A Soldier’s Daughter’s Perspective.
Growing up in the army there were many things to tickle my fancy and intrigue. For the most part, I did not even realize that this experience was somewhat different from majority of my peers until my teens, and even then, it was just part and parcel of what life meant to me. My siblings and I were blessed to have experienced this lifestyle and I daresay, it shaped us to who we are today in so many ways.
Back then(and even now) being in the Armed Forces was the preserve of a few and many were the tales of what it took to ‘get in’. Certainly some tales took a spin of their own, and not without evidence, of how competitive this exercise was-and still is to this day. But I digress. Today’s post is about insights from an ‘outsider’, inside this institution that has so much history. Though I was indirectly connected to it (as the child of a soldier), it had, and still has, a direct impact on my life.
I could talk about so many things about the military life because it is an intriguing experience, especially for someone who has never experienced it, but I will save that for another time. My focus for now is on the Military Medals.
My limited understanding of the medal issued to soldiers in the Army or other disciplined forces has to do with awarding and honouring the role that the soldier had in an event or achievement of a goal. Certainly there is more to it than this, but like I said-these are just my insights as an ‘outsider’.
These medals are often worn on the front of the uniform and bear differing meanings based on the event. My first and every other encounter with these medals left me with a feeling of awe. When I was younger I knew them as ‘shiny objects’ and as I grew older they were still shiny-but now intriguing. They were always kept in a ‘special’ container tucked away in my parents’ bedroom and away from the prying eyes and fingers of inquisitive children.
To be honest I could not help it. I mean, here were some objects which looked for the most part, like ‘blown up coins’. If they were bigger than the regular coins surely they must be worth a lot? No? And how/why is it they were always there, never missing?
Later on, and in retrospect, I learnt that their worth was definitely high-but in a different kind of ‘economy’.
They were definitely the reason for many well co-ordinated trips to the vault, (read bedroom). I say co-ordinated because if your parents were like mine, they needed to come up with ways of keeping such valuables away from innovative seekers, out of sheer necessity. I think this was very much warranted, and yes, I daresay, I was a seeker, of sorts….not the kind that would be appreciated when a parent is trying to maintain some sense of order in a household of 6 children. But my parents-bless them-did a good job and I still marvel at how they managed to pull it off.
But I digress. Again.
Special occasions and celebrations brought out some deeper understanding of these medals. With time, I came to realise they always ‘came out’ whenever my Dad wore a particular uniform different from the every-day ‘combat’ or ‘fatigues’ as I would later learn. Of course being in the army camp these special occasions (national holidays) were really a sight to behold (that will be the subject of another post). The grandeur (arrival of the tanks in the neighbourhood) and anticipation was too big to be contained.
Needless to say, the build- up to these days never went unnoticed, and this would start in the house. The night before was all the prep necessary to ensure the uniform was right. Right is actually an understatement-it’s something close to impossible perfection to the untrained eye. Boots polished to a sheen, Dress No.1 or 2 ironed to perfection (why was it called ‘dress’ and a man wore it and more importantly it included a trouser?) belt clean and polished ,ready head gear.
And finally, out came the gleaming shiny medals-placed on their special place on the left breast side together with any insignia which was also suspended from a bar and attached on the left side as well. These had their pride of place in the whole lay out.
Everything was ready the night before and the next day, if we were lucky (i.e. awake), we would see my Dad in the morning looking every bit the superstar that he was in uniform. I know this was the norm in most neighboring households, and for him it was probably just the routine.
However, it never ceased to amaze me how the uniform just had this added quality about it, no matter which one. Almost as if to say (without having to say it),‘this is my purpose, a reflection of strength and a great legacy of many who have gone before me, it defines me and I am honoured to be a part of it’. This was a truth that my father lived and experienced and we were really fortunate to see it from his eyes.
If you were/have experienced this unique environment, or have no clue about it, what did/ does the uniform mean to you?
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