Monday, September 29, 2008

Under Rug Swept

Those of you keeping track (AKA me) may realize that I'm in the final week of service with the Forces. On Monday, I'm posted to a holding unit where I will sit, administratively only, until my final release in April. The six months in between are a period given for vocational rehabilitation- trying to teach an old soldier new tricks.

I feel like a manic depressive right now. I'm ebullient, nostalgic, giddy, afraid, excited and morose in turn with little or no transition. I pity those around me; I don't even know what I'm feeling until I walk in the door and whip my beret viciously across the room and make a pointed comment or six. "Oh!" I note with surprise. "I seem to be angry."

Wait a minute. Angry? Why angry?

It's tradition in the military to have a formal luncheon for people who are retiring. There's a whole program detailing the protocol of these events. It's a regular occurrence; it's what you do, plain and simple. I talked this over with DH; I'm not one for crowds but I think I needed and wanted the formality and ceremony to close this huge chapter of my life. I started writing my speech in my head. I wondered when someone would ask me where I preferred the luncheon; these aren't quick events to arrange and time is short.

I went to see my Captain last week for an informal meeting about the release process. He mentioned that there would be a section breakfast next week when they'd say so long to a couple of other people who were moving on to new units.

I froze. My heart froze. In the world of military tradition and protocol, a breakfast (shared, no less) is to acknowledge people who were being posted out, not retiring or releasing. After the gloriously sharp hurt had faded and I could speak, I pointed out to my Captain that I was retiring, not being posted; that this was my career that was being wrapped up and that I was entitled to the full departure program. He got the "deer in the headlights" look, and said he'd get back to me on that.

Five minutes later, it was confirmed; not that I was in any doubt. Here I had just over a week of service remaining, and my chain of command had not even realized I was leaving, never mind planning an event. (Nothing happens quickly in the military- I informed them almost a year ago that this was coming, so it certainly wasn't a surprise.)

A while later, a Sgt was delegated to oversee the event, and the grumbling began about the extra administrative work.

Because of the preparations necessary, my luncheon will likely take place in November; over a month after I have actually left the unit.

I am wounded to the core that my service to Queen and Country should matter so little to them, that they would have quietly swept me under the rug had I not been assertive enough to ask for what's mine. My friends, if there was any doubt that I am doing the right thing by moving on, this incident seals the deal. My sadness has been replaced with anger. Mostly.


Velda said...

Sad to say this doesn't surprise me. When my dad retired after 35 years,nothing else but a placque that was glued on crooked to a fake wooden shield shape, and 'have a nice weekend' -- I'm sorry they are not doing what they should to honour you and others who have sacrified alot for the rest of us. It's pitiful.

Susan said...

In all fairness, Velda, this *does* surprise me. In your father's time, perhaps these things weren't set into protocol yet; mayhap it wasn't such a given as it is today. What happened to your father might have happened to pretty much everyone; or it may have been an oversight or a function of his chain of command.

Whatever the procedure was then, there *is* a protocol in place now that is part of the backbone of the CF doctrine, part of the quality of life initiatives. The overwhelming majority of our soldiers are sent off with the respect and ceremony that the occasion deserves.

I am but an unfortunate oversight that in no way degrades the overall care of the military for it's members. This case is specific to *my* chain of command.

Velda said...

Thanks for setting me straight Susan, it's been a long time since my dad retired. Glad things are different and you should get the send off you deserve.

Five Ferns Fibreholic said...

When DH retired after 21 years he was given a luncheon. It was shared with others, one guy heading off to medical school, and a couple of guys being posted. Each one was given their due and their CO acknowledged their service to their unit.

So while I understand that you are hurt and angery, you should remember that sometimes we must share our moments in the sun. I was wondering though if you should have said something earlier, to your captain, when you hadn't been approached about plans for your send off.

Susan said...

A shared luncheon is acceptable. A shared breakfast is not. It simply lacks in the necessary formality.

xup said...

As a federal government employee I certainly understand the formality of the retirement send-off even in the public service. There is usually a big splash-out with dinner, gifts, speeches, etc., but once in a while someone gets forgotten for whatever reason. I assume it's usually the responsiblity of your immediate superior to arrange things, like with us? It sucks when you get someone so far up his/her own ass that they're oblivious to protocol like this. If I were you I wouldn't even show up in November. The great thing is you now have a nice pension!