Lest We Forget

A Father Without a Family

A Father Without a Family

A Father Without a Family: Lest We Forget.

In modern day Australia where there is no compulsory requirement to undertake military training or service.  For those  that do chose to enlist, there are a number of paradoxes that stem from recruitment, a desire to serve, and the reality of conflict.  Today we will discuss these three challenges and how a broken family live through such an environment.

Before we go on I would like to acknowledge all the different peoples that read this blog, I realise that warfare does affect people everyday in many parts of the world.  This blog has never been about isolating any one religion, nation or people, a human life holds the same value regardless of where you are from.  Despite this article referencing life in Australia, there are numerous parallels to other fighting forces and communities around the world, be it governmental, or issue-motivated groups.  We teach our children to stand up for what they believe in, so for some, their every day existence is a war.  This is written on a human scale not a national one…we are all human.

Recruitment in the modern era has changed to exemplify an expanding skill base, experience, adventure, and mateship.  These values have developed over the past twenty years where the bulk of Australia’s commitment to conflict has faced an ever-increasing media presence where government have struggled to filter the reality of war, particularly where questionable intelligence is being applied and where because of this, Australian lives are being lost.  Additionally, there is the increased prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), first noted by Sigmund Freud in the early nineteenth century, the social acceptance of its realty, and public pressure for government to support our fighting men and women far more comprehensively.

The Sacrifice of War

The Sacrifice of War

The desire to serve ones nation is a complex doctrine to unpack.  Motivations such as family history, social membership, and even religious encouragement for some, are psychological devices that can shape how a person comes to realise that they must ‘do their bit’.  Conversely there are also many people with simply the desire to prove themselves, to test their will and strength to perform in such a challenging environment.  Anthropological motivators are also a big consideration for people who may wish to take up a career in the Defence Force.  Where King and Country, the idea of adventure, armed invasion, and the possibility of seeing he world were once parlayed as the reason to take up arms.  Today, it is the humanitarian cause, the human rights, and the desire to maintain the balance of power amongst the key players in the modern world.  All of these motivators, drivers, and political unconscious make it a very different world in which to make the decision to serve your nation, most especially in a modern liberal democracy such as Australia.  Advertising campaigns aimed at engaging the human side directly focus on winning the hearts and minds of potential members.  Secondly, the role of the family and its history of serving their nation still play an active part in encouraging our sons and daughters to enlist in the Defence Force.  Opportunities are not equal across our social schema, and for some, taking up a role with the Defence Force may be a way out of their current social environment, be it affluent or not.

Given the huge variation in roles available in the Defence Force, there are various ways of ensuring your unlikelihood of ever needing to fire a shot in anger.  Nevertheless, this is an undertaking that should not be taken lightly as there is much evidence to support the very real issue of PTSD and other psychological issues arising from the experience of warfare.  For anyone who has served in a war-fighting role, their memories, reactions, and future life experience will be shaped in part, by how they see the true role of a fighting force, and how their experience shaped their world-view on community rules, norms and values.  For the modern soldier there is pressure to assume this political role in humanitarian conflict, especially where the opposing force has been successful in destroying or limiting any type of free press or political debate amongst the oppressed.  As the role changes so to do the skills and types of people required to undertake such deployments. Covert, highly trained and equipped Special Forces are today seen as the spearhead of any infiltration into a conflict zone.  Negotiation, traditionally, has never been a skill that impact troops have needed to focus on, as their role was to ‘out-kill’ the enemy in tactical offensive based warfare.

Australian War Memorial

Australian War Memorial

Considering all of these challenges, how then, do Defence Force families react when a marriage breaks down?  We have seen stories of soldiers losing their lives without ever seeing their newborn children.  What sort of effect does this have on the child, and the parent left behind.  Or, for the soldier, that after losing a marriage, whom then deploys to a war zone, how do they contend with the emotional conflict of family or nation?  One view could be that for a person who has recently lost their marriage, that for them, everything is already lost therefore with nothing else left to lose, why not take up active deployment.  This would connect directly to how well the relationship with the ex-partner is managed and experienced by all parties, including the children.  Interestingly, divorce rates with the Australian Defence Force are above the national average and may go some way to explaining how this very real problem of marriage breakdown is experienced by a select part of our community.  While many types of employment involve travel for work, almost none match the time spent away from home as a role in Defence.

I have written before about how time spent, and nothing else equates to quality, however in this scenario I feel quality would have to buttress what would be a very challenging type of relationship, married or not!  From the recent survey, Six Degrees of Separation (http://www.afatherwithoutafamily.com/six-degrees-of-separation/) we identified some key emotional needs that all six women expressed, as must haves.  These were, in order; communication, time together, intimacy, and passion.  Do these correlate with women who are either serving in the Defence Force, or married to a person who is serving?  Is their life so different that other drivers are seen as more important?  All of these needs need to be considered when discussing a broken marriage within our community.  Everyone’s situation is different…

For the children, who may lose their dad at an early age, or even later in adolescence, or who may never actually get to meet him, to be held by him or even feel the warmth of his love, our efforts to support these families and children is paramount.  I also acknowledge that even though I have used the father as the focus here, there is gender neutrality in what this paper contends.  These children will battle their own demons for the rest of their lives around why dad is no longer around, anger at the government, at the enemy, even at their father for not staying home or choosing another job are all part of the complex psychological world-view challenges that these children will go through.  This is part of the true cost of war, the collateral damage leveraged onto families who loose their loved ones in battle.  Conversely, for a divorced parent who is serving in a war zone, their psychological wellbeing is worth serious investment.  Not in a monetary sense, although this is well and truly an affect.  But through support, through active communication and encouragement that despite losing their marriage that we are all human and with love and support can get through anything.

Maybe next time we are convulsing over our lives and the troubles we may have, spare a moment for a person like that I have described above.  They could be your neighbour, a friend, or even a stranger on the street.  We all face challenges with what we are equipped within the context of time as it happens.  Some of us need help, some are the helpers, and most of all these children need our unconditional love and support.

Lest We Forget…

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