning admiration of ‘that’s your Dad?’, and the fact that fellow students around me could not believe I was getting into the Land Rover. Ok my head was probably getting bigger at that point,filling with pride. But yeah right….that’s my Dad.
I’m certain most of my childhood friends had this same experience. For many of us like I mentioned before,this was our norm. Your family member who was in the military wore a uniform as part of his profession. And as most professions go, where a uniform is worn, there is a requisite expectation or understanding (however well-informed or wrongly placed) of what it has taken to don the uniform. Think of doctors, pilots, nurses, pharmacists and the like. It takes a huge sacrifice-which is not to say other professions do not have sacrifices. However, for these individuals, this price,commitment or choice is out there in the open, in plain sight. It may or may not work in your favour. It may lead to expectations placed on you by others with whom you had no connection whatsoever and it is upon you to figure out how to manage that expectation. Granted, it is a choice you make to go down that career path and it’s obviously something that’s not taken lightly.
However, unlike other non-uniform professions, your decision to wear that uniform every day, when on duty, is a public way of defending your profession while in a sense, exposing yourself .You are expected not to bring disrepute to the service/profession-whether or not someone else pushed you into a sticky situation. A constant reminder for others to see, and it puts you under constant scrutiny. In my honest opinion, that is a sacrifice, whether or not the wearer is constantly aware of it. It’s a delicate balance.
In this day and age, this is also not easy, and for that I ‘salute’ those who make this choice to sacrifice day in day out.