Posted on May 29, 2019
As a young child and into my teens, I often used to hear the phrase “Birds of a Feather…” in relation to people. Comments made by adults about others being similar to one another, however, I don’t remember hearing the final part of the saying until my mid-teens – “…flock together”. It is something I recognise in the ex-military community and having worked in Transition Support for 20+ years, there is a clear pattern.
I, like many, departed the Services and found a second career working among my civilian brothers and sisters. The challenge of learning the new environment was both daunting and exciting. While I had friends and colleagues, I never, really, completely fitted in. Perhaps it is more the case that I didn’t feel like I fitted in because of the close-knit-back-covering-team-oriented environment of the Armed Forces. Not something I have really taken time to consider.
A couple of years after leaving, I was one of two that set up and ran a networking group for serving and ex-serving – the early forerunner to ExForcesNet. It was great to re-engage with people I knew of old and also make new friends from the community from which I came. Many of those friendships have lasted decades and continue to this day. I am blessed. Nevertheless, re-engaging with the ex-forces community enabled me to converse, banter and share in ways that I had never quite accomplished with civilian friends and colleagues.
In supporting people departing the services, I do note that there is a sizeable gap of around 18 months to 2 years when people are more resistant to being part of a network of veterans. I could well be that there is something of a desire to put that part of your life behind you, it might be that you see Civ-Div as another posting and try to commit to and embrace that new “posting” as we did when serving. In any case, I see the vast majority looking to reunite, after a period of time, with people from the broader community.
This week, Dereck Hardman, Founder and driving force behind the Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Clubs has been recognised this week by the Prime Minister with a “Points of Light Award”. The AFVBC provide a forum for veterans to reconnect with the community and engage in some light conversation and banter over breakfast. There are clubs around the World now and new ones setting up weekly, including one on a Cruise Liner. The motto of the AFVBC is “Returning to the Tribe” and they have stories of people who have benefitted well from joining the groups.
Much of the benefit of being a member of some forum or other is predominantly the sense of belonging and the feeling of being part of something bigger than us. The positive effect on mental health is hard to quantify, but clearly visible as and when groups of ex-serving get together. Irrespective of whether they have served together, there is a common bond and sense of belonging, being part of a “family” and this sense transcends the regiments, services and arms and indeed the UK. It is felt among veterans in other nations of our allies and partners.
If you find yourself disengaged with your civilian community, then look at re-engaging with your Forces Family and share the experience of making new friends from strangers you hadn’t yet met. Birds of a Feather do flock together, and they do so for very good reason.
For more information on AVFBC go to www.afvbc.net.